Spouses, Partners & Dependents
We are so happy you are here and hope your stay in the U.S. and in Illinois is a positive, memorable experience for your family. There are many factors to consider when living in a foreign country, especially if your family members are with you and you will be staying longer than a short tourism visit. Explore the topics below to learn more about opportunities, general information, and resources for the partners, spouses, and children of international UIC students, scholars and employees.
If you have not yet arrived to the U.S., please reference the pre-arrival information for families.
Family life in the U.S. Heading link
The structure and key aspects of family life are undergoing significant changes in the U.S. – there is no dominant family form. Traditional two-parent households are on the decline and many men and women in the U.S. are delaying or foregoing marriage as infinite variations of families emerge and are celebrated.
There are three core factors that impact U.S. “family” generalizations: Regional, social-class, and religious differences. Child-rearing takes many forms and while there are many strong opinions surrounding parenting, there are two general philosophies: structured (disciplining through positive guidance and/or reinforcement) and unstructured (allowing children to ‘find’ themselves and their own way to develop potential).
Individualism is a strong characteristic of U.S. culture and informs many of our norms and values of family life. You may find a sense of freedom in the U.S. to structure your family and parent in a manner that suits you best, while at the same time struggle with an expectation to do so without strong community support that is more commonly found in other cultures.
Resources for families with children Heading link
State of Illinois child safety considerations
Use of vehicle seat belts and car seats
Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act requires that all children under age eight be secured in an appropriate child safety restraint system (car/booster seat) when riding in a car. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, children under age two should be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or is 40 or more inches tall.
It is important to consider Illinois law when deciding whether or not to leave your child alone at home or in a car, even for a short period of time. Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor.” The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services offers information and resources on this topic.
Child and childcare terminology
Early childhood age ranges
- Infant – newborn baby up to 2 years old
- Toddler – 2 to 4 years old
- Preschooler/Pre-Kindergartener “Pre-K” – 4 to 5 years old
Care and/or school grade levels by age
- Daycare – infants and toddlers 0 to 3 years old
- Preschool/Pre-Kindergarten (“Pre-K”) – for preschoolers 4 to 5 years old
- Kindergarten – 5 years old
- Elementary School – grades 1 to 5 (6 years old to 10 years old)
- Middle School – grades 6 to 8 (11 years old to 13 years old)
- High School – grades 9 to 12 (14 years old to 18 years old)
Finding a childcare provider can be intimidating if you are not sure where to start. Below are some tips on finding and selecting a childcare provider.
The UIC Children’s Center in Chicago provides early childhood education and care to 50 preschool children of UIC students, faculty, and staff. The children range in age from two years, nine months to six years. Contact the Children’s Center directly for information on eligibility/availability.
Daycare centers are traditionally privately operated under a state license. Some public schools do offer an early childhood care option, but these offerings are not standard. The Illinois Department of Children and Family (DCFS) Services regulates daycare centers and in-home daycare providers for individuals who offer a childcare service operating out of their private residence. DCFS also oversees general operating laws, required caregiver-to-child ratio, and additional safety requirements for commercially operating caregivers.
Daycare is generally for infants through pre-school-aged children. Some daycare facilities will accept children as young as six weeks old and have before and after school programs for elementary school-age children. Children typically attend in groups by age, and care is usually offered in half-day or full-day increments. Payment is required for care.
Considerations When Searching for a Daycare Center
Begin by searching for childcare that is convenient for you, either close to your worksite or your home address, and read some of the online reviews to get a general idea.
Once you find a facility that you think will meet your family’s needs, contact them for more information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The CDC has a 15 Must-Haves for All Child Care Providers Check List that you can use for each facility you consider and below are some questions you can ask during your search.
- Ask for an onsite or video tour of the environment
- Ask to speak with parents of children attending the center
- What is the environment like? How are meals served?
- What can my child bring with them?
- What programs are no longer available?
- How are your facility and staff meeting CDC guidance?
- How have your policies changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Babysitters and Nannies
Considerations When Searching for a Babysitter or Nanny
- Ask friends or colleagues with children if they know of anybody who could babysit.
- Work with other parents to share days to watch each other’s children.
- Look to your Facebook groups (i.e. mom/parent groups or community pages).
- Subscribe to a service, like Care.com, Winnie.com, or Sittercity.
