Frequently Asked Questions

Regulated Child Care and YoungStar Public Search

The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the regulatory history of licensed and certified child care centers followed by the answers to those questions.  Click on a question to view its answer.

 

  1. Why is the the Department of Children and Families (DCF) publishing the regulatory history of child care centers on the website?

  2. Is the the Department of Children and Families (DCF) authorized to publish a child care center's regulatory history on the internet?

  3. What is licensed child care?

  4. What certified child care?

  5. What is the difference between a regular and a probationary license?

  6. What is the difference between regular and provisional certification?
  7. The website refers to a date of initial license.  What does that date mean?
  8. What is YoungStar?
  9. Is every child care center requited to participate in YoungStar?
  10. What does "This provider is participating but not yet rated" mean?
  11. How can I find out when a center was rated?  How long is the rating current?
  12. What could change a YoungStar rating?
  13. I see my center isn't rated.  Why?
  14. My center has a 3 star rating.  Should I be concerned?
  15. Why do some centers have a high YoungStar rating but a lot of violations?
  16. Who rates the programs for YoungStar?
  17. What is the difference between star ratings?  What makes a 5 star center?  What makes a 3 star center?
  18. What does a 2 star rating mean?
  19. How can I find out more about YoungStar?
  20. Each child care center on the public website has identification numbers.  What is the provider number?  What is the location number?  What is the facility number?
  21. What is meant by "capacity?"
  22. What is a violation?
  23. What is meant by "rule summary?"
  24. How is regulatory history established?
  25. How does the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the certifying agency ensure that violations are corrected?
  26. What is published under "Regulation Details?"
  27. Does regulatory history posted on the public website include information on all visits made by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the certifying agency to the center?
  28. What is a correction plan?  How can I see the correction plan?
  29. What is an enforcement action?
  30. What does it mean when an enforcement action ends in a stipulated agreement?
  31. What happens when a center keeps violating the rules?
  32. What happens in a complaint investigation?
  33. There are no Regulation Details for the child care center I selected.  What does that mean?
  34. What should I consider when reviewing a center's regulatory history?
  35. How do I find out more?
  36. Who can help me locate and evaluate a child care center?
  37. Why can't I find a certain provider on this website?
  38. How current is the information on the website?
  39. Why doesn't the Child Care Search display positive observations made by the regulators?
  40. Do child care staff need training to work with children?
  41. What rule violations are considered the most serious?

1.  Why is the Department of Children and Families (DCF) publishing the regulatory history of child care centers on the website?

The information included in the Regulated Child Care and YoungStar Public Search is provided as a public service to Wisconsin consumers seeking licensed or certified child care.  In an effort to assist consumers in finding the best possible child care arrangement for their family, the website provides consumers with information on the type and location of regulated child care centers, YoungStar ratings, and the results of monitoring visits conducted by the regulating agency (e.g., DCF or certification agencies such as counties).  It also includes information provided by the child care centers describing how they are addressing violations cited at their centers.

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2.  Is the Department of Children and Families (DCF) authorized to publish a child care center's regulatory history on the internet?

Under s. 48.656, Wis. Stats., a parent, guardian or legal custodian of a prospective recipient of care from a licensed child care center has the right to information about the child care center that would aid the parent, guardian or legal custodian in assessing the quality of care and supervision provided by the center.   

The licensing information and regulatory history of licensed child care centers is public record and must be accessible to the public, parents and guardians of children. 

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3.  What is licensed child care?

Under Wisconsin law, no person may 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 of Children and Families (DCF).  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.

There are 3 different categories of state licensed child care:

  • Licensed Family Child Care Centers provide care for up to 8 children.  This care is usually in the provider’s home.

  • 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.

  • Licensed Day Camps are seasonal programs that provide experiences for 4 or more children.  These programs usually operate in an outdoor setting.

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4.  What is 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/Tribes 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.  

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5.  What is the difference between a regular and a probationary license?

