Tips for Choosing Child Care
Finding the right caregiver for your
child is often challenging, but it is one of the most important decisions
you will make. Parents play the most important role in the life of a
child; however, the relationship between a child and a caregiver can
affect a child's self image and how he or she views the world. When
infants, toddlers and young children receive warm and responsive care,
they feel safe and secure. When parents know their children are receiving
warm and responsive care by well-trained providers, those parents can
return to the workforce feeling secure in the knowledge that their child
is receiving safe and nourishing care.
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has prepared a
brochure called Choosing
Child Care that provides some guidance to parents when selecting a
child care provider.
Please note, families who qualify for
child care subsidies are required to use regulated child care whether it
be licensed or certified.
Licensed Child Care
Under Wisconsin law, no person may for
compensation provide care and supervision for 4 or more children under the
age of 7 for less than 24 hours a day unless that person obtains a license
to operate a child care center from the Department. This does not include a
relative or guardian of a child who provides care and supervision for the
child; a public or parochial school; a person employed to come to the home
of the child's parent or guardian for less than 24 hours a day; or a
county, city, village, town, school district or library that provides
programs primarily intended for recreational or social purposes. Child
care centers are licensed by the state from one of five regional
There are 2 different categories of
state licensed child care; they depend upon the number of children in
- Licensed Family Child Care Centers provide
care for up to 8 children. This care is usually in the provider's home, but it is not required to be located in a
- Licensed Group Child Care Centers provide care
for 9 or more children. These centers are usually located somewhere
other than a residence and may be small or large in size.
County Certified Child Care
There is a voluntary form of
regulation in Wisconsin for those child care programs that are not
required to be licensed. This type of regulation is called certification.
Counties certify child care homes and some school-age child care programs.
Certification is available for those families who wish to receive a child
care subsidy, but who do not choose to use licensed care.
Contact the Child Care Resource and
Referral at 1-888-713-KIDS (5437) for information about the child care
choices available in your area.
Most experts consider caregiver
education and training to be one of the most critical areas for ensuring
and improving the quality of child care. Education in early childhood
education and previous experience caring for children can help providers
develop the skills necessary to provide quality early childhood
experiences to children.
Fewer children per caregiver and
smaller group sizes are important because children receive more
individual attention and caregivers can be more responsive to each
needs. The child care licensing regulations specify the maximum number
of children who may be cared for in a group and they also specify the
number of caretakers required for a group of children. For example, in a
Group Child Care Center when children are under age 2, there should be no
more than 4 children per caregiver with no more than 8 children in the
group. When children are between ages 3 and 4 years, the Group Child Care
Center licensing rules allow 10 children per caregiver with no more than
20 children in a group.
Children need to be exposed to a
variety of new experiences and opportunities in a safe environment.
There should be some structure in the daily activities planned for
children with opportunities to play outside each day. The center should
be equipped with toys and furnishings that are safe and child
appropriate. There should be open spaces for children to explore and
quiet spaces for reading a book or playing with puzzles.
The licensing rules require that
parents be able to visit the center at any time. Sometimes, when you are
asking to tour a center before placing your child there for care, a
center may ask that you make an appointment so that someone may be free
to show you around and answer questions. But once your child is enrolled
in the center, you have the right to come in to the program anytime.
You can tell a lot about a child care
program by visiting the program before you enroll and by stopping in
unexpectedly after your child is enrolled. Things to look for when
visiting a program include noise levels; crying children; whether there
are televisions turned on all the time; and whether children seem
engaged in meaningful play activities or are wandering aimlessly. Check
to see if the child care providers are interacting with the children or
whether they are busy with other tasks.
There are 17 child care resource and
referral (CC R & R) agencies located throughout the state that are
designed to help parents locate child care. These CCR&Rs have a
listing of all regulated, licensed or certified child care providers in
the counties served by the agency. They are able to provide lists of
providers that meet the needs you specify and can also provide
additional information related to choosing quality child care. Call
1-800-713-KIDS (5437) to be transferred to the agency serving the county
in which the call originates or you can check the
Child Care Resource
and Referral web site to find the agency that serves your county.
All licensed programs receive periodic
monitoring visits by a licensing specialist. Each time a monitoring
visit is conducted, the licensing specialist checks to ensure compliance
with selected licensing rules. At the end of every monitoring visit, the
licensing specialist discusses any violations or concerns with the
licensee and a report of the findings is issued. This report can be
either a Statement of Non-Compliance that enumerates the violations
found or a Compliance Statement that shows that no licensing violations
were noted on the visit. These reports must be posted in an area of the
center that is readily visible to parents and the public. If you don't
see a licensing visit report posted, you should ask the center to see
the results of the most recent monitoring visit.
Parents are encouraged to call or
visit the regional licensing office
to find out a center's compliance history. The regional licensing office
will also be able to tell you if any complaints have been filed about
the center and whether those complaints were founded or not.
Once your child is enrolled in a child
care setting, you will be visiting the program regularly. Because the
licensing specialist is only able to make one or two routine monitoring
visits each year, the parents? help in observing what is happening at
a center is critical. If you are having a problem with a center or
believe that a licensing rule may have been violated you are encouraged
to call the regional licensing office to talk with a licensing
Each program licensed by the Department agrees to follow rules that are designed to
protect the children in care. If you believe that a center may be
violating one of the licensing rules, you may file a complaint with the
licensing office. You may report a complaint over the telephone, via
e-mail or in writing to the regional licensing office that serves
the facility. Reports may be filed anonymously. Every complaint is
investigated. Some situations (such as payment or tuition disputes) are
not covered by the licensing rules. These concerns will not be accepted
When filing a complaint, please give
as much information as possible about your concerns. This information
will be helpful to the licensing specialist who will investigate the
complaint. Supplying dates, times, the exact location (room or area of
the center) of the suspected violation, and names of people involved or
other potential witnesses will help the investigator gather information
to determine whether a rule violation occurred.
A licensing specialist will be
assigned to investigate the complaint. This investigation may include an
unannounced visit to the program to observe conditions, interviews with
the licensee and current or former staff members and, if appropriate, a
check of center records.
After the investigation is completed,
the licensing specialist will determine whether the allegations in the
complaint are substantiated (it was determined with reasonable certainty that
a rule violation occurred) or unsubstantiated (it was determined with reasonable
certainty that no rule violation occurred). Any violations noted are listed on a Statement of
Non-Compliance and Corrective Action Plan. Depending on the severity of
the violations, other enforcement actions could be initiated. The
investigating licensing specialist will prepare a report on the
investigation and subsequent findings. The licensee is notified of the
investigative finding and you may request to receive the findings as
well. The report is then placed in the center file and shared with
others who may want to know about a center's complaint and compliance
December 30, 2010