Finding Child Care

Project CHILD can help you in your search for child care. Parents may call to speak to a trained Child Care Specialist who can provide child care options tailored for their family, as well as other information and resources to help as they choose a child care provider.

Referral lines are open from 8:00am to 4:00pm Monday through Friday. Call (618) 244-2210 or (800) 362-7257.

Child Care Options

Child Care Centers

Child Care Centers are most often licensed by the state and must meet minimal health, safety and staffing requirements. Children are grouped by age, and all staff who have contact with the children are subject to a background check for criminal activity.

Family Child Care Homes

Family Child Care Homes provide care for children in the home of the caregiver. In Illinois, family child care providers who care for more than three children, including their own, are required to be licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services website
Mt. Vernon Regional Office (618) 244-8400


Preschools offer group programs for primarily 3 to 5-year-old children for part of the day on specified days of the week. Most follow the school calendar and do not operate during school holidays, vacations, snow days or summer months. Head Start and Pre-K programs are federally or state funded.

License-Exempt Family Child Care Homes or Relative Care

License-Exempt Family Child Care Homes or Relative Care is care that is provided in either the child’s home or the caregiver’s home. If the provider cares for 3 or fewer children, including their own, or the children are all from one family, the provider is not required to be licensed.

Choosing Quality Child Care

Play and Learn

Quality child care offers many opportunities for all children to play each day. Play gives children the opportunity to develop their language, social, emotional, physical, and thinking skills. Early math, problem solving, and reading readiness skills, are just a few things learned through play. Look for a provider who focuses on all aspects of your child’s development.


Training, education, experience and credentials prepare a child care provider to meet your child’s developmental needs. A quality child care provider is also prepared with written policies and procedures regarding their program. Request a provider’s qualifications, references, and written policies/procedures to learn more about their child care experience and program attributes.

Positive Interactions

A quality child care provider guides children, helping them to get along with others in caring, positive ways, and encourages you to be involved as well. Open communication practices allow families to feel connected and informed about their child’s day. Look for a provider who is enthusiastic, attentive, encouraging, and who communicates openly with you.

Program Quality

All licensed child care programs are part of the ExceleRate Illinois Quality Recognition and Improvement System (QRIS). Programs can earn a Bronze, Silver or Gold Circle of Quality or a national accreditation award by meeting voluntary standards for quality child care that are higher than the state licensing requirements. Ask the provider if their program has an ExceleRate Illinois Circle of Quality or is accredited.


A quality child care environment is safe, clean and provides children with many learning opportunities. Look for a setting where the children are supervised at all times, nutritious meals and snacks are served, toys and learning activities are based on the age of the child and where children’s development and learning are regularly assessed.