A regular child care license is issued to a licensee following a six-month probationary period if, during the initial probationary period, the licensee is able to demonstrate to the DCF that s/he meets the minimum requirements for licensure as specified in statute and administrative rule.  A regular license is non-expiring but is reviewed every two years.  The regular license is valid until revoked, suspended or surrendered.

A probationary child care license is issued to an applicant who has not been previously issued a regular license, has changed location, or has changed corporate status.  A probationary license is issued when the applicant meets certain minimum requirements for probationary licensure, as specified in statute and administrative rule, and the probationary license fee has been paid.  The probationary license is valid for up to six months, but it may be renewed for one additional six-month period.  Before a probationary license expires, the DCF conducts inspections of the center to ensure it meets the minimum requirements for regular licensure.  A regular license is issued if minimum requirements are met.  

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6.  What is the difference between regular and provisional certification? 

There are two categories or levels of family child care certification.  Level 1 (regular) is issued to operators who have demonstrated compliance with all certification standards including entry level training required to meet Level I certification.  Level II (provisional) is issued to child care operators who have demonstrated compliance with certification standards except the standards for entry-level training.

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7.  The website refers to a date of initial license.  What does that date mean?   

This is the date that the first probationary license was issued to the child care licensee at that location.  

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8.  What is YoungStar?

YoungStar is a program of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) created to improve the quality of child care for Wisconsin children.  YoungStar evaluates the quality of care given by regulated child care providers and rates them from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars being the highest rating. A provider's star rating is based on:

  • Education Qualifications and Training
  • Learning Environment and Curriculum
  • Professional and Business Practices
  • Child Health and Well-Being Practices

You can find more information on YoungStar at http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/youngstar/.

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9.  Is every child care center required to participate in YoungStar?

Participation in YoungStar is voluntary.  However, licensed and certified child care providers, Head Start programs, and school-age programs that accept payments from Wisconsin’s Child Care Subsidy program, Wisconsin Shares, are required to participate in YoungStar.  Wisconsin Shares helps families pay for child care.  If the parent of a child needing child care is eligible, child care can be subsidized for children under the age of 13 (and up to 19 if special needs). 

A certified provider who provides care in the child’s home is not eligible to participate in the YoungStar program since the care is provided in the child’s home.

If a program is not currently taking children who receive Wisconsin Shares and does not want to participate in YoungStar, they do not have to.  However, if they accept a child that receives Wisconsin Shares, they would be required to participate in YoungStar.

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10.  What does “This provider is participating but not yet rated” mean?

The provider has submitted the YoungStar application and is in the process of receiving a rating.  They are likely receiving coaching and mentoring called “technical assistance” in their program during this process.

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11.  How can I find out when a center was rated?  How long is the rating current?

The rating is updated annually unless there is a large staff turnover that could move the rating up or down.

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12.  What could change a YoungStar rating? 

There are a number of reasons that a YoungStar rating may change.  A rating will change when a program becomes accredited, or when an accredited program is no longer accredited.  A rating could change when the teachers’ or director’s education or training qualifications have increased or decreased.  If a center changes location, the rating may change.  If a program is out of regulatory compliance, due to a revocation, summary suspension or suspension from the Wisconsin Shares program, the rating will change. 

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13.  I see my center isn’t rated.  Why?

Programs that do not serve children in Wisconsin Shares do not have to be rated and identified on the YoungStar website.  However, if a family receiving Wisconsin Shares asks to enroll a child, the program is required to enroll the child and join YoungStar.  Any regulated provider may voluntarily participate in YoungStar.

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14.  My center has a 3 star rating.  Should I be concerned?

The YoungStar rating scale is a five star system, which uses compliance with existing child care regulations as a base.  Star levels are achieved on the basis of the total number of points earned in a 40-point quality indicator system.  There are also minimum quality indicators that must be met at each star level.

