Child Care Background Checks Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 sought to make child care safer by ensuring that individuals working with or in proximity to children have not committed violent crimes, child abuse or sexual offenses. The new federal law requires states to establish and manage state-administered background checks for individuals to operate, reside in or work at a child care center.  

Date and Time

When did the requirements and process for conducting background checks change?

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) began conducting background checks and making eligibility determinations for NEW applicants for regulation, household members, caregivers and non-caregiver employees, beginning on 10/1/18.


In January 2019, DCF began conducting background checks for existing operators/licensees, household members, caregivers, and non-caregiver employees.

How long will it take for a background check to be completed?

A background check begins once the fingerprint check results are received by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The background check results usually arrive electronically at DCF within 48 to 72 hours after the digital fingerprints have been submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). DCF will review the results and issue a preliminary eligibility determination within 5-7 days. In most cases a final eligibility determination will be made within 45 days. At times, the final eligibility determination may take longer. Once a final eligibility determination is made, DCF will inform both the operator and individual whether the individual is eligible to continue residing or working in a program.

If an individual has had a fingerprint-based background check conducted by a child care center within the last five (5) years, is a background check conducted by DCF required before they can begin employment at a new program?

Yes. Center-run background checks, and any background checks prior to 10/01/2018, do not meet federal requirements, and the individual will have to get a fingerprint-based background check through DCF.

Process

What is reviewed for a background check? How often are background checks conducted?

DCF conducts FBI fingerprint checks initially and every five years. In addition to the FBI criminal history search, DCF checks:

  • Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal history
  • Federal and state sex offender registries
  • Child abuse and neglect records
  • Professional licenses maintained by the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS)
  • Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP)
  • Out-of-state criminal child abuse and sex offender records within the last five years

Individuals who reside outside Wisconsin are required to complete a FBI fingerprint-based background check every year.

Starting January 2020, DCF began conducting annual name-based checks on licensees, certified operators, adult household members and caregiver/noncaregiver employees. Starting December 20, 2019, the department began sending Quarterly Notices to child care programs informing them which individuals are due for an annual name-based check. The notices are also available in the Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP) under “Communication.” Licensees/operators will need to review these Notices carefully to ensure the department has the most up-to-date list of individuals associated with their child care program. Annual name-based checks will be conducted on any individual who is all of the following:

  • Age 18 or older
  • Has an employment/residency status of “current” or “prospective”
  • Has completed a DCF-conducted fingerprint-based background check and been issued final eligible status 

If the list or employment/residency status is not up-to-date, the licensee/operator needs to update the information in the CCPP as soon as possible, before annual name-based background checks are conducted. The cost of the name-based check is $10 per person.

Can someone entering the child care profession obtain a background check determination prior to applying for jobs in order to become more immediately employable?

An individual can make an iChildCare portal account at ichildcare.wisconsin.gov to obtain a background check eligibility determination prior to applying for employment in a child care setting. This individual then has 180 days to become active at a regulated child care program in order to maintain eligibility.

Will the background check process take longer if an individual has lived out-of-state?

Out-of-state checks may take longer to complete. If an individual has resided in another state within the last five years or currently resides outside Wisconsin, DCF must complete criminal history, child abuse and sex offender registry searches in each state where the individual has resided. Because states vary in their requirements for requesting background checks, DCF may contact programs or individuals to obtain additional state authorization forms.

Which agency is responsible for making background check eligibility determinations?

The DCF Child Care Background Unit (CBU) reviews background check results and makes eligibility determinations in accordance with Wisconsin Statute 48.686. This process includes determinations based on barred offenses and potential substantially-related determinations. Certification agencies are responsible for issuing enforcements related to Wisconsin Administrative Code DCF 202.

Which agency is responsible for conducting Rehabilitation Reviews, if required?

DCF conducts rehabilitation reviews for counties, tribes, and subcontracted agencies in accordance with Wisconsin Statute 48.686(5). Tribes may choose to conduct rehabilitation reviews themselves for the purpose of child care certification under Wis. Stat. 48.651 or refer the subject to DCF for the review. Tribes choosing to conduct rehabilitation reviews shall submit to DCF a rehabilitation review plan that addresses specific DCF requirements.

