Child Care Information for Providers

Cartoon image of children and an early care and education provider

What guidance are you giving providers continuing to operate?

We recognize this is a challenging time for the early care and education community. The department has produced a series of guidance documents and templates for providers. Those resources include:

Mask Order Requirements and FAQs

Please read this information carefully. On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the statewide mask mandate. However, this decision does not affect DCF’s requirement for mask compliance. Based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the WI Department of Health Services (DHS) mask guidance, providers are still required to wear face masks under DCF 250.04(2)(i)1.b., 251.04(2)(m), and 252.41(1)(m). In addition, child care programs are required to follow any current local municipality orders.

Licensing Specialists have been primarily providing technical assistance (TA) to child care programs throughout the state regarding the mask mandate. The COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin continues to worsen and positive cases are significantly increasing; cases are also anticipated to spike as a result of the holidays. Consequently, stronger measures may need to be taken to ensure public health and safety. In addition to targeted technical assistance, licensing specialists may issue a Noncompliance Statement and Correction Plan, or in egregious or chronically problematic cases, issuing an Order with a Direct Forfeiture. Compliance with the mask mandate will also help ensure you are able to reduce the risk of COVID-19 cases in your program and prevent you from closing down for days or weeks.

Please contact your licensing specialist if you have questions.

1. When do I need to wear a face mask?

Every individual, age five and older, shall wear a face covering if both of the following apply:

  • The individual is indoors or in an enclosed space, other than at a private residence; and;
  • Another person or persons who are not members of individual’s household or living unit are present in the same room or enclosed space.

Note: This requirement applies when staff members are using common areas. Child care providers must also be aware of and comply with local municipal, county, and tribal orders that may be more restrictive than the state face covering requirement.

Face coverings are strongly recommended in all other settings, including outdoors when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing.

See the state’s Face Covering FAQs for additional information.

2. When do I not need to wear a face mask?

You do not need to wear a face covering if:

  • You are at a private residence
  • You are outside
  • You are indoors and no one else is present

You can also remove your face covering in the following situations:

  • When you are eating or drinking
  • When you are communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and you cannot communicate while wearing a mask.
  • While sleeping (e.g., nap times)
  • While swimming or being on duty as a life guard

3. Do the mask requirements apply to family child care providers who are providing care in their own home?

No, family child providers who provide care in their own home are not required to wear a mask; however, we strongly encourage providers to use them. Keep in mind, if your local government has stricter requirements, those requirements must be followed. 

4. Since family child care providers providing care in their home don’t need to wear a mask, do children 5 and older who attend that center need to wear a mask?

No, children attending a family child care center in a private residence do not need to wear a mask; however, we do encourage children 5 years and older to use them. Keep in mind, if your local government has stricter requirements, those requirements must be followed. 

5. Does this only apply to day camps when they are indoors?

Face coverings are required when people are indoors or in an enclosed space. An enclosed space is a confined space open to the public when individuals congregate, including but not limited to outdoor restaurants, taxis, public transit, ride-share vehicles, and outdoor park structure. Therefore, there may be times when a face covering would be required outside.

Face covering are strongly recommended if you are outdoors and it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. For example, if kids are close together in a group outside, they should wear masks. If they are spread out and not coming into contact with each other (such as a nature walk staying 6 feet apart), they don’t have to wear a mask. However, they should keep masks with them in case they come into closer contact.

Day Camps (specifically the ones that are outside all day) will need to have masks for staff and campers when they are inside those enclosed spaces and on the buses.

6. Can child care centers take masks off when they are playing outdoors?

Generally, yes; however, an enclosed space as a confined space open to the public when individuals congregate, including but not limited to outdoor restaurants, taxis, public transit, ride-share vehicles, and outdoor park structure. Therefore, there may be times when a face covering would be required outside.

