Child care fraud puts state program in jeopardy - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Child care fraud puts state program in jeopardy

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Secretary Reggie Bicha of the Department of Children and Families appeared in front of the Joint Finance Committee Tuesday to discuss a troubling state audit.

The Legislative Audit Bureau also found several cases of fraud within the Wisconsin Shares program, which oversees day care licensing in the state. The program received $20 million in fraudulent funds last year.

The program began in 1996 to help low-income families afford child care. DCF said Tuesday Milwaukee day cares are ridden with fraud and have the potential to "crumble the entire program."

Members of the Joint Finance Committee were visibly upset as Bicha discussed the audit report.

"This isn't about Republicans or Democrats," said Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). "Everybody in this room is outraged."

In most cases, daycare providers claimed to provide care for more children than they actually did, meaning the state paid them more money than they should have earned.

Bicha said these problems go back much farther than he does, said the buck stops with him.

"This state has accepted poor quality for far too long," said Bicha, "and the time for meaningful systemic change is now. I do not tolerate fraud."

DCF has suspended more than 100 child care licenses in the state since its creation last fall. Plus, DCF created a Shares Fraud Hotline for people to call in to report suspicious child care providers.

But that didn't do much Tuesday to ease tensions over the $20 million that's already gone.

DCF announced Monday that it suspended payments to 35 child care providers after evidence was revealed they violated regulations.

The state suspended payments to 34 providers earlier this month.

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