Wisconsin Early Childhood Association launched in 1971 to provide the first statewide conferences for Wisconsin’s child care providers. The earliest days of the organization were led by a part-time executive director and a volunteer staff.
The Earliest Years
WECA began hosting the annual conference in 1971 when state regulators, who previously administered conferences for child care professionals, wanted to turn over the work to a partner organization to take on the role. Seven years later, WECA incorporated and officially obtained non-profit, tax-exempt (501c3) status. In 1982, we became the state affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
In 1985, the organization started sponsoring the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), allowing family child care providers to be served by the United States Department of Agriculture-supported program statewide. WECA’s Food Program became the first program to serve all counties and Tribal nations in Wisconsin.
The 1980s and 1990s
For the next 14 years, WECA’s journey was focused on the continuation of the conference, membership services, advocacy and policy efforts, and administering the Food Program until another major milestone was achieved in 1999.
The Early 2000s
That was when WECA helped bring the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® program to Wisconsin to serve early childhood educators with scholarships to support their educational pathways, goals, and achievements. Just two years later, in 2001, WECA began administering the REWARD Wisconsin Stipend Program, which provides stipends to financially support providers who long have been challenged by woefully low wages.
Innovation and Growth
In 2017, the organization launched shared services, the Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN), which continues to grow its reach throughout the state.
Advocacy: New Project in 2019
Since its earliest days, WECA has been active in policy and advocacy efforts on behalf of the early childhood workforce and early care and education, remaining a respected and trusted voice on workforce compensation. WECA marked a major step by launching the Wisconsin Infant Toddler Policy Project (WITPP) in 2019, spearheading the project to focus on the needs of infants, toddlers, and their families through work supported by a broad multi-sector coalition of key partners.
In 2022, WITPP transformed into Raising Wisconsin, an even broader and more impactful advocacy initiative that grew out of increasing public awareness around the importance of affordable, accessible child care. Raising Wisconsin brings together key partners and impacted audiences across the state – providers, families, businesses, economic officials, and community leaders – to advocate for transformational change in early care and education and optimal child health and well-being.
Throughout our history, WECA has continued to innovate to meet the evolving needs of early childhood educators and early care and education in Wisconsin, administering key programs and advancing advocacy efforts.
And, the journey has really just begun.