Wisconsin Public Radio

State Rewards Top Child Care Centers

Department Of Children And Families now gives higher payments to higher rated providers.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jul 5th, 2019 10:56 am
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Child care. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

Child care. Photo from the State of Wisconsin.

A state program designed to help low-income families find affordable child care will start paying its providers more as of July 1. The bonus under the Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy Program will go to child care centers with YoungStar ratings at the higher end of a 5-star scale.

“With roughly half our zip codes classified as child care deserts, we need to be aggressive in attracting and retaining child care providers,” said Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Emilie Amundson. “Providing access to affordable quality child care is an economic issue, a moral issue and it’s what is best for the kids and families of Wisconsin,” she said in a press release.

Child care centers with a 5-star rating will get a 30 percent boost while 4 star centers will get 15 percent.

A group representing child care providers called it a “move in the right direction” that will allow programs to pay staff more, increase learning opportunities and provide professional development for staff and allow them more planning time, said executive director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association Ruth Schmidt.

Currently there are 3,744 programs participating in YoungStar.

The majority of child care programs are rated 2 or 3 stars. DCF officials say they want to identify ways to increase the number of higher rated providers throughout the state.

Infant and toddler care can be particularly difficult to access and the state is working with community advocates to change that.

Wisconsin is one of 11 states recently awarded $100,000 by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative to develop a prenatal-to-age-three policy agenda and action plan.

Although lawmakers previously had approved bonus payments of 15 and 30 percent, 4-star providers didn’t receive the full amount until DCF funds became available.

If more families come into the Wisconsin Shares subsidy program, there could be more money to offset the cost. Lawmakers approved $1.9 million for child care provider bonuses in the 2019-2021 state budget sent to Gov. Tony Evers for his signature.

“Both the Republicans and Democrats have prioritized this, making sure there’s funding in the state budget to continue to support that 15 and 30 percent bonus,” said Schmidt.

Wisconsin Shares provides childcare assistance for low-income families to enable parents to work or prepare for employment through work programs and education or training.

Listen to the WPR report here.

High-Quality Child Care Centers Across State To Get Bonus was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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