How to Start a Daycare in Wisconsin

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Starting a daycare in Wisconsin requires careful planning and adherence to state regulations.

  • Begin by conducting thorough research on licensing requirements outlined by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF).
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your daycare’s mission, target market, services offered, budget, and marketing strategies.
  • Secure a suitable location that meets DCF’s safety and space requirements, ensuring ample indoor and outdoor space for children to play and learn.
  • Obtain necessary permits and licenses, including a childcare license from DCF, and register your business with the state. Create policies and procedures for enrollment, health and safety protocols, staffing requirements, and emergency procedures.
  • Hire qualified staff trained in early childhood education and CPR/First Aid.
  • Design a stimulating curriculum that promotes child development and meets state standards.
  • Market your daycare through various channels such as social media, a com listing, local community networks, and partnerships with schools or businesses.

Building a strong reputation for quality care and maintaining compliance with state regulations are key to successfully launching and operating a daycare in Wisconsin.

Do I need a childcare license in Wisconsin?

Childcare licensing in Wisconsin is overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. According to the department’s regulations, a childcare license is required to operate a daycare in Wisconsin if you are caring for four or more children under seven years old for less than 24 hours.

However, there are exceptions to this requirement. The following are exempt from needing a license to operate a childcare business in Wisconsin:

  • Relatives of the child such as parents, siblings, or cousins
  • Public and parochial schools
  • Individuals providing childcare services at a child’s home for no more than 24 hours daily
  • Counties, cities, towns, school districts, and libraries offering children’s programs for social or recreational purposes
  • Programs operating for no more than four hours per week
  • Group lessons aimed at developing a talent or skill, such as dance, music, or social group meetings
  • Programs where parents are on the premises engaged in shopping, recreation, or other non-work activities
  • Seasonal programs lasting ten days or less in any three months, including day camps, vacation Bible schools, and holiday childcare programs
  • Emergency situations
  • Care and supervision for no more than three hours a day while the parent is employed on the premises

The department issues licenses for three types of childcare programs:

  • Family child care centers: These centers offer care for four to eight children who are unrelated to the provider, for less than 24 hours daily, at the provider’s residence.
  • Group child care centers: These centers provide care for nine or more children who are unrelated to the provider, for less than 24 hours daily, at the provider’s residence.
  • Day camps for children: These camps cater to four or more children aged three or older, offering a seasonal outdoors-oriented program for less than 24 hours a day.

Childcare regulation fees differ across counties. For precise details regarding your area, reach out to your local certification agency. Information about licensing and certification fees for Milwaukee County can be accessed here.

daycare in Wisconsin

Childcare licensing requirements in Wisconsin

Apart from crafting a childcare business plan, adherence to state licensing prerequisites is imperative, whether you’re launching a center-based program or establishing a home preschool. Below outlines the licensing requirements for childcare programs and daycare in Wisconsin.

Family Child Care Centers

Provider Qualifications

Providers are required to meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrate physical, mental, and emotional capability to care for all children.
  • Be a minimum of 18 years old.
  • Complete three credits in early childhood education or an approved non-credit course in early childhood education, along with a non-credit, department-approved course in childcare business operations, or a credit course in business or program administration.
  • Hold the Wisconsin family childcare credential.
  • Possess a child development associate credential specific to family child care.

Staff-to-Child Ratios

  • The maximum number of children a single provider can care for is outlined in the table below.
  • If the group size or age distribution exceeds the capacity of one provider, an additional qualified provider must be present. For instance, if there are three children under two years old and five children between two and six years old present simultaneously, a second provider is necessary.

 

Maximum number of children in family child care per provider:
Children under 2 years of age Children 2 years of age and older Maximum number of additional school-age children in care for fewer than three hours a day Maximum number of children permitted at one time
0 8 0 8
1 7 0 8
2 5 1 8
3 2 3 8
4 0 2 6

 

Initial licensing fees

  • $60.50 every two years
  • Six-month probationary license fee of $15.12

License continuation

  • $60.50

Group Child Care Centers

Provider Qualifications

Childcare workers, center administrators, center directors, and volunteers must:

  • Demonstrate physical, mental, and emotional capability to care for all children.
  • Undergo training in shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma, as well as appropriate methods for managing crying, fussing, or distraught children before working with children under 5 years old.
  • Obtain training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The provider may serve as an administrator or delegate the role to a qualified individual.

Administrator Requirements:

  • Must be at least 21 years old.
  • Must have completed high school or its equivalent.
  • Must possess the following:
    • One year of managerial experience or satisfactory completion of a department-approved course in business or program administration.
    • One year of experience as a center director, child care teacher in a group child care center or kindergarten, or as a licensee of a family child care center, or satisfactory completion of a non-credit, department-approved course, or a course for credit in early childhood education or its equivalent.
    • Completion of at least 10 hours of training in supervision or personnel management.

Center Director for Programs Serving 50 or Fewer Children:

  • Must be at least 21 years old.
  • Must have completed high school or its equivalent.
  • Must have a minimum of 320 hours of experience as a teacher or assistant teacher in a group child care center or other approved setting, or as a licensee of a family child care center.
  • Must have completed one of the pre-service training requirements.

