Helping child care providers choose safe places
What is Choose Safe Places?
In partnership with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Supporting Families Together Association, the Department of Health Services (DHS) is providing free consultation services to prospective child care providers of licensed group and family centers. DHS' Choose Safe Places Program helps voluntarily participating providers keep children safe from toxic chemicals and other hazards in the environment.
Why should I participate in Choose Safe Places?
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families requires every licensed or certified child care program to comply with safety regulations. Some of these regulations reduce chemical exposure, like safe handling and storage of hazardous materials and required testing of private well water.
DHS’s Choose Safe Places Program builds on these protections. Choose Safe Places helps participating providers check for chemical contamination and other environmental hazards when they choose a new location.
What can I expect from participation?
After you complete and submit a Property Checklist, Choose Safe Places will assess the location of your proposed child care center for potential environmental hazards. We will then send you a report with findings and recommendations. Providers can use this information to make healthier spaces for their children and staff. Some of the environmental hazards Choose Safe Places looks for include:
Learn more about the national Choose Safe Places initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Our environment plays a large role in children’s health.
In general, children are more likely than adults to get sick from environmental hazards. Children eat more food, drink more water, and breathe more air relative to their body size than adults do. In addition, behavior common to children, such as putting their hands in their mouths or playing on the ground, can lead to more contact with harmful substances compared to adults.
Many children spend large amounts of time in child care facilities, so it’s important to take action to make these spaces safe from environmental hazards.
- Previous uses of the property that might have left behind harmful chemicals
Contaminants can stay in the environment for a long time, even after the cause of the contamination has stopped. Knowing how the property was used before it became a child care center will help us identify potential contaminants that might still be around. For example, a previous dry cleaner business may have left behind harmful chemicals outside in the play yard and beneath the building, while an old bar could present third-hand smoke concerns.
Not all previous use will present a problem for current child care sites. Identifying those sites with a previous use that might lead to harmful environmental exposures is critical for protecting children. Choose Safe places uses a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) database of contaminated properties in Wisconsin to research the proposed child care facility address and see whether reported contamination is on-site.
- Movement of harmful chemicals onto the property from other properties
In the past, industrial practices were not regulated as carefully as they are today. Many undocumented spills occurred. Spilled chemicals can stay in the environment for a long time. Over time, chemicals can move through air, water, and soil to neighboring buildings where they can present health concerns from people who breathe contaminated air or come in contact with contaminated soil or water. Choose Safe Places uses the DNR database of contaminated properties in Wisconsin to research reported contamination nearby the proposed child care facility.
- Lead in paint
Lead is a common contaminant in older buildings because lead-based paint was used until federal law banned it in 1978. Choose Safe Places will assess the likelihood of lead paint in your home and provide you with helpful resources to keep children safe from exposure to lead paint.
- Radon gas
Radon is one of the most common, naturally occurring, harmful substances found in Wisconsin. Radon is radioactive and can cause lung cancer. While you can't see or smell radon, it can leak into your home or building. Choose Safe Places will provide radon gas testing recommendations and local resources for you.
- Contaminants in drinking water
Drinking water that is piped into your home or building comes from either a public water supply or a private well. Knowing about issues that can affect water quality is important for good health. Lead, nitrate, and bacteria are common water contaminants that can affect children’s health.
While public water systems are regulated by state and federal laws to ensure drinking water safety, the protection and maintenance of private wells are the responsibility of the property owner. Depending on your water source, Choose Safe Places will provide recommendations for keeping you and the children you serve safe from contaminants in drinking water.
I'm ready to participate. Now what?
- Order the DCF Child Care Licensing Inquiry Packet.
- Review the Voluntary Property Checklist for Child Care Providers, F-02410. This form is available in English, Spanish (Español), and Hmong (Hmoob), as well as in an online submission format.
- Submit the completed checklist via hard copy, sending an e-copy by e-mail or by completing the online submission form. Only one of these options is necessary. If you choose to mail a hard copy, please mail to:
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
ATTN: Amanda Koch
1 W. Wilson St., Room 150
Madison, WI 53703
- Receive a free, written report* from DHS within approximately two weeks.
Tips for completing the property checklist
Please answer the questions on the Property Checklist to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer to any of the questions, we recommend you talk with:
- The property owner, if you are renting the space for your facility.
- Your town planner or zoning office.
- Your town engineer or building department.
Responses to the Property Checklist are provided as general guidance only and to increase overall safety awareness. This information is not intended to constitute legal or medical advice and you should use it at your own risk. DHS accepts no responsibility or liability for damages arising from use of this information. If a more thorough investigation of the property is warranted, the user should seek the advice of appropriate professionals.
DHS does not make any warranty, express or implied; assume any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information herein; represent that its use would not infringe privately owned rights; nor assume any liability with respect to the use of, or for damages resulting from the use of any information, method, or process disclosed in this publication.
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