Licensing and Accreditation
The state of Illinois rates all licensed early childhood programs with a quality rating system called ExceleRate Illinois.
Gold, Silver and Bronze ratings all indicate that a center or a preschool exceeds the basic state licensing requirements. The ratings indicate increasing levels of program quality based on the physical environment, staff education and training, and curriculum and activities for the children. The print edition of our Early Childhood Resource Directory specifies if a center has been given a Gold, Silver, or Bronze ExceleRate rating as of December 2015.
In order to be licensed, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) requires that child care centers and preschools meet minimum standards of health, safety, and appropriate practices for group care of children. The summary of DCFS licensing standards for homes and centers can be found on the DCFS website, illinois.gov/dcfs. These standards are also available at the Oak Park Public Library. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has developed voluntary measures of quality that show that a center has met higher standards that go beyond state requirements. For more information about NAEYC accreditation and quality standards, visit their website, families.naeyc.org, or call 800-424-2460.
License-Exempt Child Care
Preschools that are part of an existing school system – public, faith-based, or Montessori – as well as government programs, are not required to meet DCFS standards; these centers are noted as “License-exempt” in the Early Childhood Resource Directory.