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Spring 2023 Newsletter

Innovations, Enhancements Continue 

Less than five years after its 2019 launch, WEESSN has become a groundbreaking program that changes the status quo in early care and education (ECE). The shared services network allows ECE programs, which operate as independent small businesses, to harness the collective power of experts in finance, business, and program management to streamline processes, improve compliance, save time and money, and increase the quality of service provided. Each child care program can customize and utilize the resources to best help stabilize and strengthen their business for the benefit of young children, parents, staff, and the community they serve.

A guiding principle of WEESSN – championing the voices of those with lived experience – was born out of years of relationship-building and connecting with child care providers across the state. When WEESSN expanded to a statewide model in 2021, it evolved the array of services it provides in direct response to the needs of child care programs and the communities in which they operate. 

WEESSN launched a tiered service model to allow programs to choose the level of support and engagement that works best for their unique needs and circumstances.

In addition to access to WISER, an online knowledge hub with 2,600+ specialized resources for child care businesses, WEESSN offers financial resources, tax guides and tools for tax preparation, access to a digital hiring program and waitlist management software, and professional development training that earns Wisconsin Registry and continuing education credits – provided at no cost to programs. 

Tier 2 programs can connect with a virtual coach and access program management software and telehealth services. Child care programs enrolled in Tier 3, which offers a deeper level of engagement, have access to a dedicated coach, food systems support programming, and a substitute teacher pool. Tier 3 coaches provided nearly 2,200 hours of one-on-one coaching in 2022 to address pressing questions from their programs on business topics. Many of these services would be out of reach for individual programs working on their own, but together there is greater opportunity for access.

Tax and Financial Resources

For example, in 2022 WEESSN partnered with Civitas to create a revolutionary new set of tax guides specifically for child care businesses. The guides focus on helping providers use the three largest online tax preparation software brands to address specific child care business tax scenarios. Finding affordable, informed tax preparation has long been a challenge for child care businesses. These new tax guides give providers the specific knowledge they need to input accurate information about their business, removing a key barrier in using these efficient, cost-effective online tax preparation methods. In addition, these tools are being offered completely free to child care providers across the nation because there are hundreds of thousands of child care providers who can immediately benefit. 

Civitas and WEESSN also partnered to create a full slate of financial and business resources, including information on building a budget, managing cash flow, saving for retirement, and much more. One substantial focus was maximizing usage of Stimulus Funds and Tax Credits. Civitas offered training sessions and personal coaching about the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) and Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA). The results have been outstanding: programs have been able to recoup nearly $1.1 million in funds to date. 

Our program has been positively impacted by the Employee Retention Credit! We received almost $12,000 and we were able to do great things to improve our child care and the environment for our children, staff, and families. With programs like this we are moving in a great direction by being able to increase teacher’s pay, improving the classrooms, and being an asset to our community. Quality child care is so important and necessary for our community. We are so thankful that this program was available as it has helped so much!

- Kristin Miller, Director, St. Stephen’s Child Care 

Educator Assistance Program

In 2023, WEESSN became the first ECE shared services network in the nation to offer a statewide Educator Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP covers all employees of child care programs enrolled in WEESSN – as well as employees’ family and household members – reaching an estimated 22,000 people. This valuable benefit provides confidential mental health counseling services as well as professional resources, including legal and financial services, wellness resources, and a cost savings program. The EAP promotes well-being and helps increase employee satisfaction and retention. 

Provider Assistance For Licensing (PAL)

WEESSN is working to increase child care supply capacity in rural areas of Wisconsin’s northern and western regions, where child care deserts are prevalent, by helping 100 child care programs become regulated by June 2024. The Provider Assistance for Licensing (PAL) program includes business coaching, funding, and start-up toolkits to help new businesses sustainably establish themselves and will result in an estimated 2,500 new child care slots. Additionally, WEESSN provides start-up coaching across the rest of the state to ensure entrepreneurs receive the support they need to open new child care businesses. These start-up supports help meet the critical need to increase the number of Wisconsin’s child care programs and ensure they have a foundation for sustainable business practices, from pre-planning to operation.