A provider's star rating is based on:

  • Education Qualifications and Training
  • Learning Environment and Curriculum
  • Professional and Business Practices
  • Child Health and Well-Being Practices

A 3 star rating for a center means that the program meets proficient levels of quality standards and has taken the first steps in their YoungStar journey.  It is important not only to look at the star level but also to ask your provider what areas they are working on in YoungStar.  Two providers at the same star level may be very different because they choose to work on different areas of quality improvement.  That is why it is important for parents to ask providers more information about their YoungStar rating aside from the star level.  For example, if you are a parent who is more concerned with the health and nutrition your child receives, you may want to find a provider who is working on that area of YoungStar.  

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15.  Why do some centers have a high YoungStar rating but a lot of violations?

When the licensing specialist or certifier notes violations of the licensing or certification rules, a notice of the violations is issued to the center.   Regulated programs are expected to develop and implement an acceptable correction plan to address any and all violations cited by DCF staff and certifying agencies.  If the violations continue or reappear later in a licensed program, the licensing specialist may move to progressive enforcement action including Orders to Correct and Forfeitures.  These enforcement actions are indicated on the YoungStar compliance history for the program but do not result in a program dropping in the star rating. 

It is rare to find a regulated center that has never been cited for a rule violation and not all violations represent the same threat to the health and safety of children in care.  Many factors will influence the actions that must be taken to achieve compliance, including the center’s record on correcting violations, the seriousness of the violations, the size of the center, the length of time the center has been operating, and the qualifications of the staff. 

Programs are considered to be out of regulatory compliance for YoungStar when they have had their license or certification revoked or denied or they have been suspended from participating in the Wisconsin Shares program.  This may happen if the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the certifying agency determines that a program has failed to correct previous violations or the center has put the health and safety of children in care at risk.

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16.  Who rates the programs for YoungStar?

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has contracted with a group of three organizations called the YoungStar Consortium to provide technical assistance and to rate providers.  Staff from the YoungStar Consortium called Rating Observers and Technical Consultants have extensive education and experience in the field of early childhood care and education.  DCF requires that assessments and services be culturally and linguistically appropriate.  Rating Observers have completed training and demonstrated reliability in the use of the observation tools. 

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17.  What is the difference between star ratings?  What makes a 5 star center?  What makes a 3 star center?

YoungStar is a system that allows providers to earn points for meeting quality standards.  In addition to earning points in YoungStar, programs must achieve certain minimum quality indicators to move from one star level to the next.  For this reason, all programs at a given star level will have at least met the minimums for that star level.  The other quality practices they utilize will depend on their area of focus.   They can choose to focus on education and training; learning environment and curriculum; business and professional practices; or child health and wellness.  (http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/youngstar/pdf/minimum_points_required.pdf)

For example, let’s look at two different family child care programs who both earned three star ratings:

Program ABC

Area of YoungStar

Quality Achievement

Points Earned

Education & Training

Provider has Infant Toddler Credential (required minimum for 3 stars)

4

Learning Environment & Curriculum

Provider completed a self-assessment and quality improvement plan (required minimum for 3 stars)

2

Business & Professional Practices

Provider has an ongoing yearly budget and completed accurate taxes (required minimum for 3 stars)

1

Provider has a parent handbook

1

Provider has a professional development plan and is a member of a professional association focused on early childhood

1

Child Health and Wellness

Nutritious meals are served daily (required minimum for 3 stars)

1

60 minutes of physical activity provided daily for children

1

Total Points Earned

11

 

Program 123

Area of YoungStar

Quality Achievement

Points Earned

Education & Training

Provider has an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education (this is required at the 5 star level)

12

Learning Environment & Curriculum

Provider completed a self-assessment and quality improvement plan (required minimum for 3 stars)

2

Provider uses individual child portfolios

1

Provider uses intentional planning to improve child outcomes

1

Provider is trained in and provides annual developmental screenings and refers children to services as appropriate

1

Provider tracks outcomes for each child

1

Business & Professional Practices

Provider has an ongoing yearly budget and completed accurate taxes (required minimum for 3 stars)

1

Child Health and Wellness

Nutritious meals are served daily (required minimum for 3 stars)

1

Total Points Earned

20

These programs both earned three stars in YoungStar, but they may look very different so it is important that parents ask questions and really delve into what a provider’s star rating means.  This same principle applies to five star rated providers except that these providers (and four star providers) must undergo and perform well in a formal Environment Rating Scale evaluation as one of their minimum quality requirements.  Additionally, programs that are accredited can automatically receive a four or five star rating (depending on educational qualifications) rather than go through the YoungStar rating process. 

