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Digging Deeper: Growing need for child care impacts Wisconsin

MADISON (WKOW) — For many families, finding out you’re pregnant is one of the happiest times.

But reality can set in soon, when you start looking for child care.

“I would rather vomit every day of my pregnancy than go through finding child care again,” said Becky Rosenow, a Dane County mom.

Rosenow and her husband heard from family and friends to start the child care search process early, so they started researching and calling before the first trimester was over to find care for daughter, Etta.

“We still ended up reaching out to more than 50 different daycare providers just trying to get something,” she said.  “A lot of them just didn’t even get back to us because they didn’t have space.”

Tanya Cook, owner of Kings Kids Academy, feels the burden on the other side.

“The need is tremendous,” Cook said.

She’s been in the child care business 32 years and has noticed a difference recently.  “The hiring has been really difficult, just finding people who are qualified… It’s hard on my heart when I have to tell a parent, I do not have space right now.”

According to the Center for American Progress, 54 percent of Wisconsin is in a child care desert, meaning there aren’t enough child care providers to support the children living in that area.  Key takeaways from the study include the following:

  • Most of the burden falls on the rural population with 2/3 of people living in a child care desert.
  • 56% of the Caucasian and Hispanic populations are part of the deserts.
  • 79% of mothers in Wisconsin with young kids are working.

Where the Rosenows live in Wisconsin is classified as a child care desert.  “I’m not surprised at all,” Rosenow said.  “It’s half an hour drive to daycare.”

Thankfully for the Rosenows, the search is over.  Etta is about six months old and in daycare.  “Doing the process over again is like my worst nightmare,” Rosenow said.

“The biggest thing is start early,” Cook said.  “I always tell people, call moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas, aunts and uncles and then call me so that you’re on a list.”

Cook has noticed over the years, the state licensing and certification processes have become more rigorous.  “I understand the need for it, I understand where it came from,” she said.  “It just impacts how you can get a new staff person into place.”

A statement to 27 News from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families on the topic of child care shortage reads as follows:

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) works closely with Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) and Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCRR) statewide to support recruitment and retention of child care programs in Wisconsin.

CCRR agencies collect data on parent requests for child care referrals and track trends and challenges related to accessing child care arrangements.  CCRR agencies partner with other community stakeholders, including employers, business, philanthropic, social services, schools, libraries, United Way and others to collaboratively focus on solutions for parent and community needs.

Additionally, DCF and our partner agencies have implemented multiple initiatives to assist providers in recruiting and retaining employees, like the DCF funded REWARD Wisconsin Stipend Program.  It rewards workers in the child care and early education field who have reached specified educational levels and stay in the field.  In the last fiscal year, REWARD supported 2375 individuals with wage stipends that average $540 per year.

There is also the T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Help) Early Childhood Wisconsin Program. It provides scholarships to the Early Care and Education workforce to complete credit-based instruction.  The program also offers bonuses or raises when contract requirements are completed.  Recipients are required to commit to working in their program after completing the scholarship.  In just the past fiscal year, T.E.A.C.H. supported close to 2,000 individuals from 400 programs.  To learn more about these initiatives and our partner organizations, you can visit

Individuals interested in opening a child care center can request an inquiry packet through DCF for either a family, group, or day camp program, which contains a copy of the licensing rule book, procedures for starting a child care program, a start-up worksheet to receive services from SFTA, and other information necessary to begin the start-up process. After filling out the appropriate paperwork, they will work closely with a pre-licensing technical assistant from SFTA to prepare to apply for licensure and open a child care center. Additional information on the licensing process is available on our website by visiting

Child care teachers and family child care providers must complete specific early childhood content training and often complete credit based instruction that prepares them to have the knowledge and competencies necessary to support the care and education of young children.  The child care workforce has the important responsibility of guiding children’s behavior, planning and implementing learning activities, understanding child development and creating and maintaining safe and healthy play environments.

Recruitment and retention of skilled child care teachers, and family child care providers has become more difficult as other job opportunities with increased wages have become available in communities (including retail and fast food positions) that do not require pre-service educational qualifications and training.

We encourage families to utilize the Departments Child Care Finder website to search for regulated child care programming at This website will assist parents in identifying key elements of quality in child care so they can choose the best program for their children.

Child Care Resource and Referral Agency staff are available to support families in searching for child care programming that meets their needs in their communities. Contact CCRR staff at (888)713.KIDS or


Caroline Bach

Anchor, 27 News at 11

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