Project CHILD - Caring How Illinois Lives Develop

Contact Us

Project CHILD
PO Box 827
Mt. Vernon, IL 62864



[email protected]

Monday thru Thursday
8 am – 4:30 pm

8 am - 4 pm

327 Potomac Blvd.
Suite C.
Mt. Vernon, IL 62864




ParentIntroWhether your role is that of parent, grandparent or guardian, we can help support your efforts to provide a healthy and nurturing environment for the children in your care.

The role of Project CHILD is to educate families about the large number of programs and services that are available to support family life. Our goal is to assist families to recognize indicators of quality childcare and make an informed child care choice that best serves their needs.


Locate Child Care

Project CHILD can help families in their search for child care. Parents may call to speak to a trained Child Care Specialist. The specialist will provide you with information on:

  •  Locating child care providers to meet your family's specific needs.
  • What to look for in a quality child care center or home.
  • Determining if your family is eligible for the IDHS Child Care Assistance program to help pay for child care.

It is important for parents to speak directly with a child care specialist to help determine specific child care needs of the family. The family will be given a list of child care providers and options tailored for them, as well as other information and resources to help them as they choose a child care provider.

Referral lines are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call (618)244-2210 or 1-800-362-7257

Referral Policy

Referrals shall be made to all active programs in the Project CHILD provider database that meet a family’s criteria for child care.  Staff will remain a neutral entity toward any child care related program sponsored by or affiliated with Project CHILD or parent agencies in making referrals.

Project CHILD: Child Care Resource and Referral (Project CHILD) refers consumers to license and license-exempt child care, but does not recommend one form of child care over another.  The purpose of Project CHILD is to identify a variety of child care options such as licensed and licensed exempt centers, day care homes, and nanny services, not to identify “the best” child care program in the community.

Project CHILD does not license, regulate, endorse, or otherwise promote one particular form of child care.  The information collected for the NACCRRAware provider database is supplied to Project CHILD directly from the child care providers.

Project CHILD is committed to the principle of consumer choice in selecting the form of child care that best fits the needs of an individual child and his/her family.  To assist consumers in their decision-making process, Project CHILD will educate consumers on indicators of quality in child care services.  They will be encouraged to visit programs and look for these indicators as they investigate their child care options.

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Financial Assistance

The State of Illinois provides low-income families assistance for child care services if needed to work, attend school, training or other work-related activities. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) funds the child care assistance program, however Project CHILD administers child care assistance for the counties of Clay, Crawford, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Jefferson, Lawrence, Marion Richland, Wabash, and Wayne.

The IDHS Child Care program serves low-income working families and families on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participating in education, training or other work-related activities approved by their caseworker. IDHS also assists teen parents in high school or GED programs and families who are not receiving TANF cash assistance.  Child care assistance may also be available for students pursuing a first college degree or certificate.

You may apply for the Child Care Assistance Program administered by Project CHILD by downloading the application below. Before filling out the form, be sure to read the Commonly Asked Questions section of the childcare application. 

If you need other forms related to your childcare case such as a Redetermination, Change of Provider, Change of Information or Self Employment Verification please contact your case worker directly to have a bar coded form generated.  Our office can be reached at 1-800-362-7257.


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Tax Credit for Families

 What tax credits does your family qualify for?

There are many credits taxpayers may take for various life events that often times go overlooked. Below are just a few credits specifically for families, taken from the Internal Revenue Service website (

The Life Cycle Series: From Birth through Childhood
Tax benefits and credits.
Brochure information. 


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Choosing Childcare & Staying Involved

Child Care Options

There are three primary non-parental child care arrangements used by families in the U.S. Each has its unique advantages and considerations. No one type of care will be best for all families. A good child care arrangement is one which matches the child's and family's needs to the type of care provided.

Center-based Child Care

Center-based child care are group child care programs which provide full or part time care. In Illinois they are licensed by the State according to minimal standards regulating health, safety, space and staffing standards.


Center based care offers the following advantages:

·         Reliability They are open year round and do not fluctuate with staff illnesses or vacations.

·         Trained staff Good centers have well-trained staff who design a developmentally appropriate program for children.

·         Variety of playmates

·         Opportunities for parental involvement Parents may participate in curriculum planning and policy-making.

