An Overview of the Licensing Process

The Department is presently developing an on-line application system which is scheduled to be available in late 2016. This will allow individuals to complete and submit applications on line to insure they are complete, thus reducing the number of applications returned due to errors or omissions. We will update the website as the system goes live, so stay tuned!

It is important that individuals who seek a license for childcare are first familiar with the Rules governing their type of facility. The Department strongly encourages an applicant to attend an orientation. The best way to begin this process is to call the local license office nearest to the location of the proposed facility and speak with a licensing representative about your plans, your experience and the next available orientation, and to request an initial application packet. You can find a list of local licensing offices here

Licenses are free, however there are expenses associated with medicals and vaccinations, inspections or testing, pet vaccinations, equipment and supplies, training, and other requirements. You should also be aware that, especially for centers, the building may not be suitable for childcare for such reasons as insufficient space, inadequate outdoor play area, lead paint, mold, etc. It is unwise to make a financial commitment until you are sure that the building is (or can made to be) in compliance with the Rules. Please phone licensing office to discuss your plans before you sign a lease or contract.

Day Care home and group day care home licenses are only issued in the family home of the individual(s) applying. This means that the childcare must occur in the home where you and your family live—not in any another location. You may not rent or buy another home or apartment or use an unattached garage, outbuilding, etc. If you wish to use space away from where you and your family live, you must seek licensure as a day care center.

Everyone age 13 years and older living or working in a day care home is subject to a background check. Individuals 18 and over must be printed and will receive a full check, which consists of a review of information from the Illinois State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State and National Sex Offender Registry, Illinois DCFS Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System, and the child abuse and neglect registry of any other state of residence. There is no cost for this check.

Individuals who apply for a home-based license must also submit:
  • A medical examination, including TB, DPT, and MMR
  • Proof of high school diploma, GED, or other degree from an accredited university or vocational school
  • Affidavit that they are current with any child support owed
  • Proof of at least 15 hours of required pre-service training on specific topics
  • Illinois Gateways Registry membership
  • Proof of liability insurance (group day care homes only)
  • Proof of 6 hours of college coursework in early childhood or child development (group day care homes only)

Once the application is accepted as complete and correct, and background check results have been received, the home visit will be scheduled. This visit is to verify compliance with all parts of Rule 406 (Rule 408 for group day care homes). A walk-through of the home and property will be conducted to note any safety hazards, sign other agreements and verifications, set capacity, determine areas of use, days and hours of operation, and explain required record-keeping for children enrolled and employees.

You can find the Day Care Home Licensing Standards here and the Group Day Care Home Licensing Standards are here

The length of time it takes an individual to move from applicant to licensee or permit-holder depends upon a number of variables, including state fire marshal inspections, municipal inspections and approvals if applicable, background check results, etc. The most significant factor in progress towards licensure is generally the applicant’s familiarity and compliance with the licensing standards.

For homes, the Department has an on-line, free orientation which can be found at: DCFS Training

Day Care Center application is a very complex process. Each center application will vary, due to size, organizational structure, staffing, hours, location, the configuration of the physical plant, etc. Background checks, state and local inspections for fire, plumbing, and health compliance, insurance requirements, minimum space requirements, and all other requirements of Rule 407 can be found here

Because of the complexity, day care center applicants work closely and communicate often with their assigned licensing representatives, from pre-application to receipt of their permit and then through to licensure. Each center must have a qualified director during hours of operation, follow limits on the number of children in each classroom or group, comply with child-staff ratios at all times, maintain financial solvency, provide nutritious meals and snacks, and provide an environment where children are safe and comfortable and enjoy learning. There are educational and experience requirements for staff and programming is required which includes age- and developmentally-appropriate activities, both indoors and out.

Because we want your center to be successful, we encourage you to do a Needs Assessment, to examine the availability of childcare in your area and whether the community could support your center. Your Resource and Referral Agency can be a wealth of information regarding local childcare needs. You can find yours here

If you determine that you want to pursue a day care center license, please phone the licensing office nearest your proposed location to speak with a licensing representative and arrange to attend an orientation in person. While orientation is not required, it is highly recommended. This conversation will begin your journey by examining your plans and the licensing regulations, local requirements in your community, recommendations for good practice, etc. From there, the completion of your goal is determined by your readiness, the status of your building, outside inspection results, etc. Once approved, Centers are issued a 6-month permit, during which the licensing representative will conduct routine monitoring visits, provide consultation, and insure that you are fully in compliance so that a license can be recommended.