Child Welfare Licensed Agency Policies and Rules

Child Welfare Licensing Policy Memos

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) policy memos create or explain requirements for child welfare agencies. Agencies must follow the instructions or interpretations detailed within the policy memos. The policy memos are only available electronically. 

Licensed providers are required to be registered on the Listserv in order to receive the email notifications. If you are not licensed but would still like to receive notification of issuance, registration is necessary. Registration and notifications are free, but do require an active e-mail.

Child Welfare Licensing Rules

Group Home facilities are licensed by DCF under Wisconsin Administrative Code:

Residential Care Centers are licensed by DCF under Wisconsin Administrative Code:

Shelter Care facilities are licensed by DCF under Wisconsin Administrative Code:

Child Placing Agencies are licensed by DCF under Wisconsin Administrative Code:

  • DCF 54 - Child-Placing Agencies
  • DCF 54 - Child Placing Agencies Annotated
  • DCF 54 Appendix A - Field Offices of the Department of Children and Families (DCF)

Child Placing Agencies may license foster homes under Wisconsin Administrative Code:

  • DCF 56 - Foster Home Care for Children
  • DCF 56 - Foster Home Care for Children Annotated

Child Placing Agencies providing adoption services must comply with the training requirements for first time adoptive parents

  • DCF 51 - Preadoption Training

Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard (RPPS)

Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard (RPPS) is a requirement for all out-of-home care providers to use in making decisions concerning a child’s participation in age and developmentally appropriate activities such as:

  • Extracurricular
  • Program enrichment
  • Cultural and Social events

Using careful and sensible parental decisions to maintaining the child's

  • Health
  • Safety
  • Best interest
  • Values
    • Cultural
    • Religious
    • Tribal

These activities encourage the emotional and developmental growth of a child. Children and youth in out-of-home care have a right to a normal childhood or adolescence. It is the responsibility of those involved in their lives to create as much normalcy as possible.


Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard Review (DCF-F-5123-E) is a voluntary form. Completion of this form will fulfill the requirments to review the use of the RPPS for group homes, shelter facilities, child placing agencies and RCCs.

Reasonable Prudent Parenting Decision Record (DCF-F-5124-E) is a mandatory form. Completion of this form will fulfill the requirements to document decisions made regarding the RPPS.


All of out-of-home care providers must be trained in the RPPS before they implement the standard.  This includes:

  • Child placing agencies
  • Operator (licensee or authorized representative) of a :
    • Group home
    • Residential care center for children and youth
    • Shelter care facility or its designee

The training page can be accessed at: Providers will be notified when updated training becomes available.


RPPS has been incorporated into all child welfare licensing administrative rules including group home, shelter care facilities, residential care centers for children and youth in foster care. The Child Welfare Licensing Rules are available by facility type at the top of this page.

Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard Licensing Policy Memo (2017-26-L) inform licensed providers of the permanent administrative rules related to the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard (RPPS) are effective August 1, 2017.

Caregiver Background Checks

Barred Crimes are outlined under Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 48.685 and the Barred Offenses- Residential Care Centers, Group Homes, Shelter Care and Child Placing Agencies

Wisconsin Administrative Code DCF 12 Caregiver Background Checks

Background Information Disclosure (BID)Forms

Barred Crimes are outlined underWisconsin Statutes Chapter 48.685.

A list for Foster Care and Subsidized Guardianship is available as well.

DCF will conduct a complete background check every 2 years or with any submitted application on the following:

  • Each licensee, including all partners in a partnership, the board president or CEO, or other designated representative of a corporation
  • Each adult, non-client household resident

Licensees will need to do a complete background check within 45 days of hire and every 4 years thereafter on:

  • All employees who have regular direct contact with children.
  • All volunteers used to meet staff-to-child ratios

Other Relevant Rules

Children’s Code - Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 48

Confidentiality of Treatment Records - Wisconsin Administrative Code DHS 92

Emergency Mental Health Service Programs - Wisconsin Administrative Code DHS 34

Facilitating the Adoption of Children with Special Needs - Wisconsin Administrative Code DCF 50

Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act - Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 48.028 (Children's Code) Additional information, forms and publications pertaining to the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act is available.

Information to be Provided to Out-of-Home Care Providers (including Foster Parents) - Wisconsin Administrative Code DCF 37

Juvenile Justice Code - Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 938

Patient Rights and Resolution of Patient Grievances - Wisconsin Administrative Code DHS 94

Re-Entry into Out-of-Home Care for Youth 18 Years of Age or Over, But Under 21 Years of Age - Wisconsin Administrative Code DCF 21