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18.  What does a 2 Star rating mean?

A two star rating can mean many things.  If a program does not want a YoungStar staff member to come into their program and provide training, coaching and/or mentoring, they can be given a two-star rating based upon their education but they will earn no other points in YoungStar.

On the other hand, a program could be putting in great efforts to work their way up the YoungStar levels and a two star rating may be a starting point in their quality journey.  They may be working on completing a degree or training.  They may be implementing child portfolios but they have not quite completed them.  For these reasons, it is important for parents to have conversations with their providers to understand what a provider’s star rating means.

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19.  How can I find out more about YoungStar?  

You can find more information on YoungStar at http://www.youngstar.wi.gov

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20.  Each child care center on the public website has identification numbers.  What is the provider number?  What is the location number?  What is the facility number?

These numbers are unique identification numbers assigned to the child care center by the The Department of Children and Families (DCF) automation system.  None of these is a social security number or tax identification number.  

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21.  What is meant by "capacity?"

Capacity is the maximum number of children that may be cared for under the child care license or certification at any one time.  Capacity for a family child care license may not exceed eight children, but it may be less.  Capacity for a group child care license or school age certification will be nine children or more.   Capacity for certified family child care may not exceed 3 children under the age of 7 and may not exceed a maximum group size of 6, including the provider’s own children under age 7.

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22.  What is a violation? 

A violation, also referred to as a noncompliance, is a formal, written statement that the licensee or certified operator is not in compliance with a specific administrative rule.  

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23.  What is meant by "rule summary?"

A rule summary is a brief statement identifying the subject area of an administrative rule requirement for licensed programs. 

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24.  How is regulatory history established?

Each program licensed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or certified by the certifying agency agrees to comply with administrative rules intended to protect children in care.  Licensing specialists from the DCF and certification workers from local certifying agencies make periodic, announced and unannounced, on-site visits to licensed and certified centers, during which time the regulator observes the operation of the center and notes any areas in which the center is out of compliance with selected administrative rules.  Observation of any violation of administrative rule is documented at the visit.  Through this process, the center is alerted to existing violations and is required to take prompt, appropriate corrective action to safeguard children in care.

Regulatory history is also established through complaint investigations conducted by DCF staff and certification workers.  Since licensing specialists and certification workers can’t visit and observe each center’s operations daily, information from parents and others regarding what is happening at a center is critical. 

Anyone can report a complaint to the DCF concerning a licensed or unlicensed center.  When the DCF is alerted to potential violations of administrative rule, licensing staff conduct a thorough investigation.  If the complaint is substantiated, the violations are documented and the center is expected to take prompt corrective action. 

Complaints concerning certified child care programs shall be made to the local certifying agency.

Also included in a licensed center's regulatory history are enforcement actions.  Enforcement actions, authorized in licensing statute, are sanctions or penalties that may be taken by the DCF to address violations of administrative rules of licensed programs.  Through the use of enforcement actions, such as orders and forfeitures, the DCF can compel licensees to correct violations and come into compliance with minimum regulatory requirements.  A licensee can dispute an enforcement action taken by the DCF by appealing the action through the Division of Hearings and Appeals.  

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25.  How does the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the certifying agency ensure that violations are corrected?

