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:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (DCD) COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs (Updated Aug. 11, 2022)


Updated Isolation and Quarantine Period Recommendations for Child Care Settings

DCF, in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), has updated isolation period recommendations for COVID-19 for child care settings based on new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for the general public. This guidance is subject to change as additional information from CDC on preventing and managing COVID-19 in child care settings is released.

The Center for Disease Control amended COVID-19 recommendations in August, 2022. New guidance recommends that those who suspect they may be sick with COVID-19, but do not have a test result, should isolate until results are received. If the test results are positive, the individual should isolate at home for at least 5 days, starting from the first full day after the day symptoms were observed. If the test results are negative, the individual can immediately end their isolation.

Reminder: COVID-19 is a communicable disease. Child care providers are still expected to follow all reporting requirements as dictated by licensing and certification rules.

If you have questions regarding COVID-19 guidance, please contact your local public health department. If you have questions regarding reporting requirements, please contact your assigned Licensing Specialist.

Under these recommendations, individuals who work in or attend a child care setting and test positive for COVID-19 should:

Child Care Staff

  • Stay home for 5 days and isolate from others in your home.
  • Wear a well-fitted mask if you must be around others in your home.
  • End isolation after 5 full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving.
  • If you did NOT have symptoms end isolation after at least 5 full days after your positive test.
  • Wear a well-fitted mask for 10 full days any time you are around others inside your home or in public.

Children in Care

  • Stay home for 5 days and isolate from others in your home.
  • Wear a well-fitted mask if you must be around others in your home.
  • End isolation after 5 full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving.
  • If you did NOT have symptoms end isolation after at least 5 full days after your positive test.
  • Wear a well-fitted mask for 10 full days any time you are around others inside your home or in public.
  • Children who cannot wear a mask due to age (e.g., 0-2 years) or ability, or are unable to socially distance during meal and nap times should isolate for 10 days.

Individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 should follow CDC’s quarantine guidance based on their vaccine status and symptoms.

Child care programs that have a positive case, staff and/or child, are required to report the case to their local health department and licensing specialist.

Back-to-School Guidance for Child Care Providers Fall 2022

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) recognizes there may continue to be differences in learning environments for school-age children this fall in response to local outbreaks. DCF has and will continue to work with child care programs and collaborating school districts to meet the needs in their communities. DCF staff have the ability to work with current child care providers to help address any needs, such as amending their license or relocating, and to work with new child care providers to expedite the initial licensing process in order for programs to open as quickly and safely as possible.

Exception Requests

Per DCF administrative rules, licensees may request exceptions to any rule requirement that is not codified in statute. Please work with your assigned licensing specialist for all exception requests. Requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the regional licensing specialist and their supervisor, in accordance with the DCF exception review process. A written exception request will nee to be submitted. 

Please contact your licensor as soon as possible if you have any questions or for more information about making any changes to your current program (for example, location changes, licensed hours, or exception requests).

Note: DCF has received inquiries about capacity exceptions for licensed family child care providers. DCF will not grant exception requests for family child care providers to exceed the maximum capacity of children in care.

Resource Documents


COVID-19 Resource Guidance for Child Care Providers 


The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is committed to helping keep child care programs open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Child care is a vital resource for families in our state. We understand and appreciate the challenges many of you face and value your continued efforts to serve the children and families of Wisconsin. 

The resource links below provide guidance to child care, Head Start, and community-based 3K/4K programs related to specific topics.

We continue to recommend child care programs remain open, unless remaining open is not feasible based on the guidance provided by the CDC, DHS and/or the recommendations of your local health department. Together with local public health officials, child care administrators should consider multiple factors when implementing layered prevention strategies against COVID-19. Since child care programs typically serve their surrounding communities, decisions should be based on the program population, families and children served, as well as their communities. Child care providers should follow all local guidance and orders issued by their counties, tribes, local public health departments, and state government. Providers should adhere to the guidance and orders that are most restrictive for their area.

Keep in mind, without an approved exception, the number of children at a group child care center at any one time may not exceed the number for which the center is licensed or certified; the age of children served by a center may not be younger or older than the age range specified in the license/certificate; and the hours, days, and months of a center’s operation may not exceed those specified in the license/certificate.


General COVID-19 Information



In addition to regularly contacting your licensing specialist or certification worker, providers can sign up to receive regular communication from DCF. Providers can subscribe to the child care email list. A list of archived email messages for child care programs is located on the department’s website.

Consult with your local public health department if you have questions or to report confirmed case of a communicable disease reportable under ch. DHS 145 in a child enrolled at the center or a person in contact with children at the center, within 24 hours after the center is notified of the diagnosis. 


Temporary Closures 

Remember that child care providers are required to notify their licensor or certifier of changes in program service, including temporary closures. Temporary closures lasting more than 14 days are considered a change in program services. Providers must also notify their licensor or certifier of any closures, for any amount of time, related to construction/remodeling that has the potential to affect an area accessible to children, and for any closures related to a confirmed case of a communicable disease, reportable under ch. DHS 145, which includes COVID-19 related closures. Temporary closures may be reported directly to the regulating agency or by using the Child Care Provider Portal. See the Child Care Provider Portal User Guide and the Child Care Counts Temporary Closure Guide for more information.

