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Preventing Institutional Child Abuse By Carefully Selecting A Facility

daycare.jpgChildren, like the elderly, are a vulnerable group that requires oversight, protection, and regulations to protect them.  (See “Children in Day Care Are Susceptible to Many of the Same Problems Our Elderly Nursing Home Patients Encounter”)

Choosing a Child Care Provider

When choosing a child care facility, there are a number of factors to keep in mind.  It is important to find a high-quality facility, where you feel your children are receiving the best care and attention.  (Trust Your Instinct When Placing a Child in Daycare with Potential Hazards)

When you visit potential child care centers, you should look for:

  • A positive and safe environment
  • Good communication between the parents and staff
  • Long-term caregivers with experience or training in child development
  • A small caregiver to child ratio, to ensure that your child receives proper attention

The group, Child Care Aware, lists five recommendations when choosing a child care facility:

  1. Start early – Give yourself enough time to look at multiple child care facilities and properly weigh your options
  2. Call local child care resources and referral (CCR&R) agencies
  3. Ask questions when you visit a facility – look around, check for hazards, count the number of children/caregivers, and ask about training and background checks
  4. Make a decision
  5. Stay involved

Child care is expensive, so naturally, price will be one factor in your decision.  In two-parent households, 10.6% of the family income goes toward child care.  There are some state assisted child care programs funded by the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), and some families may be eligible for tax benefits (Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Credit).

Child Care Options

The United States has more than 335,000 licensed child care facilities that offer supervised, regular care of children for a fee.  (Type and number of licensed child care facilities by state).  Child care options include:

  • Child Care Centers – Nonresidential facilities
  • Family Child Care/ Group Day Care Home/Day Care Home – Residential facilities
  • Family/Friend/Neighbor Care – Relative/friend/neighbor provides care in their own home or the child’s home
  • Nanny/Au Pair – One person cares for child in the child’s home, sometimes also living there

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) has a table showing the distribution of child care arrangements for children younger than 15 years of age.

Arrangement Type

Percentage Distribution

Relative Care








     Sibling or other relative


Organized Care Facility


     Day care center


     Nursery or preschool


     Head Start


Other Nonrelative Care


     In child’s home


     In provider’s home


     Family day care


     Other nonrelative




     Other arrangement


     No regular arrangement




Early education programs offer an alternative to child care.  The programs work on developing skills to prepare the children for school.  These programs include:

  • Early Head Start (EHS) – Federally funded program for low income families with young children (Head Start Locator)
  • Head Start – Same as EHS but for older children, 3-5 years old.
  • State-funded prekindergarten programs – For children 3-4 years of age

Federal Regulation

Individual states regulate and license child care.  Federal law does require that states regulate child care facilities to prevent infectious disease, require premise safety, and health and safety training.  As expected, regulations vary from state to state.

Regulations generally include: licensing requirements, inspections, child to staff ratio, background checks, health and safety requirements, child development, and parent communication/involvement.  (State licensing requirements)


Age Groups

Developmental Stage Age Functional Definition
Infant 0-12 months Birth to ambulation
Toddler 13-35 months Ambulation to accomplishment of self-care routines such as use of the toilet
Pre-schooler 36-50 months From achievement of self-care routine to entry into regular school
School-Age Child 5-12 years Entry into regular school, including kindergarten through 6th grade

State Regulation – Illinois

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) regulates Illinois licensing and standards (Illinois child care Rules).  There were 2,907 licensed day care facilities, 473 group day care homes, and 10,050 licensed day care homes in Illinois in 2007.  These facilities have the capacity to serve over 295,000 children.  (Illinois Daycare Listings)

Illinois regulations set forth minimum standards for child care facilities and institutions.  The Illinois Child Care Act (225 ILCS 10) has standards, licensing requirements, background checks, and responsibilities (Child Care Act Study Guide).  (See “Day Care Worker Leaves Children Unattended in Gym – Situation Demonstrates the Need for More Regulation of Child Care in Alternative Settings”)

The Illinois Administrative Code includes rules covering the licensing standards for child care facilities:

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