How We Started
Child care is an essential service for many families who depend on it to work. A lack of available child care prevents workforce participation, especially among mothers. With over 74% of children ages 0-5 having all available parents in the workforce, it’s a significant community support for the Wisconsin workforce. Additionally, quality child care can benefit a child for years into the future and all kids deserve the same great start. Quality care requires a skilled workforce, but as a historically underfunded field, early educators make on average $10/hr, an unlivable wage. Child care providers in Wisconsin are 98% women and are more diverse in race and ethnicity than the whole of the Wisconsin. Throughout the state, child care programs have been closing at an alarming rate with staffing and finance issues listed as biggest challenges. Wisconsin has an opportunity to help children, families, and early educators and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association has developed a solution we believe will help child care programs succeed. The Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network brings together family child care programs and group child care programs to benefit from collaborations and efficiencies. By sharing resources, knowledge, and skills, child care programs can improve outcomes for young children, build capacity in their caregiving, and benefit their communities in growing ways.
This solution was built from the community and for the community. WECA is a founding member of Wisconsin Partners, a group of 10 statewide and two regional associations ranging from AARP Wisconsin and Greater WI Agency on Aging Resources to WI Council of Churches and WI Counties Association, whose purpose is to develop broad and deep relationships in order to build more vibrant communities across the state. Several years ago, Wisconsin Partners launched a series of community conversations in the Vernon and Monroe County region leading to the development of the ongoing effort now known as the Kickapoo Conversations, a citizen-based forum envisioning the future of this region. Members of this group include schools, churches, youth, government and nonprofit organizations, and business leaders from both small and large area employers. Kickapoo Conversations has been the impetus behind envisioning the Shared Services Network model to support high quality child care within the region. On behalf of this breadth and depth of relationship, WECA successfully secured a highly competitive Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Project (HWPP) grant to provide funding for the launch of WEESSN in this region.
Once it was clear that this pilot was working, WECA secured additional funding (see funders page) to expand WEESSN to the following areas of Wisconsin:
The business community has relied on shared services for decades with over 80% of fortune 500 companies increasing their bottom line with greater efficiencies. WEESSN brings these benefits to the child care community by enabling programs to join together to gain from economies of scale and expertise in order to grow their capacities to serve our Wisconsin communities in a more sustainable fashion.
Based on extensive focus groups, survey feedback from child care programs, and the ongoing participatory nature of our program evaluation, the activities of WEESSN have been formatted to bring the most benefit to providers and are tailored to the context specific needs of the communities in which we serve.
WEESSN provides the backbone supports for a collaborative system of child care in Wisconsin. Philanthropic and public dollars can go a long way in supporting this work and keeping fees low or removing them all-together for child care programs, greatly increasing the potential for growth within this shrinking sector.