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Start Your Own Regulated Program

Which Type of Program is Right for You?

Certified Child Care
Visit the Department of Children and Families’ website for more information regarding Certification.

Thank you for all you’ve done to make this process clear for us. Without you we would have felt as if we were left to fend for ourselves with brick walls, frustration, confusion, red tape and no leadership from you. Thank goodness for Supporting Families Together Association through the [Wisconsin Department of Children and Families].

– Provider comment to Pre-Licensing Specialist

Licensed Family Child Care
In Wisconsin, a family child care license is required if you are going to care for four or more children under the age of 7 years who are not related to the provider. A licensed family child care provider is limited to caring for no more than eight children at any one time. Many resources are available from a variety of agencies, to assist you in exploring this career option and in preparing to apply for a license. Access the Family Child Care Initial Licensing Checklist under “Family Child Care Resources” below.

Licensed Group Child Care
In Wisconsin, a group child care license is required to care for nine or more children for less than 24 hours a day. Many resources are available from a variety of agencies, to assist you in exploring this career option and in preparing to apply for a license. Access the Group Child Care Initial Licensing Checklist under “Group Child Care Resources” below.

Contact your local child care resource and referral agency for more information or visit the WI Department of Children and Families website.

*Please note, if you are starting a child care we have recently received some reports from the field that there are individuals attempting to make child care providers pay to receive Department of Workforce Development (DWD) posters that they say you must have posted in your program. Do NOT pay for these from anyone claiming that you should. These are not required to be posted by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and you can check under the DWD requirements to see whether any of them are required to be posted at your program by DWD. If you choose to post some or all of these posters you can access them for free right here.

Still Not Sure? Attend an Information Session

View Info Session dates in English (PDF)

View Info Session dates in Spanish (PDF)

If you are interested in becoming a regulated child care provider and cannot decide which type would be the best for you, please join us at one of our information sessions where you will learn:

  • The different types of regulated child care in Wisconsin
  • The steps you need to take to get started
  • Tips for successfully becoming regulated

Getting Started

Explanation of licensing and regulation (PDF)

Overview of the licensing process for family and group child care (PDF)

How to Get Started with Licensed Care

Order a Family or Group Child Care Inquiry Packet by completing this form and sending with it, a check or money order for $25, payable to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to:

Department of Children and Families
2187 North Stevens Street, Suite C
Rhinelander, WI 54501

Inquiry Packets include a licensing rule book, suggested procedures for starting up a program, a start-up worksheet, and other information necessary to begin the start-up process. Once you receive the packet, complete the Child Care Business Start-Up Worksheet and mail to:

Supporting Families Together Association
700 Rayovac Drive, Suite 6
Madison, WI 53711

Supporting Families Together Association and our partnering Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies support potential early care and education professionals getting off to a strong start. With the assistance of the WI Department of Children and Families, SFTA and our partners provide the following services to potential licensed providers:

  • A maximum of 8 hours of technical assistance for potential group child care providers
    • Phone and/or email technical assistance
    • one policy review (required)
    • one site visit (required)
  • A maximum of 6 hours of technical assistance for potential family child care providers
    • Phone and/or email technical assistance
    • one policy review (required)
    • one site visit (required)

Once the worksheet is received, SFTA will assign a technical consultant to provide you with limited support—free of charge—in the areas of licensing rules and procedures, written policies, and environments. Additional technical consultation may be arranged to support providers in their preparation efforts, for an additional investment. For more information, please ask your technical consultant.

For a more detailed outline of the full process to become licensed, visit the WI Department of Children and Families’ Child Care Start-Up Information webpage. For ideas and inspiration, read about Wisconsin child care programs succeeding in YoungStar.

Access More Resources for Becoming Licensed

Family Child Care Resources

Group Child Care Resources

More Resources
  • Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF)
    Early Care and Education
    Child Care Information for Providers
    Subscribe to Child Care Updates from DCF
    201 East Washington Avenue, Second Floor
    P.O. Box 8916
    Madison, WI 53708-8916
    608-267-3905
    Information about obtaining a child care license.
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) in Wisconsin
    Department of Public Instruction
    125 S. Webster Street
    P.O. Box 7841
    Madison, WI 53707-7841
    (608) 267.9129
    CACFP promotes healthy and nutritious meals for children and adults in day care by reimbursing participating day care operators for their meal costs.
  • Child Care Information Center (CCIC)
    201 East Washington Street
    Madison, WI 53703
    1 (800) 362.7353
    A state funded library of books, videotapes, audiocassettes, articles and brochures on all aspects of child care, and child development in Wisconsin. Most are free; the only cost for borrowed books and tapes is return postage.
  • Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies
    Find your local agency
    1 (888) 713.KIDS
    Access live support regarding your child care business.
  • The Foundation Center
    79 Fifth Avenue/16th Street
    New York, NY 10003-3076
    1 (800) 424.9836
    Obtain information about grants and foundations.
  • The Grantsmanship Center
    P.O. Box 17220
    Los Angeles, CA 90017
    (213) 482.9860 or (800) 421.9512
    Obtain information about grants and foundations.
  • SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
    1 (800) 634.0245
    Small Business Association program; several of these are located around the state. Retired executives offer free counseling to individuals or groups interested in starting a new business.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration Resources
    740 Regent Street, Suite 100
    Madison, WI 53715
    (608) 441.5263
    310 West Wisconsin Ave. Room 400
    Milwaukee, WI 53203
    (414) 297.3941
    An independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise, and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.
  • WI Economic Development Corporation
    (855) 469.4249
    Physical Address: 201 W. Washington Avenue
    Madison, WI 53703
    Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1687
    Madison, WI 53701
    A combination of technical and financial assistance programs that have been designed to assist businesses at all points including: business planning, site selection, initial capitalization, permitting (including environmental), employee training, research and development, business expansion and export development
  • WI Department of Revenue
    P.O. Box 8906
    Madison, WI 53708-8906
    (608) 266.2772 Withholding tax frequently asked questions
  • WI Department of Workforce Development
    201 E. Washington Avenue
    P.O. Box 7946
    Madison WI 53703
    (608) 266.3131
    The Department’s primary responsibilities include providing job services, training, and employment assistance to people looking for work. It also works with employers on finding the necessary workers to fill current job openings.
    See: Unemployment compensation, wages and hours, worker’s compensation, and workplace posters.
  • Wisconsin Small Business Development Center
    423 Extension Building
    432 Lake Street
    Madison, WI 53706-1496
    (608) 263.7794
    Wisconsin’s SBDC network consists of twelve service centers and four specialty centers, all located on four-year UW Campuses.
  • Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) An economic development corporation that provides quality business education, technical assistance, and access to capital through their lending programs.
  • YoungStar Department of Children and Families
    201 East Washington Avenue, Second Floor
    P.O. Box 8916
    Madison, WI 53708-8916
    (608) 267.3905
    YoungStar is a program of the Department of Children and Families created to improve the quality of child care for Wisconsin children.

See Success for Yourself

“I personally take a lot of pride in what we have accomplished…I actually made laminated stars when we got our 3 Star rating and took a group picture.” – Nancy Volden, Director Creative Child, Onlaska Making a Difference Creative Child […]

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