Day Care Centers

Back to Inspections, Permitting, and Licensing

A small boy coloring with a crayon with a teacher beside him

*** Before taking out a business loan, signing a lease, or applying for a business license, ensure that the site where you intend to operate is in an appropriately zoned area and that it complies with the current Chicago Municipal Code.  The Code is frequently updated, so a new owner needs to check current zoning and code regulations; do not assume the previous owner's designation applies. ***

A "Day Care Center" License is required for any institution or place, with or without a stated educational purpose, including, but not limited to, any day care center, where three or more children six years of age or younger, who are not of common parentage and who are apart from their parent or guardian, are cared for during all or part of the day.

The term "day care center" does not include the following: (1) any "day care home", "group day care home" or "foster family home"; (2) any center for the intellectually or developmentally disabled licensed by the State of Illinois; (3) any bona fide kindergarten or day nursery school serving children three years of age or older and established in connection with grade schools supervised or operated by a private or public board of education or approved by the State Board of Education; or (4) any daytime program for senior citizens.

Step 1: Zoning

Before signing a lease for your commercial location, you should ensure that the location you have chosen for your DCC is properly zoned. Many zoning districts allow DCC’S. You can determine whether your commercial location falls within one of these districts by utilizing the Zoning and Reference Guide in conjunction with the interactive zoning map or by asking a Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) consultant.  Please note that a parking determination letter is required for this specific activity.

Step 2: Application

You may only apply for a DCC License in person at the BACP office in City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., Room 800. An appointment is recommended and can be made online or by calling GOBIZ / 312.744.6249.

Applicants will file for one of three licenses:

  • Day Care Center Ages 0-2
  • Day Care Center Ages 2-6
  • Day Care Center Ages 0-2, 2-6 (children of different age groups may be cared for at the same facility)

Applicants who will care for children between the hours of 9pm and 6am should also file for the Night Care Privilege License, which is only available to those who also have a DCC  License. There is no fee for the Night Care Privilege License however applicants are required to meet a more stringent set of requirements as outlined in Section 4-72-160 of the Chicago Municipal Code.

Along with the DCC License application, the following must be submitted to BACP:

  • Corporate documents, such as articles of incorporation and corporate minutes
  • A lease or proof of ownership of the business property
  • The name, resident address, social security number, date of birth, and official photo ID for every owner, officer, member, or any person having 25% or more interest in the business, and the manager of the establishment.
  • Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). Apply at
  • Illinois Department of Revenue Account ID number. Apply at
  • A fingerprint-based criminal background check, which is required for every owner, corporate officer or any person have a  25% or more interest in the business, as well as every on-site manager; a cost recovery fee of $40 person will be assessed for the service of fingerprint processing.
  • A Certificate of Insurance exhibiting commercial general liability coverage, with limits of not less than $300,000 per occurrence, combined single limit, for bodily injury, personal injury, and property damage.  Existing license holders have until October 1, 2012 to be in compliance with the insurance requirement.
  • Resolution of any City debt

License application fee: 0-100 children = $165,   100 or more children = $275

Fees are based on a two-year term

Note: DCC’S that do not charge for the care of children are not required to pay the application fee.  Such DCC’smust submit an affidavit stating that no fee is charged for care. 

Step 3: Permits and Inspections

Once an application is filed for a DCC license, the facility will be inspected by city departments to ensure that it meets all of the requirements. To help you prepare for the inspections the city offers an inspection workshop each month.

The Chicago Department of Buildings (DOB) – DOB is the department which conducts building inspections and processes and issues building permits.

    1. A building permit is required for any structural build-out, including rehab, of a DCC. Structural work includes, but is not limited, to: plumbing, electrical, natural gas line, HVAC, drywall, demolition or construction. A more complete list of structural work requiring a permit is available here. All structural work must be completed before the building inspection.
    2. A building license inspection is required after a DCC license application has been submitted to BACP, but prior to obtaining the license.
    3. The

Chicago Fire Department (CFD)

      – CFD is the department which ensures that fire safety and fire prevention measures are in place.


    1. Before a DCC License will be issued, fire inspectors will check for safety measures to ensure that the DCC is fire resistant and easy to evacuate in case of an emergency.

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) – CDPH is the department which conducts health inspections.

    1. The premises must pass a two-tiered public health inspection: Food Prevention and Health Surveillance. Your establishment will be inspected by CDPH shortly after you file and pay for your license application with BACP. Therefore before you file and pay for your DCC License application with BACP, you should ensure your establishment is ready for an inspection by CDPH.

BACP – In addition to issuing business licenses, BACP is the department which handles General Grants of Privilege for the use of the public way. These applications are necessary when a business owner wishes to hang a sign or awning from a building, and the sign or awning hangs over the public way.

  1. Prior to hanging or constructing any sign that hangs over the public way, a DCC applicant must file a Sign Permit Application with BACP. This detailed process includes obtaining additional permits from DOB as well as approval from the City Council. Because a sign contractor must be licensed with the City in order to obtain a sign construction permit, please see the list of approved sign contractors.
  2. For temporary use of the public way (such as an awning that hangs over a temporary construction project), applicants must obtain a Public Right of Way Use Permit from the Chicago Department of Transportation. Information about this permitting process is available here.


Step 4: State and Federal Compliance

In addition to the City of Chicago regulations outlined above, DCCs may need to comply with State of Illinois and Federal regulations related to taxation, employment, health, and disability, along with other requirements. In particular, applicants must be licensed by the State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).


Step 5: Recurring Inspections and Reporting

DCCs are required to be available at all times for an inspection from DOB, CDPH, and CFD. Also, DCC operators must make a daily report to CDPH of all cases and suspect cases of contagious and communicable diseases. Furthermore, a report must be submitted to CDPH on or before the fifth day of every month reporting activities of the DCC in the preceding month.

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