What Parents Need to Know About Day Care Safety

Regulations and Licensing Requirements for Illinois Day Cares

When parents entrust their children to daycare centers, they have a right to expect their children to be safe, comfortable, and free of injury and neglect. Unfortunately, an Internet search quickly turns up dozens of stories of young children who have died due to the negligence of daycare providers. It is tragic any time a child dies – it is even more heartbreaking when a child’s death is completely preventable. Led by managing partner, Mark Novak, the attorneys at Anesi, Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen are currently pursuing justice on behalf of a grieving mother who lost her 5-year-old son, Amareon Williams, when a home daycare center allowed him to play unattended, leaving him to become entangled on a playground rope.

In Illinois, daycare centers and facilities are governed by part 407 of the Illinois Administrative Code, which gives the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) the authority to inspect and license daycares throughout the state.

According to DCFS, child care facilities in Illinois serve 255,000 children and include the following:

  • 3,000 licensed daycare centers
  • 8,000 licensed daycare homes
  • 700 group day care homes

Regulations for Licensed Day Care Centers

Illinois law imposes comprehensive requirements on facilities that seek to operate as licensed daycare centers. At a minimum, daycare centers must maintain the proper ratio of staff to children, hire qualified staff, satisfy general program requirements, adhere to proper standards for different age groups of children, follow proper guidance and discipline rules, maintain required transportation standards, follow health requirement regulations, and satisfy requirements for meals, napping, physical space, and playground areas. Notably, DFCS guidelines prohibit daycare staff from leaving children unattended at any time.

Regulations for Licensed Day Care Homes

Licensed daycare homes, like the one Amareon Williams attended, must adhere to standards similar to those imposed on licensed daycare centers. Unlike licensed daycare centers, daycare homes operate from a private home and are restricted to caring for a certain number of children as follows:

  • Up to eight school-age children
  • No more than five children under five years old and no more than three under 24 months
  • No more than six children under five years old and no more than two under 30 months
  • Home daycares with a part-time assistant can care for up to four additional school-age children (12 total for the entire daycare home)
  • Home daycares with a full-time assistant can care for up to eight children under five years old with no more than five children under 24 months

Regulations for Group Day Care Homes

Like daycare homes, group day care homes also operate from private residences. A caregiver who operates a group daycare home can only care for up to 16 children, including the caregiver’s own children under 12 years old.

Keeping Your Child Safe: Tips for Parents

Tragically, the majority of daycare center injuries and deaths occur due to caregivers’ neglect, inattentiveness, or lack of supervision. Babies, toddlers, and young school-age children are especially vulnerable and require adequate attention and care. Parents can protect their children by asking their childcare provider specific questions about staff qualifications, safety procedures, and other important information. These questions include:

  • What are your procedures for releasing a child to someone other than a parent?
  • Does your center or home have controlled access to ensure individuals are not permitted to enter without permission?
  • Does your center or home have an alert system to notify staff when an individual has entered the building?
  • Do you have written and posted procedures for hazards, such as fire, tornadoes, medical emergencies, and unauthorized individuals?
  • Have your staff members satisfied state training requirements, such as CPR, injury prevention, communicable disease, and food preparation?

Parents should also remember that the Illinois licensing requirements are minimum standards. Look for a daycare facility that exceeds these standards by providing advanced staff training, additional programs, and exceptional safety protocols. Many modern daycare centers provide parents with live Internet access – through a secure portal – to their child’s play area.

Additionally, parents should regularly observe their child’s daycare facility to watch for the following red flags:

Inadequate Supervision

Look for a proper caregiver-to-child ratio. For example, groups of children allowed on a playground with no adult in sight is a warning sign your child’s daycare provider either lacks adequate staff or has neglected to properly train its caregivers.

Poorly Trained or Underqualified Staff

Talk to your child’s caregivers and teachers. Ask them to provide copies of their credentials and certifications, such as CPR training. Inquire about how they manage transitions from one activity to another. Ask your child’s provider if it conducts background checks on its employees.

Unsafe or Recalled Toys and Equipment

Toys and equipment, such as bouncer seats, highchairs, and cribs, should be safe and well-maintained. Look for broken parts, chipping paint, and toys that are not age-appropriate (such as toys with very small parts that can become a choking hazard).

Unsanitary Facility

Although a little untidiness is normal and expected when children are at play, the facility should be obviously clean. Ask about the facility’s sanitization procedures and staff hand-washing policy. For example, caregivers should wash their hands after changing a diaper or tending to a child’s toilet needs.

Unexplained Marks, Bruises, or Lacerations

Children – especially toddlers and young children – are prone to the occasional bump or scrape. If your child consistently comes home with unexplained or unusual bruises, marks, or cuts, however, it could be a sign of neglect or abuse. Speak to your childcare provider while the marks are still visible. Daycare providers are required to provide parents with incident reports when a child is injured.

Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers

If your child has been hurt in a daycare setting, it’s important to speak to a knowledgeable attorney right away. Sadly, caregivers have been known to conceal the source of a child’s injury or provide parents with incorrect or misleading information regarding their child’s safety. Call today to speak with a personal injury attorney about your case. (312) 779-6610.

This website has been prepared by Anesi, Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen, Ltd. for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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