How to Start a Daycare in Wisconsin

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Opening a day care in Wisconsin is a great way to make a living, especially if you want to work from home and have a soft spot for children. There are also tax benefits and programs to help you pay for food. Becoming a day care provider is relatively easy in Wisconsin. With just a few classes, supplies and home inspections, you can have your business up and running within a few months.

  • Order a Child Care Inquiry Packet from Wisconsin's Department of Children and Families for essential information required to open a day care in the state. A small fee is required, which is detailed in the order form. Review the packet carefully; there will be material covering procedures for obtaining a child care license in Wisconsin and a list of items that need to be addressed.

  • Sign up for the required classes through Wisconsin's Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. CPR, sudden infant death syndrome and shaken baby classes are required for licensing. Complete “Fundamentals of Infant and Toddler Care” within 6 months of receiving your probationary license if any child in your care (other than your own) will be younger than 2 years of age.

  • Purchase safety items and age-appropriate toys. Items required by the state include outlet plugs, safety gates, high chairs, puzzles, games, books, riding toys and outdoor equipment. Save money by purchasing toys through garage sales, consignment stores and via online auctions.

  • Submit the required paperwork to the Wisconsin Child Care Improvement Project (WCCIP), the organization contracted by the state to provide consultation for anyone interested in obtaining a day care license for home or a center. A representative will contact you to determine your needs and provide necessary assistance.

  • Meet your Wisconsin licensor after your county has reviewed your application. The licensor will visit your home to made sure you are in compliance with all items on the checklist given to you in your initial packet. Once it is determined that everything is in order, it will send in the recommendation for your license to the county.

  • Join the Wisconsin Child and Adult Care Food Program. This program is set up by the government to ensure healthy meals for children, and will reimburse you for the cost of food. It provides meal samples and training seminars to help you prepare healthy food.

  • Determine the type of legal entity under which your business will operate. Register it with the appropriate municipality. If you plan to run your business as a sole proprietorship, be aware there is no legal separation between you and the business. Many home day care providers choose this option when starting out because it is the easiest. If you wish to name your business, register with the county Register of Deeds.

  • Talk to an insurance agent to determine whether or not you wish to purchase liability insurance. Liability insurance is not required under Wisconsin law, but you need to inform parents, in writing, whether or not you have it. Pet liability insurance is required if cats or dogs are in areas accessible to children during licensed hours.

  • Obtain an EIN (employer identification number) for tax purposes from the Internal Revenue Service via the IRS website. Talk to your tax adviser regarding the new business as there are many tax benefits involved when opening a day care in Wisconsin.

  • Create your own child care policy and communicate it with potential clients. Include rules, fees, hours of operation, scheduling, potty training information and anything else you need to address.

  • Advertise your new day care. Make inexpensive signs and fliers to place in nearby public libraries, coffee shops, gyms and more. Create a free website for parents to learn about your day care, and place online ads on Wisconsin classified sites.

  • Have a daily schedule with activities for the children. Check with other day care providers to see what types of curricula they have in place. Use Internet resources for additional help.

Tips & Warnings

  • Expect background checks on you and everyone living in your household.
  • Use storage crates or bins for children's belongings. Purchase toy shelves. Always check for product recalls on cribs, high chairs, strollers, etc.
  • If you rent, you will need written permission from your landlord.
  • If you wish to operate a licensed family day care center somewhere other than your own residence, ask your local zoning commission if this is allowed, and, if so, if any permits or special appeals are needed.

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  • Photo Credit children image by Marzanna Syncerz from Fotolia.com
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