Do background check results belong to the center or the individual?

Background check results belong to the subject of the background check, regardless of who paid for the check. If individuals leave a child care center, they can use their background eligibility determination at other child care programs.

Who is responsible for enforcing the background check policy?

It is the child care provider’s responsibility to ensure their employees (including student teachers and contracted employees) have the necessary background checks completed. Higher education institutes (student teachers), contractor services (contractor employees), and prospective employees who have already completed the background checks are more marketable than those who have not obtained it prior to working at/with a child care center.

Should the licensee of a group child care center develop new staff policies regarding the background check law?

Yes, DCF recommends consulting with your center’s legal or human resources leadership to adjust your hiring and staff policies accordingly.

Eligibility

Is the DCF ineligibility determination appealable?

Preliminary and final determinations are made and issued in writing by the Department of Children and Families. A final eligibility notice will include information about an individual’s right to appeal. The preliminary determination is not appealable. Only the individual who is the subject of the department’s background check may appeal the department’s final determination. The subject has 10 days to appeal the determination with DCF. During the appeal process, the individual is not eligible to reside or work in the child care program. For more information about the appeal process, visit the Appeal Process for Child Care Background Check Decisions webpage.

What offenses make an individual ineligible?

The current list of offenses barring individuals from holding a license or certification to operate a child care program, or residing at or working in a child care program, can be found on the Barred Offenses PDF.

When an individual has received a preliminary eligibility determination, can they begin working (or residing) at a child care center?

Once an individual has received their preliminary eligibility determination, they can work (or reside) at a child care center under supervision while the final background check eligibility determination is pending. Working "under supervision" requires, at a minimum, periodic direct observation by any individual with a Department of Children and Families (DCF) approved background check. The intent of this requirement is to ensure the person is supervised during the time they have access to children. The individual remains "under supervision" until the final eligibility determination has been received. This supervision may last up to 45 days (or more for complex background checks). Please note, applicants for licensure/certification may not open their center until they have received final background check eligibility and regulatory approval.

Note: Certified operators must comply with DCF 202.08(1m)(f) and have all employees / substitutes / volunteers approved by the certification before employment or volunteer work commences.

Can an individual begin working (or residing) before the background check is complete?

An individual can go through orientation, but may not act in a caregiver, or noncaregiver employee capacity, until they have received preliminary eligibility. Preliminary eligibility is determined by a Department of Children and Families review of an individual’s fingerprint-based background check report for any serious barred crimes and offenses. A prospective resident shall not begin residing at a child care center until a preliminary eligible determination is made.

What is the difference between preliminary and final eligibility determination?

Preliminary eligibility is determined when the Department of Children and Families has received the results of the fingerprint-based background check and reviewed the results for serious crimes or offenses that would bar them from residing or working in a child care program. Once preliminary eligibility has been granted, the individual may reside in or begin working under supervision. Final eligibility is determined once the results of all components of a background check have been completed by the DCF, including any information received in the event an individual has lived outside of Wisconsin within the last five years. Only final eligibility determinations may be appealed.

What does it mean to work "under supervision?"

Working "under supervision" requires, at a minimum, periodic direct observation by any individual who has received a final eligibility determination from DCF. The intent of this requirement is to ensure the person is supervised during the time they have access to children. The individual remains "under supervision" until the final eligibility determination has been received. This supervision may last up to 45 days (or more for complex background checks).

Example: A bus driver contracted by a care provider would need to have another individual on the bus who has completed a DCF conducted background check and received a final eligibility determination until the bus driver has received final eligibility.

Is it possible that an individual’s eligibility may change?

It is possible that an individual's eligibility to reside or work in a child care program may change based on information received by the Department of Children and Families. A series of monthly matches are conducted which gathers information from Consolidate Court Access Program (CCAP) and DHS/ DCF social service records as well as the annual name-based check and five-year FBI fingerprint check. New information gathered may change an individual's eligibility. Programs and individuals will be notified if the eligibility status changes.

If an individual’s role at a child care center changes or the individual’s role changes when moving to another center, this may require an additional review of the background check result and new determination of eligibility made by the CBU.