At the end of a monitoring visit to a center, the regulator discusses his/her observations with the licensee or certified operator at an exit interview and a report of the findings is issued during or immediately following the visit.  This report is either a Statement of Noncompliance and Correction Plan that enumerates the violations found or a Compliance Statement that shows that no violations were noted during the visit or the Exit Interview Confirmation form that enumerates possible violations that may be cited.  Licensed centers must post the report next to the child care license in an area of the center that is readily visible to parents and the public.

Regulated centers are expected to develop and implement an acceptable correction plan to address all violations.  The regulator verifies that the violations are corrected within a given timeframe, and, if the violations remain uncorrected, the regulator may take further corrective action with the center, such as an enforcement action (for licensed centers only). 

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26.  What is published under "Regulation Details?"

Regulation Details includes the center's record of administrative rule violations and enforcement actions issued by the The Department of Children and Families (DCF) during the previous 2 years.  However, regulatory information for certified centers prior to June 6, 2011 is not available on the public website.  Violations are documented during ongoing routine monitoring visits, during visits made to a center in response to a complaint allegation, or based on self-reports of violations by the center.  When violations are serious or remain uncorrected, an enforcement action may be issued to the licensed center by the DCF.

Regulation Details includes the dates that one or more violations were issued by the regulating agency.  If a visit was made to the center and no violations were observed, these dates will also be listed.  The Details column includes links to more detailed information such as the administrative rule violation number that was cited and a brief summary of the violation.  The Results column includes links to the Noncompliance Statement and Correction Plan (CFS-294) detailing the center’s plan to address the violation.

If an enforcement action has been initiated with a licensed center during the previous 2 years, a display titled Enforcement Actions will appear in the Regulation Details section.  (If no enforcement action has been initiated in the previous 2 years, the Regulation Details section will only display monitoring and violations detail.)  Information regarding an enforcement action includes date of enforcement, type of enforcement, whether the licensee appealed the violation, if “yes” to Appeal, the decision, and the violations that led to the enforcement action.  

Information is not posted on this public website until monitoring and complaint investigation results have been finalized.  A licensed center is afforded appeal rights for enforcement actions only.  

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27.  Does regulatory history posted on the public website include information on all visits made by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the certifying agency to the center?  

For licensed centers, every visit made to a child care center in the previous two years is included in the center's regulatory history.  For certified centers, every visit made since June of 2011 is included in the center’s regulatory history.  Visits may result in a statement that lists rule violations or a statement that indicates that no rule violations were observed or the visit may be for the purpose of providing technical assistance or complaint investigation, for example, in which case no statement is issued.   However, visits in which a statement is not issued are indentified on the public website.

For additional information about the center's regulatory history, you are encouraged to contact the center directly and/or the regional licensing office or certifying agency.

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28.  What is a correction plan?  How can I see the correction plan?  

Licensed and certified centers are expected to develop and implement an acceptable plan to correct all violations cited on the Noncompliance Statement and Correction Plan.  (Licensed centers are required to post the plan in a visible location near the license at the licensed child care center.)  The regulator verifies that the violations are corrected within a given timeframe, and, if the violations remain uncorrected, the regulator may take further corrective action.  With a licensed center, this may involve an enforcement action.

Visitors to the public website can review the child care center’s correction plan by linking to the plan in the Results column. 

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29.  What is an enforcement action?

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is authorized under Wisconsin statute and administrative rule to initiate enforcement actions to address serious and repeated violations of licensing requirements.  Through the use of an enforcement action, the DCF can compel licensed centers to correct violations and to maintain compliance with minimum regulatory requirements.  Enforcement actions are issued when previous efforts to gain compliance with administrative rule, such as issuing the Noncompliance Statement and Correction Plan (CFS-294), have failed.  Sometimes a direct forfeiture is assessed immediately for an identified noncompliance not associated with previously issued orders and in the most severe circumstances where the health, safety and welfare of children in care is threatened or when harm to a child has occurred.

Enforcement actions include orders to correct violations, forfeiture and direct forfeiture, temporary suspension of the license, and in the most serious circumstances, summary suspension of a license, denial of a license and license revocation.

