Gov. Jim Doyle signed four child care services reform bills Friday that enforce preventative procedures against fraudulent child care services and measures to ensure the safety of children.
“We have come a long way to help kids have the best education, best health care and best family support system possible. These bills signed into law today build on our efforts to protect our kids and ensure they can get a great start to life,” Doyle said in a statement released Friday.
Doyle also said in the statement the fraud discovered in the state’s child care program is unacceptable and these bills are an important step in improving those programs in the future.
Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, lead author on the bipartisan bills, said in a statement the efforts for reform were driven by a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article written in January that exposed cracks in the Wisconsin Shares program, which grants biweekly reimbursements for child care assistance to low-wage working parents.
“During the past year we responded thoughtfully and decisively to implement principled reforms to improve integrity and restore public confidence in programs that provide services for children and families,” Jauch said.
Jauch, along with other members of the Senate Committee on Children and Families Workforce Development composed the bills, and Assembly cosponsors include Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
One of the reforms will permit the Department of Children and Families to investigate fraudulent businesses abusing the taxpayer-funded Wisconsin Shares program, even after the providers have closed their businesses.
Another reform requires child care services to make public any information on cases of child abuse or neglect resulting in serious injury or death at their facilities, allowing increased accountability and transparency.
A third reform bill works toward increased efforts to place foster children into the custody of relatives, keeping siblings in the same foster families and increasing foster parents’ rights in legal matters.
Jauch said in his statement this bill was inspired as a result of the lack of preventative measures reported in the case of the torture and murder of 13-month-old foster child Christopher Thomas last November in Milwaukee.
The fourth reform bill provides for regular background checks for specific criminal backgrounds for potential child care workers and prohibits these criminals from being employed or taking residence in the location of a child care provider.
According to Doyle’s statement, he will continue to work toward providing child care to low-wage parents by proposing the Wisconsin Quality Rating and Improvement System, which would gauge the performance of the state’s child care providers to determine the amounts of reimbursement to provide through Wisconsin Shares.
A plan of the proposal, the statement said, will be presented by Doyle’s administration to the state Legislature in the coming weeks.