Example: A cook at Center A has completed the required background checks and is determined eligible. A year later the cook relocates to Center B and now has the role of teacher. Although the transfer does not require a new background check to be conducted, the new role will require a new eligibility determination.

Who decides whether an individual may work at a center?

DCF determines if an individual is eligible to work or reside in a child care program. The program makes the decision whether or not to hire the individual based on the hiring polices of the program. Certification agencies approve individuals to work in a certified child care program under DCF 202.01(1m)(f).

If an individual with final eligibility moves to a new center, can the new center check the database to verify the employee’s eligibility?

Yes, eligibility is valid for 180 days from leaving a program and is tracked within the Child Care Provider Portal. Eligibility is also viewable in iChildCare. However, if the individual’s role has changed from one center to another, this may require an additional review of the background check result and new determination of eligibility made by the CBU.

Example: A cook at Center A has completed required background checks and is determined eligible. A year later the cook relocates to Center B and now has the role of teacher. Although the transfer does not require a new background check to be conducted, the new role will require a new eligibility determination.

If DCF has already performed a fingerprint-based background check on an individual employed or residing at a regulated child care center, can that eligibility information be accessed through the Child Care Provider Portal for another program?

Yes, as long as that individual has been active at a Child Care Provider within the last 180 days. The eligibility information is also available in iChildCare.

Fees

What are the fees for background checks?

Initial Fingerprint-based Checks:

At the time the Fieldprint fingerprint scan appointment is made online, the individual will pay $39 via credit card or electronic check. This covers the cost of the Fieldprint fingerprint capture fee ($7.75) and the cost of the FBI and DOJ fingerprint-based background check ($31.25).

The individual scheduling the Fieldprint appointment online must be prepared to pay the background check fee. If the individual schedules a fingerprint appointment at a Fieldprint location that does not capture the prints digitally, additional fees may be charged for inked-rolled prints.

Annual WI DOJ Name-based Checks:

The background check is conducted by DCF Child Care Background Unit (CBU), and licensees/certified operators will be invoiced quarterly for name-based checks conducted by DCF. The cost of name-based checks is currently $10 for each individual. Background check fees are visible in the Child Care Provider Portal and may be paid by credit card, debit card, or ACH bank transfer using a new e-payment portal.

Who is responsible for the cost of the background check?

The individual scheduling the Fieldprint appointment online must be prepared to pay the background check fee of $39. 

The annual name-based background check is conducted by DCF Child Care Background Check Unit (CBU), and licensees/certified operators will be invoiced quarterly for annual name-based checks ($10 per individual).

Child care programs may determine who is responsible for the cost of the fingerprint-based and/or name-based background checks.

Programs are free to include information in their personnel policy to address who will be responsible for paying for the cost of the background checks.
 

Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP)

Why would a child care center need access to the Child Care Provider Portal?

Initial Fingerprint-based Checks:

In addition to accessing Wisconsin Shares information, child care providers can use the Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP) to request background checks and view eligibility determinations electronically. Requesting background checks through the automated portal process can reduce the time it takes to initiate and receive eligibility notifications. Requesting background checks using the portal allows providers to access the Fieldprint Fingerprint Print Instruction letter immediately upon entering the request. For more information on how to gain access, visit the Child Care Provider Portal Information page. To request access to the CCPP, visit the Request Access page.

Do child care centers still need to use the DOJ WORCS website to conduct background checks?

No. FBI results will no longer be available through WORCS, but individuals can continue to conduct their own name-based background checks for other employment purposes.

Will child care centers request background checks in the Child Care Provider Portal?

Yes. Individuals will request an initial FBI Background Check through the Child Care Provider Portal. DCF will then conduct all subsequent 5-year FBI fingerprint and annual name-based background checks thereafter. Individuals may also submit their own background check request using iChildCare.

My program has more than one location. Can I have one account on the provider portal with multiple locations, or will I have to have separate logins for each facility?

While most providers choose a single account with multiple locations, the choice to have a single account or multiple accounts is up to the program. With a single account, providers can choose to add individuals to specific locations. Additional locations can be added to their user ID by checking modify existing access to CCPP in the request form. 

What is the difference between the Child Care Provider Portal and iChildCare?