·         Additional services Services such as special field trips, health screening, music, dance, or gymnastic instruction are often available.


The following should be considered before choosing center care:

·         The inflexibility in choosing and paying for only the hours that you need 
(typically center-based care is open 7 a.m. through 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. Monday - Friday, only).

·         Parents who work rotating shifts, need part-time care, later evening hours or weekend care have a harder time finding centers that will accommodate their needs.

·         Generally centers have larger groups of children in a room and your child may need to adjust to several different adults who work different schedules.

·         Centers offer more structured settings with less ability to accommodate individual needs, routines, and interests.

Family Child Care

Family child care is provided in a home other than a child's own home. Oftentimes, the provider is a mother with children of her own. In Illinois a family child care provider must be licensed if she is caring for more than three children unrelated to her. The total number of children in family child care must never exceed eight, including the caregiver's own children under 12 years. The State also sets limits as to the age mix of children served .


Family child care offers the following advantages:

·         Smaller, home-like setting with one consistent adult

·         Greater flexibility in hours It is more common to find family child care provided during early or late hours, evenings or weekends.

·         Fewer children and less structure Allows the caregiver to better accommodate individual needs and routines.


The following should be considered before choosing family child care:

·         The lack of reliability (often there is no substitute should the provider get sick or go on vacation)

·         The high turnover rates among providers

·         And the variability in quality.

Preschool For All

1.    Preschool for All is a five-year plan to make Illinois the first state to offer voluntary, high-quality preschool to all three- and four-year olds, as well as support for at-risk infants and toddlers.  The goal of Preschool for All is to ensure that all children are well prepared to succeed in school and in life.  

Preschool for All enhances the 20-year-old State Pre-Kindergarten program to reach more children and improve quality and accountability in the schools, community organizations and private providers that are expected to participate.  Children at risk of school failure will be the first priority during Preschool for All’s implementation, but within five years, all Illinois three and four-year-olds will have access to preschool.

Frequently Ask Questions:

Q:  Why do we need Preschool for All?

1.    Thousands of children whose parents want them to have preschool do not have access. There are not enough spaces in existing programs for at-risk children, and there are many families who do not qualify for public programs but cannot afford access to a quality private preschool.

2.    Children who get quality preschool are better prepared for success in school and in life.  Research show that children who participate in high-quality early learning programs have better language, math and social skills than their peers who have missed this opportunity

3.     Preschool investments make dollars spent on the K-12 years more productive.  Children who receive preschool are ready to succeed in kindergarten, have less need for expensive interventions like special education and are more likely to graduate high school.  Early learning is not in competition with K-12 education – it is the first step toward lifelong learning.

Q:  Who benefits from Preschool for All?

Preschool for All benefits all Illinoisans.

·   Children.  Children who get quality early learning experiences are ready to succeed in school, have fewer special education needs, are more likely to graduate and earn more as adults.

·   Low-income and working families.  Eighty percent of Illinois’ three- and four-year-olds come from families that earn less then $85,000 a year.  Yet only forty seven percent go to preschool, compared to sixty six percent of children from upper-income families.  Preschool for All opens doors for all children.

·   Early childhood educators.  Preschool for All creates professional development opportunities, improves program quality and enables practitioners to earn more by enhancing their qualifications.

·   Elementary Schools.  Children who attend high-quality preschool programs learn academic and social skills that enable them to enter kindergarten ready and eager to learn.

·   Existing early learning and child care programs.  Preschool for All will provide new resources for programs to serve more children, stabilize and improve staff and collaborate with other programs.

Q: How many children will benefit from Preschool for All?

When fully implemented, Preschool for All will ensure that 190,000 children in Illinois have access to high-quality preschool. This estimate includes children who are already served in existing state Pre-Kindergarten, Head Start and PreK Special Education programs.  Over the next three years, funding will be used to serve 32,000 additional three- and four-year-olds.  Additional funds will be requested by the Governor in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to extend preschool to remaining children whose parents would like them to participate.

For more information, see  

In-home Child Care

In-home care takes place in the child's own home. In many cases, the caregiver may be a relative of the child.


It has the advantage of causing the least disruption to the child, the greatest convenience to the parents, and also offers the highest degree of control over the care giving situation (what and when the child eats and sleeps, what, if any T.V. is shown, which toys are played with, etc.).


