Starting a Licensed Child Care

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Thank you for your interest in starting a licensed child care center – providing care to Wisconsin’s children is a valuable service to families and the community!

For more information about how the sale/transition of a child care business from one owner to another impacts Wisconsin Shares, visit the Ensuring Continuity web page.

For more information about starting a Certified Child Care Program, contact your local certification agency.

We strongly encourage you to access all resources electronically. However, if you would prefer a printed version of the inquiry packet, please complete and submit the Ordering Information - Child Care Licensing Inquiry Packets form English / Spanish.

Please read through all content below BEFORE you begin the pre-licensing process.

 

Am I eligible to open or start a child care business?

Child Care Background Check Law

The child care background check law, Wis. Stat. 48.686, prohibits licensure when a license 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 a license:

To find out if you or any adult who resides at your proposed child care center has anything in their record that could be a barrier to licensure, you may want to complete background checks in advance for yourself and each adult household resident. Several options for this include:

Delinquent Taxes or Unemployment Insurance Contributions

Wis. Stat. 48.715 (7) requires the department to deny an application for a child care license if the applicant is liable for delinquent taxes or for delinquent unemployment insurance contributions.
If you have been certified delinquent, contact:

 

What type of child care license should I obtain?

Family Child Care - DCF 250

A child care program that provides 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.
 

Group Child Care - DCF 251

A child care program that provides care and supervision for less than 24 hours a day for 9 or more children who are not related to the provider.
 

Day Camps for Children - DCF 252

A child care program that provides care and supervision to 4 or more children 3 years of age and older in a seasonal program oriented to the out-of-doors for less than 24 hours a day.

Child Care Regulation Fees

See the Child Care Regulation Fees page for information regarding the different types of fees associated with child care licensing.

 

If you cannot decide which type would be best for you, please contact your local Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) agency.

 

Once you have determined the type of center that you want to open, carefully read through all inquiry packet materials below related to obtaining this license.

Family Child Care - DCF 250 Inquiry Packet Materials

After you have reviewed the information above and determined you would like to open a family child care center, please review the procedure document below in its entirety BEFORE you begin the pre-licensing process. All necessary forms and publications are linked in this document as well as listed below.

Procedure for Obtaining an Initial License to Operate a Family Child Care Center (DCF-P-PFS4066) English / Spanish

PREPARATION

PHYSICAL PREMISES

BUSINESS MODEL

STAFFING & ADMINISTRATION

PRE-LICENSING TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

SUBMITTING THE APPLICATION

Group Child Care - DCF 251 Inquiry Packet Materials

After you have reviewed the information above and determined you would like to open a group child care center, please review the procedure document below in its entirety BEFORE you begin the pre-licensing process. All necessary forms and publications are linked in this document as well as listed below.

Procedure for Obtaining an Initial License to Operate a Group Child Care Center (DCF-P-PFS3066)

PREPARATION

PHYSICAL PREMISES

BUSINESS MODEL

STAFFING & ADMINISTRATION

PRE-LICENSING TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

SUBMITTING THE APPLICATION

Day Camps for Children - DCF 252 Inquiry Packet Materials

After you have reviewed the information above and determined you would like to open a day camp for children, please review the procedure document below in its entirety BEFORE you begin the pre-licensing process. All necessary forms and publications are linked in this document as well as listed below.

Procedure for Obtaining an Initial License to Operate a Day Camp for Children (DCF-P-PFS4065)

PREPARATION

PHYSICAL PREMISES

BUSINESS MODEL

STAFFING & ADMINISTRATION

SUBMITTING THE APPLICATION

 

Veterans Professional Occupational Licensure Fee Waiver Program

If you are a veteran, you may be eligible to have your initial child care license fee waived. Check out the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs website to see if you qualify.