One of the highest priorities for relocating families is finding a new school appropriate for their children and providing a smooth transition so learning can continue and new friendships can be formed. This chapter will provide an overview for learning more about the many educational resources available in the Chicagoland area. You’ll also find information about colleges and universities, private schools, a list of recommended immunizations for children from 0 to 18 years of age and data about several Chicago-area school districts.

The Chicago region is rich in education opportunities from early child care to graduate school. Within the greater Chicagoland area there are more than 2,000 public and private schools, so finding the right one for your needs can seem overwhelming. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) educates more than 410,000 children in the city of Chicago and surrounding neighborhoods with approximately 675 schools throughout the district. The district is the largest in Illinois and the third largest in the United States.

Parents can select from a few hundred private schools offering pre-K through high school education, which include institutions rooted in religious traditions, schools that provide intensive academic experiences or schools reflect a particular pedagogy or specialization for specific populations. The diversity of schools helps area residents fulfill the American ideal of educational pluralism and collectively contributes to teaching, nurturing and inspiring young minds.

Upon arrival to the Chicagoland area, one priority may be determining where to get child care, especially for children under the age of six. Many couples are both professional income earners and may not have close or extended family nearby to help. Luckily, the region offers many options and resources, including licensed facilities, independent child-care homes and access to in-home professionals.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) licenses day-care centers and registered family homes in addition to other services. According to the DCFS, child care can be broken down into the following types of operations.

— Family Day Care Homes
Family homes in which care is provided for more than three children—including the caregiver’s own children, related and unrelated children—must be licensed by DCFS. The caregiver must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Assistants must be at least 14 years old and five years older than the oldest child they supervise. All staff must provide medical reports and are subject to background checks. No day care home operator may care for more than 12 children, including the caregiver’s own children, under age 12.

When a day care home is licensed, a DCFS or other licensed child welfare agency representative has inspected the facility and it was found to meet the strict licensing requirements. Once a license is granted, it is valid for three years. Day care homes are inspected to investigate reports alleging violations of standards or child abuse/neglect and at least once every 12 months regardless of reports. Caregivers also must have 15 hours of in-service training per year to be eligible for license renewal.

— Group Day Care Homes

A group day care home operator may care for a maximum of 16 children, including the caregiver’s own children, under age 12. The number and age of the children served may alter the permitted number of children. The caregiver must be at least 21 years old and must have achieved one year of credit from an accredited college or university or had one year of prior work experience in a nursery school, kindergarten or licensed day care center and six semester or equivalent quarter hours in child care or child development coursework from an accredited college or university. The caregiver may have a current Child Development Credential in lieu of the college hours or work experience and also have 15 hours of in-service training per year.

DCFS handles all licensing for group day care homes. When licensed, it means that a DCFS representative has inspected the home and found the home to meet the minimum licensing requirements. A license is valid for three years and must be displayed prominently in the home at all times.

— Day Care Centers

A day care center must have a qualified child care director on site at all times who is at least 21 years old and have completed two years of college or have equivalent experience and credentials. All staff members are subject to background checks for any record of criminal conviction or child abuse and neglect. The director and all child care staff must have 15 hours of in-service training annually. These centers are larger school-like facilities that typically have been around for a longer period of time, although the staff may change. Prices are typically higher than other day care options and a waiting list to get in can be expected.

DCFS is responsible for licensing day care centers. When a day care center is licensed, it means that a DCFS licensing representative has inspected the facility and it was found to meet the minimum licensing requirements. The day care center’s license must be posted.

Day Care Center Size and Staff Requirements
Age of Kids                                      Staff-to-Child Ratio     Max. Group Size
Infants (6 weeks–14 months)     1 to 4                              12
Toddlers (15–23 months)            1 to 5                              15
Two years                                        1 to 8                              16
Three years                                     1 to 10                            20
Four years                                       1 to 10                            20
Five years (preschool)                  1 to 20                            20
School-age                                     1 to 20                            30

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