The iChildCare Portal is a secure website, available 24/7, using any computer, tablet, or smartphone with an Internet connection, where individuals active in Wisconsin child care or individuals seeking employment in child care can manage their individual eligibility status to work (or reside) in a child care setting.

The Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP) is a secure website, available 24/7, where regulated Wisconsin Child Care Providers (licensees/operators) can manage their child care business using any computer, tablet, or smartphone with an Internet connection. The CCPP enables child care programs to submit background check requests, view MyWIChildCare authorizations and payment details, update child care prices, view YoungStar quality rating information, etc.

iChildCare

What is iChildCare and who uses it?

The iChildCare Portal is a secure website, available 24/7, where individuals active in Wisconsin child care can manage their individual eligibility status to reside and work in a child care setting. Individuals can:

  • Request a background check for themselves to establish their eligibility to reside and work in child care.
  • View their individual background check eligibility status and notices.
  • Be discovered by child care providers/programs and attached to their program(s) in the Child Care Provider Portal.
  • Update their personal information, such as a change in address, phone number, or name. iChildCare also allows individuals entering the child care field to have their background check complete before applying to a program, reducing the amount of time it takes for a provider to onboard new staff. More information is available on the Child Care Provider Portal Information page.

Fieldprint

Are individuals required to use Fieldprint, or will paper fingerprint cards still be accepted?

Digital prints using Fieldprint to capture the best image quality possible and provide for a faster and more accurate fingerprint collection process. DCF is working with Fieldprint to increase the number of digital fingerprint sites. If there is no Fieldprint location within 35 miles of your facility, you will need to request fingerprint cards through Fieldprint. DCF will no longer accept fingerprint cards directly from individuals or providers. Fingerprint-based background checks must be conducted through Fieldprint for DCF to receive the background check results.

Are instructions for fingerprint-based checks available?

Once a program adds an individual to the Child Care Provider Portal and completed the Background Check Request form electronically, DCF sends a Fingerprint Instruction letter to the child care program. The instructions include a Fieldprint code and a unique Reference ID that is to be used only for the individual named in the letter. If an individual schedules a Fieldprint appointment using another individual’s Reference ID or enters an incorrect Reference ID, the background check cannot be processed, delaying the preliminary eligibility determination needed to begin working at or residing in the center. The Fingerprint Instruction letter is also viewable in the Child Care Provider Portal. Codes needed to schedule a Fieldprint appointment are also viewable in iChildCare, if the request is submitted by the individual.

Visit the DCF website to view complete instructions for scheduling a Fieldprint appointment.

Can a child care program establish their own Fieldprint account in order to be billed directly for the cost of fingerprint-based background checks?

At this time, Fieldprint does not offer direct billing for the background check process. However, programs that conduct more than 100 fingerprint checks a year may qualify for a subaccount. A subaccount allows a program to have a credit card on file to pay for the fingerprint checks. If your program anticipates scheduling more than 100 fingerprint appointments per year, contact the DCF Child Care Background Unit by phone at 608-422-7400 or by email at DCFPlicBECRCBU@wisconsin.gov for more information.

Where do I find the Fieldprint Code and Reference Codes for individuals (employees, household members) associated with my center?

Existing Child Care Programs
Licensees and certified operators submit Background Check Request forms (BCRs) for employees and/or residents using the Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP). Once the BCR has been submitted, the system automatically generates a Fingerprint Instruction letter that is mailed to the center the next day. The fingerprint instruction letter is also available in the CCPP immediately after submitting the background check request form. The Fingerprint Instruction letter includes the name(s) of the individual(s), the Fieldprint Code and a unique Reference Code assigned to each individual named in the letter. The Reference code may not be shared or used by any other individual except the person assigned to the Reference code.

Note: System-generated Fingerprint Instruction letters are mailed to the child care center location address and may include multiple names if multiple BCRs were submitted on the same day. Letters are mailed nightly with the exception of Saturday evenings.

Applicants for Licensure/Certification
New applicants for certification or licensure do not have access to the Child Care Provider Portal and must submit paper Background Check Request forms to their regional licensing office or local certification agency. Fingerprint instruction letters will be mailed to the application location address and will also include Fieldprint and Reference codes described above.

