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Illinois Cares for Kids
Illinois Cares for Kids is one place parents, grandparents, and caretakers can access all things related to early childhood education and care in Illinois. You can find resources, programs, and support for:
NEW Supports for Families
Click here for information on
stimulus checks, unemployment benefits,
extended tax credits, rental assistance, energy and water assistance, and other supports available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act.
Click here for information on the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program providing eligible Illinois households discounts of up to $50 per month on home internet service, making the service more affordable and accessible for qualifying low-income families. The program also offers a $100 discount towards the purchase of a laptop, computer, or tablet from a participating provider.
If you have school-age children at home, you may be eligible for a new food assistance program now. Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) provides extra food benefits for families during COVID-19. Visit the Greater Chicago Food Depository for more information.
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,
visit the Illinois Cares for Kids website.
What Should I Look for in a High-Quality Program?
ExceleRate Illinois is a statewide quality recognition and improvement system designed to make continuous quality improvement an everyday priority among early learning providers. ExceleRate Illinois includes over 10,000 early learning programs in Illinois.
Find a provider here.
- The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides helpful information on "What to look for in a program."
How Can I Find Care Near Me?
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 health, 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?
Visit the Illinois Cares for Kids website and search the Child Development resources under your child's age/developmental stage (infant,
- The Illinois Early Learning Project (IELP) is a source of evidence-based, reliable information on early care and education for families, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois.
IELP Tip Sheets are easy-to-read, one-page resources on a variety of topics of interest to families and teachers of young children.
Subscribe to the IELP
monthly e-newsletter to keep up with the latest additions to the Illinois Early Learning website. The newsletter is now available in Spanish.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has resources, information, and free materials to support child development.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has research-based resources, tips, and ideas for families.
Other Family Supports
How Can I Get Involved?