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Fall 2021 Newsletter

Building a Lasting Infrastructure to Support

Early Care and Education

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.

An example of this is a partnership with Satellite Family Child Care System to provide accreditation services to increase quality practices to non-participating, 2- and 3-star YoungStar-rated programs in Green County. Satellite’s relationship-based model may provide the additional support programs need to increase their environmental quality. 

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A second pilot just getting started is a Family Navigator project with Reach Dane. In this project we will utilize a shared Economic Services Support (ESS) worker across WEESSN programs in Dane County to assist parents in eligibility and compliance with the Wisconsin Shares subsidy program. The ESS worker will spend time at participating WEESSN programs on a regular basis to support families of low-income as needed. 

A third pilot that just wrapped up was a collaboration with Healthy Early, Partnership for a Healthier AmericaEarly, Partnership for a Healthier America, Kids Forward, Community Action Coalition and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. This group teamed up to address food insecurity among early educators, children and families by facilitating a produce distribution chain that provided 358,800 pounds of fresh produce to 62 WEESSN child care programs in Milwaukee and Madison and to each family and staff at the programs over the course of 12 weeks.

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To celebrate the completion of the pilot, Senator LaTonya Johnson joined long-time Milwaukee center director Ruby Grisby to celebrate the program in a media event held on November 18. Read more about this exciting initiative on our blog.

Looking forward, WEESSN is working to become more equitable in our programming, our services and access to our services. As a program of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA), all WEESSN staff work either one-on-one or in small groups with a seasoned practitioner around racial justice, diversity, equity and inclusion learning. WEESSN staff also take the Training and Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) courses to learn how to meet the needs of diverse learners. Over the course of 2022, we’ll be sponsoring a series of diversity, equity and inclusion trainings for all WEESSN members. Additionally, we have been learning how to provide bi-lingual services in English and Spanish and growing our team of bi-lingual staff members, so our services are truly accessible to our Spanish speaking ECE providers. We are also forming relationships with Wisconsin’s First Nations early care and education programs to potentially adapt WEESSN programming to meet their needs. Lastly, we’ve split our programming into three tiers of services, two of which can be accessed by providers anywhere in the state. This has been a huge undertaking and we are grateful to the countless stakeholders and supporters from every region of the state helping us to get the word out about this new level of access.

This work would not be possible without generous support from many WEESSN funders who believed in our vision and supported our growth. At one point, we were managing a dozen different funding reports and budgets to fund this work. Most of these amazing funders did not typically fund early childhood-focused interventions, and they took a chance on us! Eventually, the Department of Children and Families recognized the significance of this program built by experienced early childhood professionals and chose to fund our statewide expansion. From everyone on the WEESSN team, we are incredibly grateful.

While we don’t know what 2022 will bring in terms of the pandemic, federal legislation, staffing crisis, and other factors impacting early care and education in Wisconsin, you can count on WEESSN to continue to show up every step of the way. 

WEESSN in the News

WEESSN’s critical work continues to make local, state and national headlines as it works to stabilize Wisconsin’s child care market through key technology, regional and statewide partnerships, and the knowledge and expertise of WEESSN staff. Read more:

In Green County, Working to Ameliorate a Child Care Desert

What Does Child Care Look Like When It Works?

Early Childhood Systems Building Resource Guide – Financing Strategically

Wisconsin Shared Services Network Helps Streamline Licensing Paperwork

Explore more WEESSN in the News

In Their Words

WEESSN members share the value and expertise that shared services has brought to their professional lives:

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“I'm very new in the network, but it's been really nice having bi-weekly check ins to help go through important and helpful information.”


“The technical assistance that I have been receiving has been of great value as I work to expand my program to serve more children and families in my community.”

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“Just being there for me and ‘seeing me.’ I also love the trainings and Farm to ECE program.”

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Wisconsin Early Childhood Association

Ph: 608-729-1031 | Fax: 877-248-7662

[email protected]

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