Wisconsin Shares Provider Closure Policy: Wisconsin Shares subsidy funds are intended to be used for care provided, and facility closures may be subject to an overpayment after an audit and investigation. When your program is closed, subsidy funds cannot be accepted unless it is a COVID-19-related closure under 14 consecutive calendar days or a legal holiday, but the closure must be reported. For example, if your location is closed for remodeling November 27 until December 1, you cannot keep subsidy funds from November 27 through December 1. If you permanently close before the last day of the month, you cannot accept funds for the rest of the month. Be mindful of parents who pay at the beginning of the month, and make sure they only issue funds for days your location will be open.

For questions about closure-related licensing and certification policies, please contact your licensor or certifier.

For questions about closure-related Wisconsin Shares policies, please contact your local agency.

Maintaining or Restoring Water Quality in ECE Facilities After Temporary or Prolonged Closures

Building closures lasting for weeks or months result in reduced water usage. This reduced usage can lead to stagnant water inside building plumbing and water coolers. Take proactive steps to protect the health of children and staff by flushing water prior to reopening. For more information and steps for maintaining water quality, be sure to review and use the resources below.

EPA Resources

CDC Resources


Back to School FAQs

  1. We are a group child care center. What is required for programing when much of the day (about 3 or so hours) will need to be virtual schooling?
    DCF 251.07 (1) (a) requires that programming be suitable for the developmental level of each child and each group of children. Providing opportunities for virtual learning and supporting other school work would be considered suitable for the developmental level of school-age children. Per 251.07 (1) (b) 1. through 3., there should still be a flexible balance of other activity, including outdoor activity, throughout the day.
  2. We are a group child care center and might have instances where school-age children are overlapping, i.e. the afternoon group of children gets dropped off prior to the morning group of children leaving the center.
    Programs will need to work with their regional licensing specialist to increase the center capacity for situations where children in care are overlapping during times throughout the day.
  3. Will the department entertain exceptions to the director requirements for group child care centers over 50 children that would expand program capacity to meet community need and take school-age children?
    Contact your regional licensing specialist to discuss your specific situation.

  4. Our program typically operates in a school building, but the district is not allowing us to operate in the building this year due to the pandemic. What are our options?
    Contact your regional licensing specialist and reach out to community partners to discuss options for a temporary relocation of your program. Be sure to discuss your plans with your licensing specialist prior to securing alternate space to ensure the location meets all applicable requirements. In many cases, a building inspection may be required.

    DCF staff are prepared to work with existing providers to expedite temporary relocations to help programs become operational by the start of the school year.
  5. Our program is operating at capacity, but we would like to open an additional location to serve school-age children. What is the process?
    Determine your additional location. Contact your regional licensing specialist to discuss your plans, request application materials, and discuss a timeline. DCF staff are prepared to work with existing providers to expedite applications for additional locations to help programs become operational by the start of the school year.
  6. Can a qualified assistant teacher supervise a group of children who are in a virtual learning environment or engaged in other school-related activities out of the direct supervision of a child care teacher?
    Commentary under DCF 251.055 (1) (b) allows qualified assistant teachers to temporarily supervise a group of children away from direct supervision of the qualified child care teacher. This may be an option when some kids are in virtual school and the others may need to be in other activity.

  7. I’m a family child care provider and DCF 250.055 (1) (h) and DCF 202.08(5)(a) do not allow providers to be engaged in any other activity or occupation during the hours of operation of the center, including homeschooling or virtual school. Can I have my own children at home with me or school-age children in care attending virtual school?
    The Department is considering that child care providers are assisting children with school work when they’re doing their virtual learning at the center and not providing the main instruction. The school district teachers are still responsible for the curriculum and instruction, not the child care provider. The provider is there to assist the child like they would with any homework and there is no licensing rule that prohibits this.


Ratios, Capacity, and Enrollment

Normal ratio and group size rules are in effect, however, providers must comply with any local, more restrictive orders that may limit the number of children in a group.  If a child care program wishes to modify their ages served, hours of operation, or capacity, they may submit a request to the regulating agency. Note: Licensed family child care providers may not care for more than 8 children per DCF 250.055(2)(a) and certified providers may not care for more than 3 unrelated children under age 7.



The procedure to don and doff should be tailored to the specific type of PPE that you have available at your facility. If your facility does not have specific guidance, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended video and infographic sequences for donning and doffing PPE.