Licensees may appeal an enforcement action with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Administration, Division of Hearings and Appeals.  If the Division of Hearings and Appeals upholds the enforcement action, the licensee may request a rehearing or appeal that decision to Circuit Court.

All enforcement actions are defined on the Terms and Definitions webpage.  

Certifiers do not issue enforcement actions to certified child care programs.

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30.  What does it mean when an enforcement action ends in a stipulated agreement?

A stipulated agreement is a legal contractual agreement between the The Department of Children and Families (DCF) and a licensee of a child care center that sets forth specific and unique terms and conditions for granting or continuing licensure.  Such an agreement is used to settle an enforcement action following an appeal, or to establish the conditions under which an applicant/licensee is permitted to hold a license.  

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31.  What happens when a center keeps violating the rules? 

The licensing staff of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) follows a systematic process to gain a center's compliance with administrative rule by moving from citing a violation on the Noncompliance Statement and Correction Plan (CFS-294) to progressively more serious actions.  Most commonly, the need for more serious licensing action, such as an enforcement action, can be averted by early identification of violations and/or addressing ongoing problems that do not immediately rise to the level of an enforcement action.  However, when violations remain uncorrected, even after the licensee has received a warning about the situation, licensing staff will initiate more serious corrective action.

Actions may progress from citing the violation on a Noncompliance Statement and Correction Plan (CFS-294), to alerting the licensee to the seriousness of the uncorrected violations through a warning letter, to imposing an order to correct the violation, to issuing a forfeiture or temporarily suspending a license.  Ultimately, when these progressive actions fail, or in the most serious circumstances, the DCF will revoke the license.  

Certifying agencies work with the certified operator to gain the center’s compliance with administrative rule. However, if the certified operator fails to come into compliance, the certifier may issue a warning letter and/or suspend or revoke a provider’s certification.

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32.  What happens in a complaint investigation?

A complaint is an allegation of a violation of administrative rule related to licensed or certified child care centers.  Complaints alert the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the certifying agency to possible problems at facilities.  Complaints against licensed centers may be submitted to the DCF by telephone, fax, letter, electronic mail or personal interview and may come from a variety of sources, such as parents and other family members, neighbors, center staff, social service and law enforcement personnel, other community members and anonymous sources.

Complaints against certified centers can be submitted to the certifying agency.

When a complaint alleges violation of administrative rule at a center, the regulating agency conducts an investigation of the center.  This investigation may include an unannounced visit to the program to observe conditions, interviews with the licensee or certified operator and current or former staff members and a check of center records.  Based on a careful analysis of the information gathered during the investigation, the regulator determines whether the complaint is substantiated (a rule violation was issued) or unsubstantiated (a rule violation was not issued).

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33.  There is no Regulation Details for the child care center I selected.  What does that mean?

It is possible that the regulatory history for this center is included under the center's previous license.  If a licensed center changes it’s location and moves it’s center to a location in a different region, the center is treated like a new facility and the regulatory history of that child care center begins on the date that the new license for the new location is issued. 

Though unlikely, it may also be that this is a new center that was just issued a probationary license and has not yet had a monitoring visit. 

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34.  What should I consider when reviewing a center's regulatory history?   

In reviewing the regulatory history of a center, keep in mind that the presence of violations and enforcement actions in the center's regulatory history is not the whole story.  It is rare to find a regulated center that has never been cited for a rule violation.  Many factors can influence a regulatory history, including the size of the center, the length of time the center has been operating, and the qualifications of the staff.  Consider some of the following questions when you review the center's regulatory history:

  1. What is the YoungStar rating?

  2. What is the nature of the violation?  Was the violation related to safety, record keeping, staff-to-child ratios?  Every rule is important to the quality of the program, but some rules are more directly related to the safety of children.

  3. Is the center being repeatedly cited for the same violation?  What is the center doing to correct the violation?  Is the center making timely efforts to correct the violation?