The following should be considered before choosing in-home child care:

·         Its cost (generally it is the most expensive of all arrangements)

·         The complexity of finding a qualified caregiver

·         The loss of family privacy

·         The difficulty in retaining caregivers and maintaining good communications (turnover rates in child care are generally highest among in-home caregivers)

·         The legal, financial, and other requirements of the parents as employers

·         The lack of social interaction opportunities for the child or caregiver

Using a Relative for Child Care

Using a relative to provide child care while you work or attend school may be an ideal child care solution. A relative already knows you and your child, they are often someone you already trust, and frequently a relative is more flexible and affordable than other child care options. Maintaining a personal and/ or professional relationship with your relative caregiver is important. Most parents and relatives begin their relative child care arrangements with high hopes and warm feelings. However, using a relative for child care can become complex by complicating your personal relationship with your relative in unexpected ways.

Consider some of the following as you begin a business/professional relationship with your relative caregiver.

·         Develop a contract agreement including the amount you will pay and when; drop off and pick up times; vacation and holiday schedules; health and safety procedures; emergency information; behavior and discipline policies.

·         Be clear about your expectations regarding the child care arrangement. Do you want your relative running errands with your child? Do you want your relative cooking, doing laundry and cleaning their house while your child is there? Do you want your relative to care for other children?

·         Communicate with your relative caregiver weekly to make sure things are going smoothly and the arrangement is working for both of you.

·         Extend courtesy, respect and appreciation to your relative caregiver. Express your appreciation for the love and care that your child receives while in their care.

Some relative caregivers will not accept money when caring for a relative. If you don't pay your caregiver, then show your appreciation in non-monetary ways. If you do pay your relative, remember to keep accurate records and receipts if you plan to apply for the Earned Income and/or the Dependent Care Tax Credit.

Family earnings and tax credits will vary from year to year. To learn more about these tax credits ask your accountant, the IRS at 1-800-829-1040, or log on to the American Business Collaborative website at:

Leaving Your Child Alone

Unfortunately, no magic age exists when children develop the maturity and good sense they need to stay home alone. However, you can look for signs that show your child may be ready. Your decision should be made together when both of you feel ready for self-care to begin. Every family's situation is different, and your plan will depend on where you live and nearby resources.

Are they ready to stay home alone?

As children get to be 9-12 years old, they may begin to ask if they can go home after school. Or, for you the parent, care becomes hard to find or too expensive. The transition for children to stay home alone is a big step for every family. Some children may be ready for the responsibility, but care is needed to prepare the child and parents for this important transition.

Children should indicate a desire and willingness to stay alone. Your child should be showing signs of accepting responsibility and being aware of the needs of others and should be able to consider alternatives and make decisions independently. Also your child should be able to talk easily with you about interests and concerns.

Is there a legal age that is acceptable for a child to stay alone?

Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor.” Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(d)

In Illinois there is not a legal age specified. What is appropriate under certain circumstances may be considered child neglect in other circumstances. Illinois law lists 15 specific factors to be considered when deciding whether a child has been left alone for an unreasonable period of time.

15 Factors to Consider


The age of the minor


The number of minors left at the location


Special needs of the minor, including whether the minor is physically or mentally handicapped, or otherwise in need of ongoing prescribed medical treatment


The duration of time in which the minor was left without supervision




The time of day or night when the minor was left without supervision


The weather conditions; adequate heat or light


The location of the parent or guardian, the physical distance from the minor


Whether the minor’s movement was restricted (locked in a room)


Whether the minor was given a phone number of a person or location to call in the event of an emergency and whether the minor was capable of making an emergency call


Was food and other provisions left for the minor


Whether any of the conduct is attributable to economic hardship or illness and the parent, guardian or other person having physical custody or control of the child made a good faith effort to provide for the health and safety of the minor


The age and physical and mental capabilities of the person(s) who provided supervision for the minor


Whether the minor was left under the supervision of another person


Any other factor that would endanger the health and safety of that particular minor

Look at your child’s maturity level and his ability to handle a variety of situations.

Consider these questions:

·         Has he handled brief periods of being left alone well?

·         Will he come straight home after school?

·         Will he be lonely or frightened by himself?

·         Can he manage simple jobs like fixing a snack and taking phone messages?