Individuals
If the background check request was submitted by an individual using iChildCare, the individual can access the codes needed to schedule a Fieldprint appointment by clicking on the Fingerprint Code button in iChildCare and may view the results of their background check by clicking on Background Check Results.
 

Who Needs A Background Check?

Who is subject to the background check requirements?

Applicants for licensing/certification, household members, caregiver employees, non-caregiver employees, and contractors with opportunity for interaction with children and unescorted access to the child care premises.

Household member means a person who is age 10 or older, who resides, or is expected to reside, at a child care program, and who is not a client of the child care program or caregiver. Minor household members age 10 through 17 are subject to child abuse and neglect checks only, but may, in some instances, be subject to a criminal background check.

Caregiver means any of the following:

  • A person who is an employee or contractor of a child care program and involved in the care or supervision of children in care
  • A person who has direct contact and unsupervised access to children in care
  • A person who has or is seeking, a license, certification, or contract to operate a child care program

Non-caregiver employees working in child care settings are subject to background check requirements, regardless of whether or not the individual provides care or supervision of children. Non-caregiver employees are individuals who provide services to a child care program as an employee or as a contractor, are not caregivers, but whose work at the child care program provides the ability to move freely throughout the premises and opportunities for interactions with children in care.

Contractors who provide occasional services such as a delivery driver, electrician, or plumber, are not required to have a background check, however, the licensee/certified operator must have procedures in place to ensure these individuals are escorted while in the center and do not have unrestricted access to children in care.

Does every new employee I hire have to complete the initial background checks, including the fingerprint-based check?

Yes, if they meet the definition of a caregiver or non-caregiver employee.

Are all bus/van drivers, or contracted transportation services, subject to the new background check requirements?

Any person who is employed or contracted by the child care program and who has unrestricted access to children in care is subject to the background check requirements.

If the center contracts transportation services for occasional/periodic field-trips and the center's caregiver employees are present in the vehicle providing care and supervision of children, and the driver does not have unrestricted access to children in care, then the driver is not subject to the background check requirements. However, if the center-contracted transportation service driver or center's employee transports children in care, and there are no other individuals providing care and supervision of children, then the driver is subject to the background check requirements.

Licensees must also consider additional requirements related to transportation provided under DCF 250, DCF 251,  and DCF 252.

Certified operators must consider additional transportation-related requirements under DCF 202.

My child care program does not participate in Youngstar or receive Wisconsin Shares. Does my program have to comply with the new background check requirements?

Yes, all regulated child care programs are subject to the new federal background check requirements.

Our center's interview process includes a 2-hour observation of the candidate's interactions with children in a classroom setting. Is the center required to request a background check prior to the candidate's interview/observation?

No, a background check is not required under these circumstances because the candidate is not a caregiver, employee or contracted employee and does not have unrestricted access to children in care. It is recommended the center update its hiring/personnel policies to:

1. Ensure candidates for employment do not have unrestricted access to children in care;

And

2. Update its policies related to contingent employment offers based on the results of both the preliminary and final background check determinations.

Contractors

I am not a child care center. How do I request a background check on my employees who will be contracted for services in a child care center?

You will need a provider number in order to gain access to the Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP) and submit requests for background checks. Fill out the Program Provider Number Request form to obtain a provider number. Once DCF creates a provider number, you will receive an email with your provider number and instructions on how to request access to the CCPP. Instructions for creating a CCPP account can also be found on the Child Care Provider Portal Request Access page (follow the instructions for child care providers and center staff).

How will we receive preliminary and final eligibility determination results?

Preliminary and final eligibility determinations will be available on the Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP) and will also be mailed to the employee and the contracted company. Eligibility information is also viewable in iChildCare if the individual submitted their own background check request using iChildCare.

How do we share the background check results with the child care center?

The contracted company or contracted employee can provide the background check eligibility letter from DCF to the child care center to keep on file, which would suffice meeting the licensing rules.

When will current contracted employees be required to complete the fingerprint background check?

Beginning in January 2019, the Department began conducting background checks for all existing employees and will continue to do so over the next two (2) years. DCF will contact child care programs to notify them when it is time to conduct background checks on their existing employees. DCF will send updated instructions to individuals for completing a fingerprint-based background check. The instructions will include a Fieldprint code and a unique Reference ID that is to be used only for the individual named in the letter. If an individual schedules a Fieldprint appointment using another individual’s Reference ID or enters an incorrect Reference ID, the background check cannot be processed, delaying the initial eligibility determination needed to begin working or residing in the center.