Build It Strong

Build It Strong, an 18-hour business training program, was re-envisioned in 2023 after originally being developed by WEESSN leadership in 2021. It supplies the tools providers need to be successful business owners and ensure strong foundational business and administrative practices. A new session was added to troubleshoot common licensing violations and the full training series was translated into Spanish. Access to the series also was expanded to include an online option via a virtual learning portal so providers have added flexibility to learn at their own pace and schedule. This course continues to be offered in-person in addition to live virtual options. 

Food System Supports

WEESSN food system supports include innovative Farm to ECE programs for connecting providers with farmers and increasing access to fresh produce and affordable, nutrient-dense foods. These programs are available for Tier 3 and, when possible, Tier 2 participants in designated areas. Pilot programs in 2022 included food box deliveries, garden beds, and garden grants.

In 2023, 164 programs received grants for new or replenished gardens, totaling $50,400. The Food Systems coordinators introduced a Garden Tips texting program to help providers engage the children they care for with gardening projects. And in collaboration with the WECA Food Program, WEESSN started a toolkit lending library with 12 kits that include learning activities about cooking/baking, composting, and mushroom growing (available in English and Spanish) for checkout. The Farm to ECE newsletter offers recipes and resources to encourage healthy eating and creative nutrition programming and is available to all WEESSN-enrolled programs.

Assessment and Growth

WEESSN continuously seeks feedback from programs and evaluates programming to inform its services and approach. Recent focus group and evaluation results show WEESSN-enrolled providers feel more confident, competent, and informed. They noted an increased ability to recruit and retain staff, solve problems, and reduce stress. Case studies report a deep fiscal impact for child care programs participating in WEESSN, including: 

  • After consultation with WEESSN staff, a rural family child care provider was able to collect an outstanding balance of several hundred dollars within 24 hours from a family who had left abruptly. 


  • WEESSN staff worked with a suburban center-based child care program to make needed changes to policies and budget priorities and assisted them in securing a contract with the Child and Adult Food Care program, resulting in $80,000 annual savings that was reallocated to employee health insurance.  

  • An urban child care program licensed for 150 children found $35,000 in annual savings by utilizing WEESSN’s financial services, Relief Squad substitute teachers, and job recruitment services. This has allowed them to improve quality, support wage enhancements, and offer tuition discounts to families.

For 2023-24 WEESSN has contracted with Luminary Evaluation to dig deeper into WEESSN's impact on child care business practices. With an updated logic model as a priority goal, the WEESSN team and Luminary created a list of metrics closely tied to the Iron Triangle of child care finance. WEESSN will start collecting data, based on these metrics, from Tier 3 members in July 2023. This comprehensive quantitative evaluation is groundbreaking in the ECE shared services movement nationwide. WEESSN will be highlighted alongside Georgia’s Quality Care for Children for this work at the National Technical Assistance Shared Services Conference co-hosted by Opportunities Exchange and Civitas Strategies. 

Shared services networks are nationally emerging as a strategy for maximizing the impact of resources invested in child care as evidenced in the Administration for Children and Families federal guidance and Wisconsin’s Child Care Development Fund (CCDF)Plan. WEESSN is quickly becoming a leader in this space. 

Since its inception, WEESSN has continued to rapidly innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible in the early childhood sector. The shared services model is poised to become the ecosystem through which child care businesses operate and thrive. Given the current scale and established relationships with local, state, and national partners, WEESSN sees a future of exciting possibilities for continued innovation to address challenges and ensure the ECE system works for all children, families, and communities across Wisconsin.

WECA 2022 Annual Report

For more information about WECA’s programs, please review the 2022 Annual Report


Wisconsin Early Childhood Association

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

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