·         Is he physically able to unlock and lock the doors at home?

·         Can he solve small problems himself?

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A Checklist For Quality

The list below will help you know what to look for. Above all, trust your feelings—Will these people care for my child? Can I relate well to these people? Do the other children seem comfortable and confident here? Will my child be happy in this environment?

Download the Checklist for Quality here  Quality Checklist

Some of the information on our site may require Adobe's Acrobat Reader to view.

You can obtain this free of charge by clicking here                                                    


·         The facility licensed, legally licensed exempt, and/or accredited.

·         The facility is close to work or home.

·         The program’s days and hours of operation fit my schedule.

·         The child-to-caregiver ratio is in compliance with Licensing Standards.

·         The cost of care fits my budget.


·         It is safe. No sharp edges, no staircases without railings, plug outlet covers are in each outlet, etc. Objects small enough to be swallowed are kept out of reach of small children. There is a first aid kit available. There is a fire extinguisher available. Emergency numbers are posted.

·         It is clean. Toys and books may be out of place--after all children play here--but it shouldn’t be dirty.

·         It is attractive. This is a place in which my child will be comfortable.

·         There is space for both active and quiet play.

·         There is ample space for infants and toddlers to crawl, climb and play.

·         There is enough heat, light and ventilation.

·         Outdoor play equipment is sturdy and well anchored on proper surfacing material.

·         My child will feel safe here.


·         The caregiver seems warm, friendly, and supportive.

·         The caregiver seems to know and respond to each child as an individual.

·         The caregiver shares my feelings about what is important for children.

·         Staff are involved in professional development on an ongoing basis.

·         Staff turnover is low-usually a sign that the program values good staff and works to keep them.

·         Staff are knowledgeable about how children develop and learn.


·         The activities allow my child to develop bonds with the adults and children. My child will learn new skills from the activities and curriculum planned for every day.

·         My child has the opportunity to play indoors and outdoors.

·         There is variety in my child’s day.

·         Ask providers about the daily routine. Providers should have a routine for each day. The routine should include but not be limited to: Healthy snacks or meals; Naps or rest time; Trips or special activities; Artistic expression; Reading and story telling.

·         Infants and toddlers are held, talked to and played with.


In Child Care Centers the number of adults and children is important because it helps determine how much attention your child will get.







 Infants (6 weeks through 14 months)

 1 to 4


 Toddlers (15 through 23 months)

 1 to 5


 Two years

 1 to 8


 Three years

 1 to 10


 Four years

 1 to 10


 Five years (preschool)

 1 to 20


 School-age:  Kindergartners Present

 1 to 20


  • Exception:  One early childhood teacher and an assistant may supervise a group of up to 30 childree if all of the children are at least five years of age.
  • Whenever children of different ages are combined , the staff/child ration and maximum group size must be based on the age of the youngest child in the group.

For Family Child Care there are different child to staff ratios. The following are some examples of the different types:

A caregiver alone may care for:

·         Up to a total of eight children under 12 years of age, with no more than five under five years and no more than three under 24 months; or

·         Up to a total of eight children under 12 years of age, with no more than six under five years and no more than two under 30 months; or

·         A school age group consisting of eight school age children.

An additional four school-age children may be cared for with a part-time assistant.

A caregiver and full-time assistant may care for:

·         Up to a total of eight children under five years of age, with no more than five under 24 months.

·         If the assistant is 18 years of age or older, an additional four school-age children may receive care.

You also need to think about the total size of the group your child would be in. Two-dozen toddlers in one group, for example is too many-even if four or five caregivers are on the scene.

Young children thrive in a more intimate setting where they can get to know the adults and other children well.


·         Caregivers are available for daily chats with parents.

·         Caregivers encourage parents to visit the program for both scheduled and unscheduled visits.

·         Family child care homes or centers provide time for parent meetings.

·         The home or center has information on child development available for parents.

·         Caregivers provide daily reports on infants’ and toddlers’ eating, napping, elimination and any medication given.

·         The home or center distributes written policies.


·         Accredited early childhood programs voluntarily measure up to national standard of quality established by professional organizations such as NAEYC (The National Association for the Education of Young Children) for child care centers and NAFCC (The National Association for Family Child Care) for family child care homes.