Staying Home When Sick

Meals and Snacks

  • Food service workers should have and wear PPE, such as gloves and face masks.
  • Improve ventilation in food preparation, service, and eating areas.
  • If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve meals in classrooms instead. When possible, consider using additional spaces for mealtime seating, including eating meals and snacks outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces whenever possible. 
  • Family-style meal service is not recommended. Instead kitchen staff and child care providers should handle utensils and serve food using gloves or provide individual pre-plated meals. Given very low risk of transmission from food, food packaging, surfaces, and shared objects, there is no need to limit food service operations to single use items and packaged meals. 
  • When possible, ensure food preparation is not done by the same staff who diaper children.
  • Sinks used for food preparation should not be used for any other purposes.
  • If you provide meals or snacks in a large lunchroom, stagger meal times and make sure tables are at least 6 feet apart. Space children as far apart as you can at the table. Clean and sanitize tables before and after each group eats.
  • Promote hand washing before, during, and after shifts, before and after eating, after using the toilet, and after handling the garbage, dirty dishes, or removing gloves. Caregivers should ensure children wash hands prior to and immediately after eating. Caregivers should wash their hands before preparing food and after helping children to eat. 
  • Toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children should bring a labeled water bottle each day or be provided with labeled drinking cups or disposable drinking cups and should not drink from a water fountain.
  • CDC Food Service




If transport vehicles, (such as buses or vans) are used by your program, drivers should practice all safety actions and protocols as indicated for other staff (e.g. hand hygiene, masks). Create distance between children on transport buses. (For example, seat children one child per row, skip rows when possible.) However, children from the same home can be seated together.

  • Children, staff, and drivers should not eat or drink during transportation.
  • Clean and disinfect each vehicle after use.
  • Keep windows open, unless it poses a safety or health risk to passengers and/or the driver.
  • Avoid using the recirculated air option for ventilation.

See the Department of Public Instruction’s Transportation Guidance for more information.

CDC Transport Vehicles


Face Coverings/Masks 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state health guidance strongly recommends children and adults who are not vaccinated wear masks and social distance indoors. 

Masking prevention strategies remain important to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of younger children. To that end, we want to clarify the current guidance for programs serving younger children, outline the expected timeline and next steps, and update you on our approach during this transitional period.

Regulatory approach during the transition period: DCF will focus on providing technical assistance to programs and supporting providers during this transition. To that end, there will be no enforcement actions around mask wearing moving forward.

Licensing specialists will focus on providing technical assistance to programs and supporting providers during this transition. There will are no enforcement actions around mask wearing at this time. 

Note: Child care providers must be aware of and comply with local municipal, county, and tribal orders that may be more restrictive than state face covering orders.

Please contact your licensing specialist or certification worker if you have questions.


Care for Infants and Toddlers

Outbreak Guidance

Child care programs must report cases of COVID-19 to their local public health office. Information reported to local health departments should include:

  • Number of ill attendees and staff
  • Names and contact information
  • Onset date of illness
  • Signs and symptoms of the illness
  • Dates of attendance while ill and in the two days prior
  • Dates and results of any laboratory tests completed or pending
  • Job duties and work location(s) of any ill staff
  • Rooms or areas of the facility visited by any ill children

In addition, contact your certification worker or licensor to report this information.

Local public health authorities determine and establish the quarantine options for their jurisdictions. Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department. 

See CDC’s Toolkit for Child Care Programs for more resources on what to do if a child becomes sick while at the child care program.

If a child or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, you should contact your local public health department immediately and follow their instructions.

In addition to following any instructions received from your local public health authority, if there is a case of COVID-19 among children or staff, programs should consider whether a short-term (less than one week) or long-term (one week or more) closure will allow for sufficient cleaning and disinfection. Public health can also use this time to trace close contacts of the case and determine if others could be at risk. Advantages of long-term closures must be weighed against the economic burden placed on staff and children’s families, loss of key members of the workforce, and impacts on learning. 

Assess the impacts of any decisions you make on the families you serve. The families you work with will be able to provide you the best feedback and guidance on how to move forward in a child- and family-centered way.

Although CDC provides recommendations for discontinuation of home isolation and voluntary home quarantine, local public health authorities determine and establish the quarantine options for their jurisdictions. 

Be sure to contact your licensing/certification specialist to report your next steps and or any temporary closures.

DHS Close Contact Information and Guidance

The CDC provides recommendations for discontinuation of home isolation and voluntary home quarantine, but local public health authorities determine and establish the quarantine options for their jurisdictions. Wisconsin DHS and local public health exclusion criteria for symptomatic persons in a child care facility may be more conservative compared to those used for the general public. The reason for this is because there is a higher index of suspicion that symptomatic individuals in child care facilities will have COVID-19 because of the high potential of asymptomatic spread in children. 

Caring for our Children Crosswalk is also available on the CFOC website.

What should I do if I call the local public health department and don’t hear back from them?

Send an email to your local public health office that succinctly describes your question and/or report. The DHS website lists contact information for each county and Tribal Health Office.

Refer to CDC and/or DHS Public Health Department resources for Guidelines for the Prevention, Investigation, and Control of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Child Care Settings.

The center should cooperate with the health department to ensure all necessary measures are taken to protect the children in care.


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 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. Providers should also update information on their Business Information Form (BIF).


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