The Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN) is a fast-growing alliance of over 135 early care and education programs (center-based and family child care homes) across Southern Wisconsin. This network launched with two rural ECE programs in January 2019 and now has regional cohorts in urban, suburban, and rural localities. WEESSN employs both regionally based staff (program coaches and substitute teachers) and centralized remote workers (back-office specialist and admin). The success of such an expansive alliance hinges on responsive technological systems. Far from just picking the right software, WEESSN has spent the past 3+ years advancing a solution that brings the greatest administrative efficiencies to Wisconsin programs, including Network administrative needs as well.
WEESSN staff come to their work with extensive histories of either owning and/or operating ECE programs themselves. Even with this background, WEESSN stumbled trying to find the right software system that would meet the unique needs of Wisconsin providers and also serve as the fulcrum for all centralized network services. In the end, the team realized that they would need to put their experience and stakeholder connections to work to revise what was currently possible.
WEESSN’s biggest technology hurdles were:
- Ensuring the chosen software solution for the network could meet all the administrative needs of both center-based and family child care providers in the most efficient way.
- Ensuring equitable opportunities for center-based and family child care homes to maximize the uses of software.
WEESSN brought regional licensing staff to the table early on in-network development to ensure compliance with their Relief Squad substitute teaching service. Over time, WEESSN staff worked with licensers to ensure that online enrollment forms met the state standards for paperwork needs. Even after all of this work, state licensing requirements still prohibited family child care homes from taking full advantage of these technological advances, still requiring them to use state-supplied paper forms.
The WEESSN admin team brought this challenge to different levels of licensing staff from individual licensers to regional managers and department heads. An exception was written to pilot using Alliance Core ELV with family child care providers. Concurrently, WEESSN leadership elevated the issue with state department officials. This advocacy led to an invitation to present on the issue to the Bureau of Early Care Regulation managerial team (BERC). WEESSN brought the admin team from ELV and the Director of Colorado Licensing to collaboratively present a case for equitable usage for online forms to meet compliance.
Because of the smart collaboration of partners, WEESSN brought to the BERC meeting, and the work that was done prior to ensure ELV was fully comprehending what Wisconsin licensing and subsidy payment teams needed at the state level, engagement within the meeting was strong. ELV and WEESSN were able to address concerns and questions in the moment and followed up with screenshots of the system in use to meet compliance. WEESSN is happy to report that BERC made immediate updates to their licensing commentary to include equity for family child care programs to be able to use software solutions, and published the new commentary publicly less than a month after the WEESSN meeting. WEESSN celebrates this systems-change win for Wisconsin providers and is already setting the stage for deeper interoperability between state systems and Alliance Core.