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Childcare FAQ
State of Wisconsin

Finding the right caregiver for your child is often challenging, but it is one of the most important decisions you will make. Parents play the most important role in the life of a child; however, the relationship between a child and a caregiver can affect a child's self image and how he or she views the world. When infants, toddlers and young children receive warm and responsive care, they feel safe and secure. When parents know their children are receiving warm and responsive care by well-trained providers, those parents can return to the workforce feeling secure in the knowledge that their child is receiving safe and nourishing care.

Licensed Child Care

Under most state's law, no person may for compensation provide care and supervision for more than a very small number (3 or 4) or more children unless that person obtains a license to operate a child care center from the State. This generally does not include a relative or guardian of a child who provides care and supervision for the child; a public or parochial school; a person employed to come to the home of the child?s parent or guardian for less than 24 hours a day; or a county, city, village, town, school district or library that provides programs primarily intended for recreational or social purposes.

Most States distinguish at least 2 different categories of state licensed child care; they depend upon the number of children in care:

  • Licensed Family Child Care Centers provide care for a small number of children. The number will vary by state. This care is usually in the provider's home, but it is not required to be located in a residence.
  • Licensed Group Child Care Centers provide care for more children. These centers are usually located somewhere other than a residence and may be small or large in size.

Important Questions

Most experts consider caregiver education and training to be one of the most critical areas for ensuring and improving the quality of child care. Education in early childhood education and previous experience caring for children can help providers develop the skills necessary to provide quality early childhood experiences to children.

Fewer children per caregiver and smaller group sizes are important because children receive more individual attention and caregivers can be more responsive to each child?s needs. The child care licensing regulations specify the maximum number of children who may be cared for in a group and they also specify the number of caretakers required for a group of children. For example, in a Group Child Care Center when children are under age 2, there should be no more than 4 children per caregiver with no more than 8 children in the group. When children are between ages 3 and 4 years, the Group Child Care Center licensing rules allow 10 children per caregiver with no more than 20 children in a group.  The exact numbers from above will vary by state but tend to be in these ranges.

Children need to be exposed to a variety of new experiences and opportunities in a safe environment. There should be some structure in the daily activities planned for children with opportunities to play outside each day. The center should be equipped with toys and furnishings that are safe and child appropriate. There should be open spaces for children to explore and quiet spaces for reading a book or playing with puzzles.

Most experts consider it very important that you have the right to come in to the program anytime.  Sometimes, when you are asking to tour a center before placing your child there for care, a center may ask that you make an appointment so that someone may be free to show you around and answer questions. But once your child is enrolled in the center, you have the right to come in to the program anytime.

You can tell a lot about a child care program by visiting the program before you enroll and by stopping in unexpectedly after your child is enrolled. Things to look for when visiting a program include noise levels; crying children; whether there are televisions turned on all the time; and whether children seem engaged in meaningful play activities or are wandering aimlessly. Check to see if the child care providers are interacting with the children or whether they are busy with other tasks.

Most states require that licensed programs receive periodic monitoring visits by a licensing specialist. Each time a monitoring visit is conducted, the licensing specialist checks to ensure compliance with selected licensing rules. At the end of every monitoring visit, the licensing specialist discusses any violations or concerns with the licensee and a report of the findings is issued. This report can be either a Statement of Non-Compliance that enumerates the violations found or a Compliance Statement that shows that no licensing violations were noted on the visit. These reports must be posted in an area of the center that is readily visible to parents and the public. If you don?t see a licensing visit report posted, you should ask the center to see the results of the most recent monitoring visit.

Parents are encouraged to call or visit the state licensing office to find out a center's compliance history. The licensing office will also be able to tell you if any complaints have been filed about the center and whether those complaints were founded or not.

Once your child is enrolled in a child care setting, you will be visiting the program regularly. Because the licensing specialist is only able to make one or two routine monitoring visits each year, the parents? help in observing what is happening at a center is critical. If you are having a problem with a center or believe that a licensing rule may have been violated you are encouraged to call the state licensing office to talk with a licensing specialist.

Each program licensed by the Bureau of Regulation and Licensing agrees to follow rules that are designed to protect the children in care. If you believe that a center may be violating one of the licensing rules, you may file a complaint with the licensing office.

Source: adopted from the State of Wisconsin