Face coverings are strongly recommended if you are outdoors and it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. For example, if kids are close together in a group outside, they should wear masks. If they are spread out and not coming into contact with each other (such as a nature walk staying 6 feet apart), they don’t have to wear a mask. However, they should keep masks with them in case they come into closer contact.

7. What should a center do if children come without masks? If a center allows the children at the center without masks, could they get cited?

If a child does not have a medical reason to not wear a mask and is 5 years or older, the child must wear a mask indoors and in enclosed spaces. Centers should update their center policies to address the mandatory mask requirements and whether parents are required to supply the mask or if the center is providing them. If centers are requiring families to supply their own masks, centers can consider having a supply of disposable or reusable children’s masks for situations when the family forgets the mask or does not supply one.

If a center is not complying with the mask order, in addition to targeted technical assistance, licensing specialists may issue a Noncompliance Statement and Correction Plan, or in egregious or chronically problematic cases, issuing an Order with a Direct Forfeiture. Much like other licensing rules regarding things children need to have (i.e. documentation, supply of clean clothing), the center is responsible for meeting the licensing rules.

8. Where can I get a face covering?

Disposable and reusable masks are widely available from many retailers, both in stores and online. For example, Amazon has packs of 100 disposable masks for approximately $20 and Target has a large supply of cloth face masks. If the center would like to charge families for a mask, they could do so.

You may also make a face covering. The CDC provides both sew and no-sew instructions.

9. If parents do not want their children to wear a face covering due to a health condition will DCF be requiring documentation on what the health condition is to be on file?

No, documentation is not required. However, the child’s health history should note the issue that the center should be made aware of in the event of an emergency. If the provider wants to have parents sign off on what the medical condition is, she/he can do that, but DCF does not require that. 

10. Centers are concerned about infant and toddler development if they cannot see the teachers faces. What can they do?

Masks with clear windows or clear face masks are available for purchase at various retailers. 

11. Can I wear a face shield instead of a face covering?

No. A face shield does not provide the same protections as a face covering. You are free to wear a face shield in addition to a face covering. But a face shield cannot be used in place of a face covering that would otherwise be required by this order. If an individual cannot wear a face mask due to medical reasons, they may wish to consider wearing a face shield, if appropriate.

12. What if the town or city I live in already has a face covering or mask order?

This requirement sets a minimum bar. If your local government has stricter requirements, those requirements must be followed.

13. If a Group Child Care Center operates in a residence (i.e. where the licensee lives), are masks required under the Order?

No, if the center operates in a house that is also used as a residence, this requirement does not apply. If your local government has stricter requirements, those requirements must be followed.

14. What do I do if a center or provider isn’t following the mask order?

If you are a parent or guardian of a child enrolled in the center and the center is not following the order, please contact the regional licensing office to file a complaint.

 

Free "Thank you for wearing a mask" Posters - download and print for your facility

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has created free "Thank you for wearing a mask" and "Wearing is caring" posters for child care providers to post in their centers. Please download as many of the posters as you like, print them, and hang them up in your facility to remind staff and visitors that face masks are required.

Child Care COVID-19 Outbreak Guidance

Preventing and controlling COVID-19 in child care settings poses unique challenges due to the nature of caring for infants and young children, which necessarily involves close contact between children and their caregivers. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) in consultation with DCF recently published Guidelines for the Prevention, Investigation, and Control of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Child Care Settings, which includes comprehensive recommendations for preventing and responding to COVID-19 in child care settings. The document also includes multiple printable resources for child care facilities to use in their own investigations and prevention activities.

 

Find information about recent CARES Act funding programs - Child Care Counts: COVID-19 Supplementary Payment Program

What is being asked of me?

Please update your information in Provider Portal as soon as possible and on an ongoing basis. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) needs to know whether your center is open or closed, and for providers that are open, the number of slots you have open and the ages of kids that can be served. Accurate information from you helps us keep the Available Child Care Map updated and helps assist parents in finding child care in their communities. The Provider Portal allows you to enter all of this information and more.

 

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