For Families

Types of Care for My Child 

Families can find care for their children in different places throughout the community. This care might be called child care, early learning, early care and education, early childhood education, or another name. Different types of care include:

  • In-home care: you can hire a caregiver to bring into your own home, such as a nanny, relative, or au pair. This type of care is not regulated by DCFS licensing standards.
  • Family child care: you can take your child to a caregiver's home. This type of care is regulated by DCFS licensing standards or qualifies for an exemption, and some accept Child Care Assistance Program subsidies. 
  • Child care centers: you can take your child to a center that provides care for groups of children. This type of care is regulated by DCFS licensing standards or qualifies for an exemption. Some centers may offer Early Head Start, Head Start, Prevention Initiative, or Preschool for All programs, which are high-quality subsidized programs for those who qualify. Some may also accept Child Care Assistance Program subsidies.

For more information on types of care for your child, check out this resource from Illinois Action for Children (English, Español). 

What Should I Look for in a High-Quality Program?

How Can I Find Care Near Me?

  • ExceleRate Illinois recognizes early learning providers who make quality a priority. They can help you find high-quality child care and early learning programs near you.
  • Find care through your local Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Agency. Click here to find your local CCR&R and access contact information, including phone number and website.
  • Find information on home visiting and find a program near you using iGrow, the Illinois Home Visiting Collaborative. Home visiting is family support and coaching through planned, regular visits with a trained professional.
  • Find state-licensed settings in your area, and view any licensing violations, on the DCFS Sunshine site.
  • Find a Head Start or Early Head Start center.
  • Find information about child and family welfare services providers across the state on DCFS's Service Provider Identification & Exploration Resource site.
  • For Chicago residents: enter your address on Chicago Early Learning or call 312-229-1690 to find a preschool or early learning program convenient for you and your family.
What is a CCR&R?

A CCR&R, or Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, helps families to find high-quality early care and education that is right for them. Many also offer parenting support services, trainings, and technical assistance in addition to making child care referrals. 


How Can I Find Help Paying for Care?

Your Child Care Resource & Referral Agency (CCR&R) can help you to understand which programs might be right for you. Find your local CCR&R here

For Expectant Parents and Families with Children under Three Years Old:

  • Early Head Start provides support to low-income infants, toddlers, pregnant women, and their families. Programs enhance children's physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development; help pregnant women access comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care; support parents' efforts to fulfill their parental roles; and help parents move toward self-sufficiency. 
  • Prevention Initiative provides services for at-risk infants, toddlers, and their families through a variety of research based programs that share similar fundamental principles that support success in school and life. Services are either provided in a center or in home visits.

For Families with Children Ages Three-Four:

  • Head Start promotes school readiness for children ages 3-5 in low-income families and enhances children's social and cognitive development by offering educational, nutritional, health, social, and other services. Programs actively engage parents in their children's learning and help them make progress toward their own goals. 
  • Preschool for All is voluntary, high-quality preschool for three and four-year-olds focused on serving the most at risk children with a range of program options and settings, from public and private schools to child care centers and other community-based agencies.

For Families with Children under 12 Years Old:

  • Illinois' Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) provides low-income, working families with access to quality, affordable child care that allows them to continue working and contributes to the healthy, emotional, and social development of the child. Families are required to cost-share on a sliding scale based on family size, income, and number of children in care.

Where Can I Find Information about Care for Children with Special Needs?

Where Can I Find Resources to Support My Child's Development?

Other Family Supports

How Can I Get Involved?