Higher Education Entities

If a student is in a practicum for less than 60 days, is a background check still required?

Yes. Any student who is placed at a child care center for a practicum, regardless of the timeframe of the practicum, is subject to a background check.

How do I request a background check on practicum students?

You will need a provider number in order to gain access to the Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP) and submit requests for background checks. Fill out the Program Provider Number Request form to obtain a provider number. Once DCF creates a provider number, you will receive an email with your provider number and instructions on how to request access to the CCPP. Instructions for creating a CCPP account can also be found here (follow the instructions for child care providers and center staff). Please note: Some higher education entities may already have a provider number because they also operate a licensed child care program. You will use the same provider number, but will need a new location number to request background checks for students placed at other child care centers for their practicum. Please fill out this form to obtain a new location number for your program. Do not use the licensed child care program's CCPP account information to submit background check requests for practicum students.

If a student comes into our program and has received a preliminary eligibility determination, can they be placed in their practicum site?

Once an individual has received their preliminary eligibility determination, he or she can work at a child care center under supervision while the final background check eligibility determination is pending.

How do we share the background check results with the practicum placement site?

The technical college/program can provide the background check eligibility letter from DCF to the child care center for each student to keep on file, which would suffice meeting the licensing rules.

Does a higher education institution instructor who observes a practicum student working in a child care center need to submit a Background Check Request (BCR) to the department?

No, higher education institution instructors are not caregivers nor are they employees of contractors of the child care program. Child care centers shall have policies and procedures in place to ensure any visiting observer who has not completed a comprehensive background check conducted by the department does not provide supervision or care of children and does not have unrestricted access to children in care.

Quarterly Notice

What is the Quarterly Notice?

The Quarterly Notice provides child care programs with background check information specific to their child care program. On December 20, 2019, the department began mailing Quarterly Notices to child care programs informing them which individuals are due for an annual name-based background check. The Notices will be sent each quarter to child care programs on or around the 20th of December, March, June and September. Licensees/operators will need to review these Notices carefully to ensure the department has the most up-to-date list of individuals associated with their child care program. Annual name-based checks will be conducted on the following individuals:

  • Individuals age 18 or older
  • Individuals with an employment/residency status of “current” or “prospective”
  • Individuals who have completed a DCF-conducted fingerprint-based background check (or name-based check if a minor employee) within 12 months or earlier.

If the list of individuals included in the Notice or employment/residency status is not accurate, the licensee/operator needs to update the information in the Child Care Provider Portal (CCPP) as soon as possible. The cost of the annual name-based check is $10 per individual. The department will mail invoices quarterly to the child care program for the cost of any annual name-based checks conducted.

What information is included in the Quarterly Notice?

The Quarterly Notice may have multiple sections if or when any individual associated with the program falls under the criteria for more than one section. The sections are explained below:

  • List of individuals due for the 5-year fingerprint-based check within the next four months
  • List of individuals due for an annual name-based check.
  • List of individuals who had an annual name-based check conducted within the last three months.
  • List of individuals in Prospective status in the portal. This section lists all individuals associated with your program who have prospective status whether they are due for a background check or not. Be sure to update an individual’s status once employment (or residency) status has been determined.

Where is the Quarterly Notice Available?

A Quarterly Notice is mailed to child care programs. A copy of the Notice is available in the Child Care Provider Portal by clicking on the Communication button on the main facility page or selecting Facility Documents in the sandwich menu. Then click on the Documents button.

How do we share the background check results with the practicum placement site?

The technical college/program can provide the background check eligibility letter from DCF to the child care center for each student to keep on file, which would suffice meeting the licensing rules.

Does a higher education institution instructor who observes a practicum student working in a child care center need to submit a Background Check Request (BCR) to the department?

No, higher education institution instructors are not caregivers nor are they employees of contractors of the child care program. Child care centers shall have policies and procedures in place to ensure any visiting observer who has not completed a comprehensive background check conducted by the department does not provide supervision or care of children and does not have unrestricted access to children in care.