What Is Child Care Pre-Licensing? The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) requires prospective providers to go through pre-licensing. Pre-licensing is a required free service for people interested in starting either a licensed family child care or group child care center in Wisconsin. WECA Pre-Licensing Technical Consultants will assist individuals in the northern or southeastern regions from start to finish as you prepare for licensing. We are here to ensure you understand and meet the licensing rules and build a sustainable business.

Get started with licensing here!

Note: If you plan to start a child care in a county not in the Northern or Southeastern regions, please contact 4C for Children.

Get started by filling out an Expression of Interest form on the Child Care Provider Portal here: 

DCF User Guide to Expression of Interest Form: 

What WECA Pre-Licensing Offers: Personalized Start-To-Finish Support

WECA Pre-Licensing Technical Consultants meet with you on a regular basis to cover all the topics needed to get you started:

  • Physical space requirements and equipment needed
  • Guidance to navigate and complete DCF forms, applications, and other documentation
  • Coaching and resources to successfully operate a child care business
    • Start-up budgeting
    • Marketing and family recruitment
    • Financial recordkeeping
    • Staffing – recruitment, interviewing, onboarding
    • Creating policy manuals
  • WECA Pre-Licensing Technical Consultants will visit you in person to ensure you are prepared for licensing
  • Free access to the WISER platform, with 2,600+ resources for early childhood professionals, and Civitas for financial and business information
  • A toolkit with supplies needed for licensing
  • Support groups – one for family and another for group programs – so you can learn from other prospective providers as you work through the process

Are you wondering if you are ready to open a child care business? Complete this self-assessment.

Become A Provider

Top reasons to start a licensed child care program
  • Set your own schedule
  • Create relationships that last for years
  • Watch your own children grow while being home with them and make money at the same time
  • Build a career that truly makes a difference
Benefits of being a licensed child care program
  • Greater credibility as a provider and business owner – possibility for greater earning potential
  • Listing on the Child Care Finder, making it easier for families to find your program.
  • Parent referrals through your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency
  • Access to agency programs to support you, families, and children:
    • Birth to Three
    • Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy Program payments – subsidy payments for low-income families
    • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) – reimbursement for healthy food
    • Participate in YoungStar, Wisconsin’s child care quality rating and improvement system.
    • Child Care Counts Stabilization Payment Program through June 2025
  • Access to business banking opportunities and microgrants
  • Secure your business safety with access to liability insurance that shields against risks
  • You have support: Tap into all WECA program resources.
    • Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN): Offers business practice resources to save you time and money
    • REWARD Wisconsin Stipend Program: Direct payments twice a year based on eligibility criteria
    • T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Wisconsin: Scholarship program to make higher education affordable and sometimes nearly free
    • Career Development Counseling: Free coaching to assist with direction on early educators’ career, educational, and professional journey
    • WECA Food Program: Offers partial reimbursement for serving healthy meals and snacks. WECA is one of six Wisconsin Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sponsors and is eligible to serve family child care programs in all counties and Tribal nations.
    • Professional Development: Annual Conference, additional trainings, WECA/NAEYC membership, and more


Get in touch to ask all your pre-licensing questions – we’re here to assist you.


p: 608-620-8165

This program is funded by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

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