Once you find someone you think might be a good fit for your family, schedule an interview (these can take place via FaceTime or Zoom if in-person is not feasible). There are many resources that list suggested interview questions, including on The Bump and Care.com.
Schooling in the U.S.
Regulation and structure
In the U.S., schooling is regulated by each individual state as there is no national school system. Schooling structure is further organized into school districts at the county level, and some counties have multiple school districts. District mapping for public schools is determined by local residence.
When enrolling your child in a U.S. school, it is important to note that per the U.S. Department of Justice, a Social Security Number (SSN) for students and parents is not required for enrollment. However, you may need to provide proof of medical evaluations and vaccination. Check with the school district’s website for these requirements as they may vary.
The U.S. Department of Education is a U.S. federal government agency that establishes policies on federal financial aid for education, collects data and research-based on schooling across the U.S., and works to prohibit discrimination and ensures equal access to education.
Parental and family involvement
In the U.S., it is expected for the parents or guardians of enrolled students to be active in the school community and to take an active role in their child’s education. Many schools have a ‘Home and School Association’ or ‘Parent Teacher Organization (PTO)’ that provides communication forums and opportunities to engage in school activities and events.
Communication between parents and teachers is expected and most schools offer regular student assessments (sometimes called ‘parent-teacher conferences’) that require a parent or guardian to meet with the child’s teacher to go over progress.
Additional school functions such as orientations or ‘previews’ for new students, open houses (an event where parents/guardians may come to the school to view their child’s work and learn more about accomplishments), curriculum nights (where school faculty go over district/state requirements and objectives, and how these are pursued at the school) are common.
Types of schools in the U.S.
- Public – A school funded by taxpayers. Attendance at a public school is determined by residency within a specific boundary which is known as the school district.
- Charter – A charter school is a public school that families choose to send their children to. Charter school attendance is not based on residency.
- Magnet – A magnet school is a public school specialized in a specific subject area (fine and performing arts, technology, world language, etc.) Some magnet schools accept students based on a lottery application process.
- Private – Private schools do not receive taxpayer or government funding and are supported solely by tuition payments made by families.
- Religious/Parochial – Schools affiliated with a religious organization (church, mosque, synagogue, etc), typically include a curriculum with religious education at the core in addition to secular subjects. Religious schools are supported by the larger religious organization and tuition payments made by families. In some cases, a religious school may receive limited government funding.
Schooling in Illinois
The Illinois State Board of Education is an Illinois state agency that oversees teacher licensure within the State of Illinois and works with state-wide stakeholders to formulate and advocate for policies that enhance education in Illinois.
The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system is the third-largest school district in the U.S. with more than 600 schools and over 400,000 enrolled students.
If you live outside of Chicago and would like to determine the public school district your child is eligible to attend, please use the Illinois State Board of Education’s Public School District Lookup tool.
- Chicago Parent Magazine
- Neighborhood Parents Network
- Babies, Tots n’More Kids Sale – seasonal resale of children’s items located in the South Loop
- DuPage Area Moms – Organization for mothers located in the western suburbs of Chicago.
U.S. nationwide resources
Popular U.S. parenting books
- The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp
- The Baby Book by William Sears, MD
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff (now a comedy movie!)
Additional resources for future parents
Pregnancy and the workplace
- State Employee Assistance Program – Assessment and referral service aimed at helping benefit-eligible UIC employees and their dependents connect with support services.
- Pregnant@Work – Online resource center providing tools and educational materials for pregnant and breastfeeding employees in the U.S.
Getting involved Heading link
Volunteering & work
Volunteering is defined as an activity where one performs hours of service for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons without promise or expectation of compensation, monetary or otherwise. Volunteering is prevalent in U.S. culture and individuals of all ages will participate in volunteer experiences that serve all areas of community life.
Volunteering can be a valuable way for spouses, partners, and dependents to engage with their local communities and enhance existing skills. This is especially true for those in dependent statuses that are not eligible for work authorization. See our page on volunteering for more information.
However, it is important to understand the distinction between volunteering and unpaid work. Unauthorized work, even when unpaid, can have significant negative consequences on your immigration status. For details, please see the appropriate immigration section for your dependent status.
Working in the U.S. while in a dependent immigration status carries many unique and different responsibilities and requirements to maintain your status. It is important that you and your primary visa holder understand the eligibility requirements and application processes relevant to your status in to obtain appropriate work authorizations prior to engaging in any work, paid or unpaid.