  4. Is there an extensive history of multiple violations, or are the violations infrequent? 

  5. What enforcement actions (for licensed programs only) have been taken and for what reasons?  How has the licensed center responded to these actions?

  6. What do other parents say about the center?

  7. What is the center’s plan of correction?  What can they tell you about the violations and their plan to correct them?

Tips for Choosing Child Care was developed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to help you make the very important decision of locating a child care arrangement that is right for you.   We encourage you to consider this guidance, in combination with the information available through YoungStar, when considering the center that best meets the needs of your child and your family. 

We encourage you to talk to the centers you are considering.  You may also contact the local Child Care Resource and Referral office.  

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35.  How do I find out more?

Learn more through the local Child Care Resource and Referral office and YoungStar.

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36.  Who can help me locate and evaluate a child care center?

Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies can provide you with resources to select a quality child care placement for your child including the following:

  • a customized list of licensed and certified programs including group child care centers, school-age child care, family child care, and day camps;
  • guides and check lists to help you have a productive meeting when you visit a child care center you are considering;
  • key questions to consider asking about the child care provider, the child care center, and the program;
  • information on family resources, special events, support groups and parenting classes.

For a link to community-based child care resource and referral services near you, please visit Supporting Families Together Association and click on the county where you live or work.

You can also contact the regulated center directly to discuss your questions and concerns.  When you visit the center, review the results of the most recent monitoring visit and ask questions.  You may also call the regional licensing office or certifying agency to find out more about a center's regulatory history.

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37.  Why can't I find a certain provider on this website?

The website provides information on regulated child care providers only.  It does not provide information on unregulated child care providers.  More information on the difference between licensed, certified and unregulated providers can be found at http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/childcare/licensed/About.htm.  

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38.  How current is the information on the website?

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) updates the website daily to assure that provider names, locations and other regulatory information is as current and accurate as possible.  

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39.  Why doesn't the Child Care Search display positive observations made by the regulators?

The role of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is to protect the health, safety and welfare of Wisconsin's children in care through periodic monitoring of child care centers.  DCF licensing specialists and certifying agencies conduct regular inspections of regulated centers to assure compliance with administrative rule requirements, the minimal standards established through statutory requirements.  The expectation is that regulated centers meet these minimum standards at all times.   The website shows the compliance information collected at these monitoring visits.  

YoungStar ratings, however, provide the consumer with information on the quality of care being provided to children, based on an assessment of the program’s education qualifications and training, learning environment and curriculum, professional and business practices and child health and well-being practices.

DCF recognizes that many child care centers go well beyond the minimum standards required to maintain licensure or certification.  We encourage child care centers to publicize their many extra efforts to provide quality early care in a safe and nurturing environment.  Persons looking for child care are encouraged to visit the centers under consideration to see firsthand what each center has to offer.

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40.  Do child care staff need training to work with children?  

Yes, all child care providers need to have training in early childhood education, shaken baby syndrome (SBS) prevention, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) risk reduction procedures, infant/child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated electronic defibrillator (AED) training.  Child care teachers in group child care centers need additional early childhood training and group child care center directors and administrators and family child care providers need training in the business related aspects of operating a business.  Group child care teachers and center directors also need to have experience in a licensed program before beginning to work in a program. 

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41.  What rule violations are considered the most serious?  

Every administrative rule is important to the quality of the program, but some administrative rules are more directly related to assuring that children are safe in child care settings. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has identified those rule requirements that, when violated, are likely to pose the most serious threat to the health, safety and welfare of children in care.

When citing a rule violation, the licensing specialist pays particular attention to whether or not the rule requirement is included on the serious violation list. Depending on the number of serious violations cited on a single monitoring visit and whether the serious violations are also repeat violations, the licensing specialist may be required to initiate enforcement action.

DCF intends to eventually identify which violations are classified as serious violations for licensed child care centers shown on this public search website. Review the list of serious violations in licensed family and group child care here.

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 Last Revised:  May 01, 2012


The Department of Children and Families, protecting children, strengthening families, building communities.