Child Care Certification

Child Care Certification

Wisconsin State law (section 48.651) requires counties/tribes to certify providers who receive public funding but are exempt from the licensing law. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families maintains rules establishing standards for the certification of child care providers, and contracts certification functions to the local counties and tribes. DCF 202 establishes standards for the certification of persons who provide child care for 1 to 3 children under age 7 unrelated to the provider, or who are not otherwise required to be licensed as a child care center under section 48.65, Stats. There are several requirements to attain a child care certification, including passing background checks.

What Does "Illegal Child Care Services" Mean?

No person shall for compensation provide care and supervision for 4 or more children under the age of 7 for less than 24 hours a day unless they obtain a license to operate a day care center from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

The law applies when:

  • There are 4 or more children at any one time under the age of 7.
  • Care is outside of the child's own home.
  • The caregiver is a non-relative/non-guardian by state definition.
  • The child care is for compensation.
  • The parents are off the premises.
  • The child care is less than 24 hours per day.

If the person providing care is unlicensed, DCF won't know about it until someone actually notifies DCF of the issue. DCF has limited penalties to follow up and be punitive towards these illegal providers. People caught violating the law are first issued a warning letter. After that, fines start at $100 and a site visit may be conducted. Criminal prosecution can only begin after a third offense of the person continuing to provide illegal care to children. Records show DCF issued 15 fines to repeat offenders in the first nine months of 2016. Two of them were caught breaking the law a third time, one was caught a fourth. State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) said these day care providers were "clearly not working in the spirit of a law designed to help neighbors care for each other's kids" [I-Team: Illegal Day Cares Exploit Weakness in State Law, Put Kids in Danger].

What Are the Benefits of Being a Regulated Child Care Provider?

  • The provider is able to care for Wisconsin Shares subsidized children (a reimbursement benefit for qualified working families to help pay for child care).
  • The provider may participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program which would provide reimbursement for healthy meals and snacks provided for all children during child care hours.
  • The provider may get parent referrals from a Child Care Resource And Referral Agency (for us that is Northwest Connection Family Resources).
  • The provider can receive additional support regarding how to provide quality care to young children including on-site technical assistance, informational materials, trainings and conferences, and networking with other providers who are in their shoes.
  • Being regulated demonstrates your commitment to your job as a child care professional and is one indicator of a quality program, instilling confidence in families that choose you and respect in the overall community in your service to children.
  • Regulated child care providers are qualified to apply for grants or loans, seek small business assistance, and claim income tax deductions.

What is the Process for Becoming a Certified Provider?

  • Step 1: Contact the county certifier (Inger LeClair's contact information listed above) and express your interest.
  • Step 2: Complete the application materials that will be mailed to you. This includes paperwork regarding the YoungStar program, background check information, a safe water test, landlord permission if you rent your home, provide proof of your pet's vaccinations, tax forms, a checklist of requirements for you as a provider and for the home as the site, etc.
  • Step 3: Complete Shaken Baby Syndrome and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome trainings (if a video/webinar is viewed, an in-person training must be completed within 6 months); also pass the required background checks.
  • Step 4: Only then will the certifier conduct an initial site visit to verify that certification qualifications have been met and issue a certificate if applicable (re-visit if needed to bring into compliance).
  • A provisional certificate may be issued, allowing you to begin providing care, while you complete the department-approved preservice training.
  • Upon completion of the preservice training, a regular certificate will be issued and you are eligible to be paid the higher rate for any county-funded children in your care.

After that: Maintain the necessary records, complete any trainings needed, communicate changes with the certifier, and allow the certifier to do unannounced monitoring visits throughout your two year certification period to maintain certification.

Additional Resources