Center Director for Programs Serving 51 or More Children:

  • Must be at least 21 years old.
  • Must have completed high school or its equivalent.
  • Must have at least two years of experience as a child care teacher or center director in a group child care center or other approved setting.
  • Must have completed one of the pre-service training requirements.

Child Care Teacher Requirements:

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Must have completed high school or its equivalent.
  • Must have a minimum of 320 hours of experience as an assistant child care teacher in a group child care center or other approved early childhood setting.

Must complete one of the following:

  • Two courses for credit in early childhood education or its equivalent.
  • Two non-credit department-approved courses in early childhood education.
  • A certificate from The Registry indicating qualification as a child care teacher.
  • Various other qualifications listed.

Assistant Child Care Teacher Requirements:

  • Must be at least 18 years old and must have satisfactorily completed one course for credit in early childhood education or its equivalent at an institution of higher education within six months after assuming the position, or completed one non-credit department-approved course in early childhood education within six months of assuming the position.
  • Must have satisfactorily completed an assistant child care teacher training program approved by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Volunteers and Student Teachers:

  • Must complete at least one course for credit or one non-credit department-approved course in early childhood education before completing 240 cumulative hours of volunteer work.
  • Must undergo training in child care programming and procedures.

daycare in Wisconsin

Staff-to-Child Ratios

Age of children Minimum number of childcare worker to children Maximum number of children in a group
Birth to 2 years 1:4 8
2 years to 2½ years 1:6 12
2½ years to 3 years 1:8 16
3 years to 4 years 1:10 20
4 years to 5 years 1:13 26
5 years to 6 years 1:17 34
6 years and over 1:18 36

Initial Licensing Fees

  • A two-year fee of $30.25 and an additional two-year fee of $16.94 per child based on the licensed capacity.
  • A six-month probationary license fee of $7.56.
  • A non-refundable application fee of $45.68.

License continuation

  • $30.25 plus $16.94 per child, based on the licensed capacity.

Day Camps for Children

Provider Requirements

Camp staff, including the camp director, counselors, and volunteers, must demonstrate physical, mental, and emotional capability to care for all children.

A Camp Director Must:

  • Be at least 21 years old.
  • Possess one of the following:
  • The Wisconsin Afterschool and Youth Development Credential.
  • A bachelor’s degree in outdoor education, recreation, coaching, juvenile justice, social work, psychology, child development, education, or another camp-related field.

Two or more years of supervisory or administrative experience in an organized camp or children’s program.

A Counselor Must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Staff-to-Child Ratio

Each child in care must be assigned to a counselor. Below are the counselor-to-child ratios.

 

Age of children Minimum number of counselors to children
3 years to 4 years 1:4
4 years to 5 years 1:6
5 years and 6 years 1:12
7 years and over 1:18

 

Initial Licensing Fees

  • There is an initial two-year fee of $30.25, as well as an additional two-year fee of $16.94 per child based on the licensed capacity.
  • Additionally, there is a sixth-month probationary fee of $7.56.

License Continuation

  • For license continuation, the fee is $30.25 plus $16.94 per child, based on the licensed capacity.

Childcare License Application Process in Wisconsin

daycare in Wisconsin

When applying for a childcare center license in Wisconsin, follow these steps:

Step 1: Determine the Type of Childcare Program

Choose from three types of childcare programs: family child care center, group child care center, or a day camp for children. Each has its own operational regulations. If needed, seek assistance from your local Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) agency.

Step 2: Enroll in and Complete Required Training

Complete the necessary entry-level training, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) prevention, Shaken Baby Syndrome and Abusive Head Trauma Prevention, Introduction to the Childcare Profession (Module A), Fundamentals of Family Child Care, Infant/Child Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), and training in Child Abuse and Neglect.

Step 3: Request an Inquiry Packet

Fill out the “Request for Child Care Licensing Inquiry Packets” form, which contains essential information about your preferred program. Mail the completed form and payment to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

Step 4: Complete Background Check

All caregiver and non-caregiver employees must undergo a mandatory fingerprint background check according to Wisconsin state regulations.

Step 5: Participate in Wisconsin Shares and YoungStar Programs

Take advantage of assistance and training offered by the Wisconsin Shares and YoungStar programs for new providers.

Step 6: Complete and Submit the Child Care Business Startup Worksheet

Fill out the child care business startup worksheet included in your inquiry packet and submit it to YoungStar–Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA). An assigned child care technical consultant will guide you through the daycare startup process and provide the relevant license application form.

Step 7: Submit Your Application and Await Approval

Complete and submit your license application with the assistance of a childcare technical consultant. Mail the completed application form to a regional licensing office. Upon eligibility determination, you may receive a six-month probationary license from the department.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Wisconsin

You have the option to renew the probationary license once, which remains effective for six months. To transition to the regular license, submit the continuation forms supplied by the department at least 30 days before the probationary license’s expiration.

Furthermore, it’s mandatory to fulfill the applicable fees and showcase compliance for license renewal. While the regular license has indefinite validity, the department conducts a review every two years.

Start a daycare in Wisconsin

Starting a daycare in Wisconsin offers potential for both financial success and personal satisfaction. Through careful planning and utilizing the right resources, you can effectively manage the licensing requirements and focus on building a prosperous enterprise.

To best market your daycare and utilize coming tools such as all-in-one waitlist management, payment processing, and single scan solutions for parent updates, sign up at https://www.Daycare.com/signup

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