The Wisconsin Early Childhood Association has started the Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network.

The program was launched with funding from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program supported by Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment.

According to WECA, 68 percent of rural Wisconsinites live in a “child care desert,” where there are three or more children for every one licensed child care opening. Many businesses in Vernon and Monroe counties, such as Organic Valley, Vernon Memorial Health Care and Scenic Bluffs, have reported that it’s become increasingly more difficult to attract and retain key employees due to lack of child care options.

Based on evidence that shows that shared services can improve administrative practices and stabilize the child care market, WECA has developed WEESSN, which allows family and center-based child care programs to maintain their missions while also capitalizing on economies of scale, expertise and community collaboration. By streamlining and automating “back office” tasks, child care providers will have more time and resources to dedicate to quality programming and family engagement.

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“The current workforce depends on stable and high-quality child care options, while the future of our state lies in the healthy development of the next generation of workers,” said WECA executive director, Ruth Schmidt. “There is an important conversation about the return on investment that needs to happen across private and public sectors to support children and families.”

Businesses like Gundersen Health and Organic Valley have donated to support WEESSN, Schmidt said, because they understand parents often struggle to find affordable, high-quality care for their children. The future Wisconsin workforce, skilled and ready to work, depends on decisions we make today for our children.

Interested child care programs can learn more at https://wisconsinearlychildhood.org/programs/weessn/ or call shared services coordinator, Kelly Matthews, at 319-471-7901 for more information.

WECA works to advance positive change in Wisconsin by focusing on the professionals who care for and educate our children. WECA strengthens the capacities of early care professionals through a variety of methods, like training, educational scholarships, and sponsoring the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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