How We Started
Child care programs have closed at alarming rates due to staffing, administrative burden, and finance issues as the largest challenges. As such, Wisconsin recognized an opportunity to help children, families, and early educators through a child care program-focused solution. Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) developed the Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN) to help programs succeed.
WEESSN was built from the community and for the community. WECA is a founding member of Wisconsin Partners, a multi-sector coalition, which develops broad and deep relationships to build more vibrant communities across the state. Several years ago, Wisconsin Partners launched a series of community conversations in the Vernon and Monroe counties, which led to the development of the ongoing effort now known as Kickapoo Conversations, a citizen-based forum envisioning the future of this region. Members of Kickapoo Conversations include schools, churches, youth, government and nonprofit organizations, and business leaders from small and large area employers. These conversations sought to answer the question: How can we improve access to quality child care in our region? The innovative model of the Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN) was born through these conversations and then generously funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Project (HWPP) grant from A Healthier Wisconsin Endowment to pilot in this region.
Once it was clear the pilot was working, WECA secured additional funding to expand WEESSN Tier 3 to a number of counties in southern Wisconsin. In the fall 2021, with generous funding from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, WEESSN services expanded into three tiers of engagement. Our deep level of services in Tier 3 remained regionally bound to counties in which WEESSN had deep community relationships and employed staff to work locally. Tiers 1 and Tier 2 were created to serve providers anywhere in the state through virtual connections. In January 2022, all three tiers of services became fully accessible to Spanish speaking providers.
As a network intentionally created by, for, and with the early care and education (ECE) community, WEESSN will continue to innovate and leverage resources to serve as many child care programs in Wisconsin as possible. The team is humbled by an outpouring of support and generous contributions that keep the Network in operation. In collaboration with partners like DCF, UW-Madison’s Co-Create, Early Learning Ventures, Satellite Family Child Care, and LegUp, WEESSN is strengthening programmatic infrastructure with evaluation, strategic planning, technological development, and increased supports for high-quality ECE environments. The challenges facing the ECE community are greater than ever before, and WEESSN is ready and well-positioned to provide much-needed relief.
This work is not possible without our generous partners.