Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities



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.

View a list of Wisconsin Certified Child Care Programs.

Visit the Milwaukee Certification page for Milwaukee County-specific certification information.


Benefits of Child Care Certification


Allowable Number of Children in Certified Family Child Care

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 Additional children
ages 7 through 12
(if special needs up to 19)
may be cared for as long
as the maximum total
number of children is not exceeded. 
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 provider’s certified child care operator’s natural, adopted, step or foster children 7 years of age and older or any children 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 provider takes care of 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 children under the age of 7 years, that are unrelated to the provider, the agency does not have the authority to approve the applicant because s/he is violating the licensing law. The applicant must comply with certification standards DCF 202 before certification may be granted.

The definition for ‘provider’ in the statutes refers to ‘entity’, not an individual provider. This means, if two individuals care for children in one setting, the law does not allow the number of children to be doubled.