Child Care Assistance Program

DHS' Child Care Assistance Program provides low-income, working families with access to quality, affordable child care that allows parents to continue working and contributes to the healthy, emotional, and social development of the child. Families are required to cost-share on a sliding scale based on family size, income, and number of children needing care.

Who is Eligible

Please Note: Eligibility criteria has changed as of 07/01/16 due to the budget crisis.

A.) Families who are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and are at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level; and/or

B.)Teen parents seeking a high school degree or its equivalent and are at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level; and/or

C.) Working families with a Special Needs child and are at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level;  A child with special needs may be defined as one of the following:

  • If the child is 0 to 3 years of age and determined eligible for early intervention services under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • If the child is 3 to 18 years of age and determined eligible for special education and related services under IDEA. The applicant must include a copy of their child's most recent IEP from the local school district.
  • If the child is less than 13 years of age and has a section 504 plan. The applicant must attach a copy of the most recent 504 plan.
D.) Working families whose income does not exceed 162% of the Federal Poverty Level.

Please use the Child Care Assistance Program Eligibility Calculator to get an estimated eligibility calculation, use families' gross income.

The person or family applying for child care assistance does not have to be the child's parent. Legal guardians, relatives caring for the child, and foster parents can receive child care assistance. The person or family applying, must have resident status in Illinois.

Why Apply

Far too many children enter school not prepared. When unprepared children begin school behind their peers, they tend to fall further and further behind as their schooling continues. Children who are at risk of struggling in school gain significant benefits from high-quality childcare. All children need to enter school ready and able to succeed.

To Apply For

There are two ways for families to apply:

  • Apply Online - Faster processing of application. Tip: Use Internet Explorer to fill out and submit an application

If an individual or family has questions about their eligibility, they should call their local Child Care Resource & Referral Agency (CCR&R). Find a local CCR&R or call 1-877-202-4453 (toll-free).

DHS funds CCR&R agencies across the state to assist parents and families with getting a child care application, finding quality child care, and possibly helping to pay for a family's child care. 


All families are also required to have their eligibility redetermined every 6 months by filling out a redetermination form, which is automatically mailed out or a parent can request that a form be mailed to them.

Continuation of Services

Additionally, there is no time limit on receipt of child care assistance unless the child or family stops meeting eligibility status. Hours of coverage are flexible.

Families with a special needs child may apply or continue to receive child care services after the child turns 13 years old until age 19. The child must be under court supervision or have physical or mental incapacities as documented by a statement from a local health provider or other health professional stating that the child is incapable of self care. For further details, please click here.

It is recommended that families fill out the application or redetermination 1 to 2 months ahead of the child's 13th birthday to avoid disruption.

Read More

All families who fall within the income categories for their family size are eligible. For child care income levels by family size or other child care information, visit the Illinois Department of Human Services' website at

All families pay a portion of the cost as a co-payment. The amount of the family's co-payment is based on income and family size. The DHS child care program gives working parents greater access to services to help their children prepare for school. DHS is also working to increase child care resources to help meet the needs of Illinois families who work weekends, rotating shifts, or unconventional hours. A family can choose the child care provider who best fits their individual family's needs. Payments are available for full- and part-time care and for before- and after-school while a parent works or attends approved school/training. DHS will help pay for child care arrangements that help ensure the well-being and safety of a family's child. Illinois law defines the following legal care arrangements:

  1. Licensed Child Care Center
  2. License-Exempt Child Care Center
  3. Licensed Family Child Care Home
  4. Licensed Group Family Child Care Home
  5. License-Exempt Family Child Care Home
  6. Child Care by Non-relatives - in the child's home
  7. Child Care by Relatives - in the relative's or child's home

A child care provider must pass background checks to ensure that they are providing a safe environment while caring for all children. DHS will not make payments to providers for the care of their own children or to providers who have been convicted of certain crimes. There are instances in which DHS will disqualify a provider. 

Links to Important Resources

Illinois DHS' Child Care Assistance Program Eligibility Calculator

Learn more about the Child Care Assistance Program.

Access the Cook County CCR&R.

Topics: Child Care
Tags: Income supports, Educational Supports, Child Care
Last updated August 9, 2017

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