2021 was a pivotal year for the Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN). What started as a localized response to a lack of child care in Vernon and Monroe counties in early 2019 is now expanding to a statewide program.
In the years leading up to the launch of WEESSN, our staff had countless meetings with community leaders, parents and child care providers. In collaboration, we created a core set of services to meet the needs of child care providers in the region. As WEESSN grew from two part-time staff to now 19 full-time employees, we’ve had to create internal and external structures to ensure our model always leads with our core values. Additionally, we have been slowly creating external infrastructure that will allow us to do more while using fewer resources. Technology, like shared case management software, allows our staff to work remotely in the communities they serve, while not spending money on office space. We have worked intensely with the child care management software system, Alliance Core,, to adapt the technology so that it meets the unique needs of Wisconsin providers and connects to the bookkeeping software QuickBooks. Another important infrastructure-building initiative has been to create intersections to other community and statewide supports like food systems, public health, economic development and extension offices, for example. Perhaps the most important part of building our programming hinges on our work with Co-Create from the Center of Community and Non-Profit Studies (CommNS). Over 18-months, Co-Create and others from the CommNS will complete a formal evaluation of the WEESSN program and create a five-year sustainability plan so that we can ensure viability and maximize benefits to programs long into the future.
Every WEESSN team member has significant lived experience working in either center-based administration or owning a family child care program. This experience is invaluable when working alongside WEESSN members and forecasting new challenges. Like everyone else, we have been impacted by the pandemic and have had to evolve. As we inch closer to 2022, we are excited to continue to innovate with a focus on internal efficiencies and greater benefit to the early care and education workforce. In a way, it feels like we are still a very new program that is just getting our foundational necessities in place. Building this program from the ground up has been a slow but needed process to truly be able to operate as a statewide system of child care support.
We continue to research and pilot different types of services specific to a regional context or overall need. In this way, we can test something to make sure it works the way we think it will and WEESSN members find it beneficial.