Starting Up an Adult Family Home

The following text is provided to all inquiries about opening an Adult Family Home in Wisconsin:

Thank you for your interest in licensure as an Adult Family Home (AFH) for 3 or 4 residents.

The Department of Health Services (DHS) has within its administration, the Division of Quality Assurance (DQA) which serves the frail elderly, persons with developmental disabilities, mental illness, physical disabilities, and persons with substance abuse problems. Regulation of facilities primarily serving adults is the responsibility of DQA. DQA is responsible for administering Wisconsin Administrative Code DHS 88 as required by Chapter 50 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which governs licensure of Adult Family Homes.

Adult family home means a place where 3 or 4 adults not related to the licensee reside in which care, treatment or services above the level of room and board, but not including nursing care, are provided to persons residing in the home as a primary function of the place except that it does not mean a place described in s. 50.01(1g)(a) to (d), Stats.

DQA does not refer residents for placement in assisted living facilities nor does the DQA provide funding to facilities to care for residents.  Residents may be eligible to receive waiver funding through county Departments of Health or Human Services.  For more information regarding funding for residents in assisted living, please visit the following websites:

Family Care

Community Options Program (COP and COP-W)

Community Integration Program (CIP II)

To apply for a license, please:

  • View the "Starting an Adult Family Home" webcast. Viewing this webcast is a requirement if you are a new Adult Family Home Provider.
  • Print the Starting an Adult Family Home Speaker Slides (PDF, 378 KB) prior to viewing the webcast.    
  • Print and sign the Verification of Completion - AFH Webcast that is available on the last slide of the webcast. The AFH Verification of Completion form must be submitted with your application materials for licensure.

Please review Chapter DHS 88 Wisconsin Administrative Code and Chapter 50 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

In addition to a signed AFH License Initial Application Form (F-60945) (Word, 159 KB) and license fee, the documents listed in section A of the AFH Initial Licensure Checklist (F-62671) (PDF, 16 KB) must be submitted.

Applications not acted upon by the applicant will be closed after one (1) year.

Caregiver Background Checks:

Caregiver background checks must be completed at least every four years.

  • The website includes information on Wisconsin Administrative Codes Chapter DHS 12 –Caregiver Background Checks; Chapter DHS 13 – Reporting and Investigation of Caregiver Misconduct; copies of forms and answers to frequently asked questions.

The Department will complete caregiver background checks on the following persons prior to initial licensure and every 4 years thereafter:

For non-government entities

  • The owner of the entity, whether or not the person has regular, direct contact with clients. If the owner is a corporation or other type of business that does not have a single owner, then the organization may designate one principal officer to legally represent the organization for the purposes of fulfilling the background check requirement. For new applicants, the individual who signs the application fulfills this requirement.
  • Principal officers, corporation or board members of the business organization, who have regular, direct contact with clients.
  • Non-client residents (over age 10) of the entity who have regular, direct contact with clients.

For government and tribal entities

  • An individual, e.g. the entity administrator designated by the government agency or tribe who operates the entity, whether or not the person has regular, direct contact with clients.
  • Non-client residents (over age 10) of the entity who have regular, direct contact with clients.

New applicants for licensure must submit a Background Information Disclosure (BID) form and a BID Appendix form, for each individual as described above, following the Caregiver Background Check process.

The entity must complete a caregiver background check on all caregivers. A caregiver is a person who is all of the following:

  • Employed by or under contract with an entity;
  • Has regular, direct contact with the entity's clients or the personal property of the clients; and is under the entity's control. "Direct contact" is defined as face-to-face physical proximity to a client that affords the opportunity to commit abuse or neglect or misappropriation of a client’s property.

A completed caregiver background check consists of:

  • A completed Background Information Disclosure (BID) ;
  • Response from the entity's inquiry to the Department of Justice; and
  • The letter from DHS containing information regarding any government findings of misconduct or credential limitations.

Copies of background checks for anyone covered under this rule must be available for review upon Department request.

Licensing Fee:

A licensing fee of $171.00 is charged every two years. The fee is submitted with the application and made payable to "DQA."

"Initial application fees and/or license/certification continuation fees are NON - REFUNDABLE."

Address any questions to the Licensing Associates at or 608-266-8482.  Return the application, other materials and fee to:

Division of Quality Assurance
Attn: Licensing Associates
P.O. Box 7940
Madison, WI  53707-7940

Additional Information:

Refer to DHS Adult Family Home information

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC): Starting a Business in Wisconsin


Supporting Older People With Intellectual Disabilities: a Course for Promoting Health

Last Revised: August 13, 2015