Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities



Group of young children laying on ground.jpgWisconsin Child Care Regulation Information

Anyone providing care and supervision for four (4) or more children, under age 7 years, for less than 24 hours a day must be licensed by the Department of Children and Families.

Exceptions to this rule are:

  • A parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, step-parent, brother, sister, first cousin, nephew, niece, uncle, or aunt of a child, whether by blood, marriage, or legal adoption, who provides care and supervision for the child
  • Public and parochial schools
  • Care provided in the home of the child’s parent for less than 24 hours per day
  • Counties, cities, towns, school districts and libraries that provide programs for children primarily intended for social or recreational purposes
  • A program that operates not more than 4 hours per week
  • Group lessons to develop a talent or skill such as dance or music, social group meetings and activities, group athletics
  • A program where the parents are on the premises and are engaged in shopping, recreation or other non-work activities
  • Seasonal programs of 10 days or less duration in any 3-month period, including day camps, vacation bible school, and holiday child care programs
  • Emergency situations
  • Care and supervision for no more than 3 hours a day while the parent is employed on the premises

Regulations set standards for adequate child care, but they cannot guarantee quality care. That is why parent involvement is so crucial.


Your Guide to Regulated Child Care - Your Summary of the Child Care Rules

This is a 2-page PDF describing the different types of regulated child care programs in Wisconsin, including licensed family child care centers, licensed group child care centers, licensed day camps for children, certified family child care, and certified school-age programs.


Child Care Licensing

The child care licensing program is a component of the services provided by Department of Children and Families. The program is accountable for the statewide licensure of Wisconsin's child care facilities, including family child care, group child care and day camps. The purpose of the program is to promote the health, safety and welfare of children in licensed child care. The Department ensures that licensing requirements are met through on-going inspections of child care facilities.

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.


Child Care Certification

DCF 202 establishes standards for the certification of persons who provide child care for 1 to 3 children 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.