How to Open a Licensed Family Daycare in Milwaukee, WI

by Shelley Frost ; Updated March 15, 2018

In Wisconsin, you must be licensed to provide childcare for four or more children in your home.

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Opening a licensed family day care in Milwaukee requires you to meet specific state regulations in addition to setting up the financial and insurance aspects of the business. If you care for four or more kids not related to you, you must become a licensed provider per the state's laws. Wisconsin defines a family child care program as one with at least four kids but no more than eight kids who are unrelated to the provider and who are under the provider's care for less than 24 hours a day.

Complete Licensing Requirements

The state sets specific requirements and processes for becoming licensed. Keep in mind those requirements can change at any time. Check with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to determine if any changes have occurred. Request an inquiry packet from the department to get the information you need, including the rule book, procedures, start-up worksheet and other application materials.

Wisconsin requires the completion of certain non-credit training courses, including Fundamentals of Family Child Care and Child Care Profession. You may also need to complete a business plan. Fill out the Child Care Business Start-Up worksheet in the inquiry packet. This initiates the assignment of a consultant from the Supporting Families Together Association to support you through the start-up process. The consultant walks you through all items on the checklist that you must complete for licensing. Once you finish the start-up process, you can submit your application.

Create a Business Plan

If you didn't already create a business plan during the licensing process, now is the time to do it. A business plan helps define how you plan to run your family child care program. The business plan includes things like your business strategy, specific services, your target market, the structure of the day care and the financial needs.

You also need to determine how you'll set up the business. For a small home child care program, it's common to use a sole proprietorship, which means you are the business. Your day care is tied to you, so you'll file personal and business taxes together. That also means you have personal legal liability if something happens. A partnership is a business with two or more owners. A limited liability company, or LLC, protects you from personal liability for your business' debts while still offering tax benefits and flexibility. A corporation means your business is a separate entity from you, so it protects you personally. However, taxes can be higher.

Arrange the Financial Aspects

If you run the child care program out of your home, you have fewer expenses than you would opening a larger center in a commercial space. However, you do have finances to consider. You may need to do some renovations on the home to create a safe, suitable space that meets licensing requirements. You also need a place for kids to nap, along with toys and food. While there are many free advertising options, you may decide to spend money for paid advertisements. You might spend money on software to track your income and expenses. If you hire an assistant, you also need to consider the financial aspect of wages.

The other financial aspect to consider is how much you plan to charge your clients. Compare the rates at other family child care programs in your area. The price can vary significantly even from one area of Milwaukee to another. You want to charge enough to keep your business going, but you also need to charge a fair price to attract clients.

Purchase Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage is an important part of protecting yourself. Your regular homeowner insurance policy doesn't typically cover child care businesses. In fact, the company may deny a claim if you have a child care business in your home without adequate coverage. You may be able to add a rider to the policy to provide liability coverage, or you may need a separate policy to cover the day care activities. Wisconsin requires proof of liability insurance if you have pets in the home kept in areas accessible to the kids in your care.

Establish Your Location

Licensed family child care programs in Wisconsin are usually located in the provider's home. If you rent or live in an area with a neighborhood or homeowners association, verify that you are allowed to have a child care program in your home. If your home meets the requirements, you need a safe area for the kids. A dedicated area such as a finished basement makes life easier for you because you can leave out your day care supplies all the time without interfering with your family life.

The way you set up your area depends on the age of the kids you watch. If you're caring for babies or young toddlers, you need areas for diapering, feeding and napping. Open area is also important, so kids can crawl and play with toys. The arrangement should allow you to easily see all areas of the room, so you can properly supervise the kids in your care.

A fenced-in outdoor area is also a nice addition to your business. The area should be free of hazards with an open area where kids can play without tripping or reaching dangerous items.

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About the Author

Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.