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Tougher penalties in works for illegal day care providers

Posted: 10:16 PM, Feb 21, 2017
Updated: 2017-02-22 16:43:52Z

MILWAUKEE -- State lawmakers are drafting legislation that would toughen penalties for providers of illegal day care in Wisconsin, after the deaths of eight children in unregulated facilities.

The legislative push is backed by Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine). He believes the current fines are inadequate, considering the hundreds of dollars per week some providers make by illegally watching children.

"What's happening is it becomes a point where they're making a lot of money and it's easier for them to make the money and pay the parking ticket, quote unquote," Wanggaard said.

Fines currently start at $10 per day for violating the state law requiring a license to watch four or more children under the age of seven.

Wanggaard wants to increase the minimum fine to $100 per day and set a daily maximum of $10,000 for repeat offenders. Those who repeatedly break the law could spend up to nine months in jail.

In 2016, the Department of Children and Families cited 69 illegal day cares across the state.

Those unlicensed providers were all found to be caring for more than three children under the age of seven.

Records show the problem is spread across Wisconsin, including a woman in Mosinee accused of caring for 17 kids. The state's complaint says she was "hitting children in the face and head for discipline."

Another provider in Stevens Point was caught with "approximately a dozen" kids from the local 4k program.

The complaint against a day care in Chippewa County said it cared for "at least 10 children, and most are infants."

Tracy Adams of Milwaukee was cited after a state investigator found her in violation twice, caring for four and five children on those separate visits.

The I-TEAM has reported on Wisconsin's illegal day cares since 2011, discovering the deaths of eight children in the unlicensed, unregulated facilities.

Sen. Wanggaard credits that reporting for putting pressure on DCF to better police child care providers as well as bringing deficiencies in the system to light.

"This is important. These are little kids," he said.

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