Please note: applications are being accepted for the current school year only. The application for Fall 2017 will be available in Spring 2017.
Families with preschool-aged children can submit a single application for any preschool program funded by the City of Chicago. The application can be completed online at apply.chicagoearlylearning.org or submitted with assistance at Colman, 4655 S. Dearborn St, or Hall Mall, 4638 W. Diversey Ave. Parents may also visit any community-based preschool program to which they wish to apply (call (312) 229-1690 for details).
If you are looking to enroll your child in a birth to three year old program or home visiting services, please contact your preferred sites directly or call the Hotline for assistance. If you are looking to enroll your child in a program immediately, please call the Hotline or inquire with your provider directly.
Watch the How to Apply video to learn more on how to fill out the online application form. The video will begin to download to your computer as soon as you click this link.
It is not necessary to complete the application online; families have many choices for completing and submitting an application for preschool.
Families can apply for up to two different sites in the application. In order to match as many families as possible with their preferred programs, we have limited our opportunities to evaluate your preference on the application to two sites. Parents and families can compare the over 600 sites supported by CPS and DFSS on chicagoearlylearning.org or with assistance on the phone at (312) 229-1690.
Each each preschool-aged child that is seeking to enroll in a new program is allowed only one application with two preferences. If you have multiple children that are applying for preschool, you may submit one application for each child.
If you wish to alter information on a previously submitted application please call (312) 229-1690 to speak with a Family Resource Specialist directly.
Different programs serve children of different ages and are funded in a variety of ways. Many sites have more than one type of program supported by a combination of local, state, and federal funding sources with different eligibility requirements.
Starting this summer, the city and its partners are employing a unified strategy to identify preliminary eligibility online. Using the online application you will be able to identify if your placement status is likely to be placed or waitlisted while you explore programs. You will then verify your placement by providing documentation to the site to which you are applying (if you are applying to a community-based preschool) or at Colman – CPS Central Office (4655 S. Dearborn St) or Hall Mall (4638 W. Diversey Ave) if you are applying to a school-based preschool.
As we learn from the new system, there are a number of factors, including information quality as well as availability and special needs that may influence this preliminary placement.
Parents with questions or needing support completing the application can call (312) 229-1690 for assistance with applications for both schools and community-based providers.
Our Family Resource Centers at Chicago Public Libraries are now closed for the 2016-2017 school year. Parents who need personalized assistance and support can visit Hall Mall, 4638 W. Diversey Ave, open M-F: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm or Colman-CPS Central Office, 4655 S. Dearborn St, open M-F: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Parents may also visit any community-based preschool program to which they wish to apply (call (312) 229-1690 for details).
Parents or guardians seeking to enroll their child immediately should call the Chicago Early Learning Hotline at (312) 229-1690for guidance or contact their preferred provider directly to inquire about availability. They may instruct you to complete the application if space is available immediately.
Students that are currently in a preschool program and will not be entering kindergarten in the Fall are not required to re-apply if they wish to continue in that program.
Students who wish to transfer to a program at another site may submit an application but will need to call a Family Resource Specialist for assistance with the transfer process. Parents will be referred to a Specialist from the Chicago Early Learning Hotline at (312) 229-1690 who will help determine availability and eligibility for the desired site and work with your existing provider to process the transfer. After you have confirmed your application for transfer, you will not be guaranteed a spot at your previous provider.
Students who wish to transfer to a program at another site should call a family hotline specialist for assistance with the transfer process. Parents will be referred to a Specialist from the Chicago Early Learning Hotline at (312) 229-1690 who will help determine availability and eligibility for the desired site and work with your existing provider to process the transfer. After you have confirmed your application for transfer, you will not be guaranteed a spot at your previous provider.
If you are a parent or guardian with multiple children, you may create separate applications for each child in your family account and profile. If you are looking for services for a younger child, please verify with your provider first that programs for children younger than 3 years old are available.
Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that siblings will be placed at the same site. We will make every effort to keep same age and old/younger preschool-aged siblings together, but factors such as space, age, and individual needs may prevent us from guaranteeing placement with siblings.
Families that submitted an early bird application online or at a Family Resource Center between May 16 and June 10, 2016, should have already received their preliminary notice of placement. If you have not received notice, please call the Chicago Early Learning Hotline.
Families that apply on or after June 20, 2016, will be able to receive a preliminary placement immediately.
Within two weeks of receiving a preliminary placement, a family member must visit a specified site (the site to which you have applied for community-based programs, and either Colman or Hall Mall for CPS programs) to verify the information listed on the application that may determine program eligibility (e.g. income, address, etc.).