·         Accreditation is an indicator that parents can use to help identify responsive, stimulating child care. Parents can expect that their children are growing and learning in an environment that is responsive to their individual needs.

·         Staff in these programs are more likely to understand children’s needs at different ages, plan appropriate activities, interact with children in warm and stimulating ways, and provide positive guidance for children rather than harsh discipline.

·         For more information about accreditation or accredited programs contact Project CHILD: 1-800-362-7257.

The following organizations offer accreditation for early childhood education programs. More information can be found at their websites.

NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children

NAFCC (National Association for Family Childcare)

NECPA (National Early Childhood Program Accreditation)

Ten Common Courtesies Child Care Providers Appreciate from Families

1.    Open communication. Explain clearly and carefully your wishes and expectations regarding your child’s care. Also provide updates on the concerns and progress your child is making.

2.    Agree on policies and arrangements. You should fully understand the terms and arrangements of the child care provider. A written contract between the child care provider and family is recommended.

3.    Honesty and trust. Although you need to be concerned about safeguarding your child, you should still trust your child care provider. When concerns develop, show your trust by asking questions rather than jumping to conclusions.

4.    Advance notice of and agreement to any changes. Child care providers deserve reasonable notice if you are going to be late arriving or picking up your child, discontinuing services, taking a vacation or changing your hours.

5.    Responsibility. When you provide diapers, formula, a change of clothes, or other supplies, you should bring them before they are needed and label them with your child’s name.

6.    Secure alternative child care arrangements. Alternative child care will be necessary for those times when your child care provider cannot care for your child. These may include when your child is ill, when the child care provider becomes ill, or during holidays, or vacations. Discuss with your child care provider the procedure for handling these times and be ready to make alternative arrangements if necessary.

7.    Payment on time. Child care providers are professionals that operate a business. They pay expenses and rely on your fee payment to pay salaries, utilities, food, etc.

8.    Respect. Child care programs and child care providers invest resources in the environment and equipment. Please model and teach your child how to respect and care for other people’s personal property and equipment.

9.     Understanding. Children who spend hours every day with a child care provider come to love that person. That love doesn’t diminish the love the child feels for you.

10.  Appreciation and support. There is a great need to keep quality child care providers in the profession. Say “thank you.” Demonstrate your appreciation for your child care provider with cards, flowers or small gifts, a bonus, or volunteer your services.

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 Child Care Contracts

A clear agreement at the start of any child care relationship can reduce or prevent many misunderstandings between parents and child care providers. An agreement between child care providers and parents is called a contract. A written contract establishes clear expectations for everyone.

A contract may include:

·         hours care is provided

·         rate and payment procedures

·         holiday, vacation and illness days for the provider and children

·         snacks and meals served.

Not all child care providers use written contracts, however, it is strongly encouraged that parents put their verbal agreements between themselves and their child care provider into writing.

To receive sample parent-provider contracts call Project CHILD: Child Care Resource and Referral at 1-800-362-7257.

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Licensing and Regulation

Project child does not issue childcare licenses.  The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is the Licensing agency in Illinois.  They evaluate programs throughout the state to make sure providers have met minimum health and safety standards.  Below is toll free number you can call to get more information from DCFS about a specific provider.


In your search for child care, it is useful to investigate all of your child care options, in doing so the following phone number will be helpful.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) operates and maintains a statewide toll-free number (1-877-746-0829) that will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.  The phone line shall be available to all individuals within the State of Illinois to provide the history and record of licensed day care homes, group day care homes, and day care centers.

When calling, first give the operator the name and address of the program you are seeking information about.  Specific information provided by the day care information line on a licensed day care facility whose license is in effect at the time of inquiry shall be:

A.   date the facility was initially licensed,

B.   effective date of the current license,

C.    expiration date of the current license,

D.   license capacity,

E.    age range served,

F.    revocations and pending revocations,

G.   surrenders,

H.   administrative orders of closure,

I.    licensing status (i.e., pending, conditional, etc.),

J.    whether the facility is under a protective plan pending the outcome of a licensing investigation, and

K.   a list of substantiated complaints and Department staff findings of licensing violations since January 1, 1999.  Information on substantiated complaints and licensing violations that occurred prior to January 1, 1999 shall not be released through the day care information line.