WISCONSIN LEGISLATIVE AUDIT BUREAU
Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy Program
Wisconsin Shares assists Wisconsin Works
Four types of providers offer subsidized care through the program. In
Program Participation Has Grown Substantially
When the program began participation was low, but it has since increased markedly.
From September 1997 through June 2000, monthly participation increased by
There is potential for continued program growth, although it is not fully known how the most recent eligibility and copayment changes will affect participation. A federal report estimated that in 1998, approximately 14 percent of eligible Wisconsin families participated in the program. In comparison, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio had participation rates that were substantially higher, ranging between 24 and 27 percent of those eligible. We identified a number of reasons why families do not participate, including costs to the families, availability of child care, and access to transportation. Although these reasons are faced by all families seeking regulated child care, families eligible for the program typically have fewer resources to help them in meeting these challenges.
Management of Child Care Grant Programs Could Be Improved
The Department has implemented an effective system to issue subsidy payments on behalf of program participants; however, its efforts to manage grants that it makes to providers for increasing the quality and availability of child care could be improved. For example, the percentage of licensed providers who achieved the required standards set forth in certain quality improvement grants has fallen consistently over the past several years, and less than half of licensed group providers awarded these grants between 1993 and 1995 achieved the standards.
In addition, although the amount of funds awarded for child care start-up and expansion grants has been relatively small, totaling $529,100 in 1999, the Department could do more to determine whether child care program outcomes meet specified grant purposes. The need for enhanced oversight will be especially important given the establishment of a new program that will provide up to $26.0 million in federal funds directly to counties and other local entities for child care-related services during the next two years.
Funding Issues Will Need to Be Addressed
Determining the level of funding to be provided for the program will be an important
issue for consideration in the
Rather than increase funding, the Legislature could lower program costs by, for example, allowing counties to establish waiting lists for families that cannot be served within existing budgets, possibly while also giving priority to
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