This article breaks down the basics about different types of care, and which rules apply to each to receive the Wisconsin Shares subsidy.
When a parent or guardian pays for one or more adults to care for their children, this is referred to as child care. Child care is typically available to children up to the age of 12 years, unless they have special needs, then they may be able to get care past the age of 12. For low income families, support is available from government programs to help pay for child care, called subsidies or tuition assistance. Not all types of care can be paid for using these programs. That’s why it’s important to understand the different types of child care and what the requirements are to get assistance. We’ve put links to program information at the end of this article.
Child care is divided into two types with regulations based on the age and number of children being served. Not all child care has to be regulated (licensed or certified) to be legal, but without being regulated they cannot receive tuition subsidies for payment.
Family Child Care is child care provided by a qualified adult from their home. The rules for Family Child Care are different depending on the number of children and their age. A Family Child Care provider serving four or more children, who are not related to them, must be licensed to be legal. Family Care serving less than four children can get certified (instead of licensed), but it is not required.
Group Child Care is child care provided by qualified adults in a space other than a home. Legally, all Group Child Care settings providing care to nine or more children must be licensed if they are caring for children under age six.
In addition to being regulated by the government (being licensed or certified), child care providers must participate in the YoungStar quality-rating system to accept Wisconsin Shares payments.
Requirements for Child Care Providers to accept Wisconsin Shares:
A child care provider can use many different words in their name. There are no rules for how child care providers pick a name. A preschool, day care and child care center are all the same thing in terms of how the government regulates them. However, the name may give you a clue about what the provider specializes in, like care for younger children, or a focus on learning, but not necessarily. The important things to know are if they are certified or licensed and whether they are quality-rated through YoungStar.
Some programs designed for four year-olds may also be designated as “Four Year Old Kindergarten” or 4-K. Some 4-Ks go through a process to receive funding from the school district they are in. Some are in child care buildings and some are at schools. 4-Ks that receive funding through a school district are free for the time that 4-K is provided (typically about 3 hours per day during the school year), but may charge parents for the care provided before and after 4-K hours. So, if you are using a child care subsidy and your child is enrolled in a classroom that also gets 4-K funding from the school district, you will want to double check that this is okay with your subsidy program.
School-age Care is child care provided to children age six or older, before or after the school day. School-age Care is often referred to as before or After-school Care and includes after-school activities and clubs children may participate in at their school or a community center. Group Child Care providers serving children six years of age or older are not required to be licensed. While this care is legal, you will not be able to use the Wisconsin Shares subsidy to pay for it if it is not licensed and YoungStar quality-rated.
You can learn more about Wisconsin's child care tuition subsidy program at https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/wishares
You can learn more about the YoungStar Quality Rating System at https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/youngstar
You can learn more about 4 Year Old Kindergarten programs in your area at your school district's website.