If you are unable to visit a site within two weeks of receiving your placement,please call the Chicago Early Learning Hotline to reschedule.
Children in temporary living situations will not be required to present any documentation verifying eligibility but will need to confirm their placement as indicated with a placement notice.
Families will be required to provide proof of a student’s age, address, and family income. Students in temporary living situations will be enrolled without any required documentation. Individual sites may request additional documentation prior to full enrollment.
Failure to prevent documentation that confirms the information provided on your application may alter your placement.
If you need assistance identifying the correct documentation or finding substitute documentation, please call your provider or a Family Resource Center.
Families will have two weeks from receiving their preliminary placement to confirm their interest and begin the registration process by visiting a site (indicated with your placement notification) to verify their eligibility information. If you are unable to visit a site within two weeks of receiving your placement, please call the Chicago Early Learning Hotline to reschedule.
Students are allowed to remain on one waitlist of a more preferred provider than their offered preliminary placement. Remaining on a waitlist means that a child will be offered a placement if a spot becomes available and certain eligibility criteria are met.
The City of Chicago prioritizes eligibility based on factors such as age, income, and child or family history. Students may not be offered a placement from a waitlist on a first come first serve basis. Because participation in early learning programs is an invaluable resource for your child, we encourage families that are on a waitlist to find a provider with availability that may also suit their needs.
Students will be offered a preliminary placement from a waitlist if a spot becomes available and certain eligibility criteria are met. If your child is on a waitlist, no additional action is necessary. If a spot becomes available, you will be notified via mail, email and phone.
The City of Chicago offers programs at over 600 school and community-based sites. Our parent and family information page describes the types of programs that are available.
The Chicago Early Learning Portal includes early learning programs that receive City funding, an easy-to-use interactive map, basic information about the programs available at every site order to determine if that location is right for their child.
Other early childhood activities available throughout the city are included on our City Resources page.
The Chicago Early Learning Portal includes programs that receive funds administered by the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) or Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
The best way to find out whether you will have to pay anything is to call the center or program and ask. Some locations receive funding from the government so that families who cannot afford to pay can still benefit from early learning programs. Other programs accept child care assistance payments (CCAP) or base the amount your family owes on your income. Many programs have a combination of funding sources. Because every family and program is different, it is very important to call the programs you are interested in to talk about payment options.
CCAP stands for Child Care Assistance Program. The program helps low-income, working families pay for quality child care. Your child care provider will help determine if your family qualifies for CCAP.
Quality Rating indicates the quality of a site based on the Excelerate Illinois system. Excelerate Illinois is the new quality rating and improvement system for Illinois. It has been designed to rate the quality of early learning programs and to set a research based standard for early learning and development providers. There are tiered Circles of Quality in Excelerate and the higher the awarded tier, the more the program has made meaningful improvements that better the child for school and life. More information about Excelerate can be found at ExcelerateIllinois.com.
Please review our information for parents and families for suggested tips for identifying high quality early learning programs.
Some examples include:
It is a good idea to write down a list of questions before calling a program. Here are a few suggestions of things to ask, in addition to your own specific questions:
If your child already has been enrolled in a CPS school, please take a copy of the IEP and enrollment documentation to the school. The school's IEP team will review the IEP and determine if it can be implemented. If your child is not enrolled in a CPS school and you have questions about services and / or enrollment, please contact the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services at 773-553-1800.
Please attend a Child Find Team Screening Site to obtain a free developmental screening. Developmental screenings can tell you if your child is having any difficulties with: hearing/vision, speech/language, problem solving, social skills, fine/gross motor and/or listening/attending. If a screening indicates a need for further evaluation then you will be referred to the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS). Please contact ODLSS at 773-553-1800 for Child Find Screening locations and dates/times.
Accreditation means that a program has met high standards of excellence determined by a national organization such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NEPCA), or the Council on Accreditation (COA). Programs that receive national accreditation have demonstrated quality in areas such as teaching, curriculum, learning assessments, health, community relationships, physical environment, and management. To learn more about accreditation of early learning programs, click on one of the following links:
To learn more about accreditation of early learning programs, click on one of the following links:
The first effort of its kind to take place in a major city in the United States, Chicago City of Learning is a groundbreaking effort that joins together learning opportunities for young people in a way that allows them to think about, pursue, and develop their interests. Find 1000s of opportunities at parks, libraries, community- and faith-based programs, schools, museums and cultural institutions, colleges and universities, and more at www.ChicagoCityofLearning.org.
Other early learning resources are available on our City Resources page.