Wisconsin Child Care Certification

Children reading aloud.

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 s. 48.65, Stats. DCF contracts certification functions to local counties and tribes. DCF Bureau of Early Care Regulation (BECR) administers certification in Milwaukee County.

Starting a Certified Family Child Care Business

Thank you for your interest in starting a certified family child care business. Providing child care to Wisconsin’s children is a valuable service to families and the community!

  • For more information about the application process and application fees for your county/tribe, contact your local certification agency.
  • Visit the Certification Training page to learn about for-credit and non-credit course options for meeting the training requirements.
  • Learn more starting a child care business by thoroughly reviewing the information below.
  • For more information about starting a Licensed Family Center, visit the licensing start-up page. Licensed Family Child Care programs may provide care and supervision for less than 24 hours a day for at least 4 and not more than 8 children who are not related to the provider.

Benefits of Child Care Certification

Get Connected and Submit your Expression of Interest

Submit your Expression of Interest to get connected to a representative. You can submit your interest by setting up your account in the Child Care Provider Portal. The Expression of Interest form will collect basic information, like name, address, email, and what type of child are you are interested in starting. You will then be connected to your local pre-licensing or certification agency for support along your journey to becoming a regulated child care provider.  

Expression of Interest Information

Am I Eligible for Child Care Certification?

Child Care Licensing Law

Under Wisconsin law, no person may provide care and supervision for four (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. Licensed Family Child Care Centers provide care for between 4 and 8 children. If a provider wishes to care for 4 or more children unrelated to the provider, they are not eligible for certification and must obtain a child care license. See the Allowable Number of Children in Certified Family Child Care table below.

Child Care Background Check Law

The child care background check law, Wis. Stat. 48.686, prohibits certification when an applicant, household member, or employee has a conviction or pending charges for certain serious crimes or a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect.

Review the department’s resources for information about crimes and offenses that could impact your ability to obtain child care certification.

Regulatory History

A certification agency may deny an application for certification if the applicant has had a license or certificate to care for children or adults revoked or denied. A certification agency may refuse to accept a certification application for two years after the date of a certification denial or revocation.

Start-Up Information and Resources

Physical Premises
Business and Administration Considerations

Allowable Number of Children in Certified Family Child Care

Computer-based training for compliance with Licensing Law and DCF 202:

Maximum Number of Children in Care Training Videos

The table below explains the maximum group size rules. (Printable Numbers Chart)

Maximum Children in Certified Child Care
Related or Provider's      
Own Children Under      
7 Years of Age

Non-related Children      
Under 7 Years of Age

Additional Children      
Ages 7 and Older
Maximum Number      
of Children*
 0 3 Includes non-related      
children age 7+ and      
related, non-residential      
children age 7+ 
1 3 6
2 3 6
3 3 6
4 2 6
5 1 6
6 0 6
When Children Under the Age of 2 Years are Present
Number of Children      
Under 2 Years of Age
Maximum Number      
of Children*
 0 6
1 6
2 6
3 5
4 4
*The maximum number does not include the certified child care operator’s natural, adopted, step or foster children 7 years of age and older or any children age 7 and older who live in the residence.
The Group Size Estimator is a tool that will help the user understand when a certified provider’s day care schedule may be in violation of the State of Wisconsin child care certification rules.
DCF 202.02(12m) “Operator’s own children” means a certified family child care operator’s natural, adopted, step, and foster children, and any children who reside in the operator’s home.
The state law, s. 48.65 (1), Stats., states: If a child care provider cares for 4 or more children under the age of 7 who are not related to the provider, for compensation, the provider must obtain from the Department of Children and Families, Bureau of Early Care and Regulation a license to operate a child care center. This means that if a certification applicant is caring for 4 or more unrelated children under age 7, the agency does not have the authority to approve the application for certification because s/he is violating the licensing law.  The applicant must comply with certification standards DCF 202 before certification may be granted.