Innovative Communities Around Wisconsin

Communities around Wisconsin are coming up with innovative ideas to help solve the child care crisis. It’s hard to find affordable, high-quality child care that meets families’ needs in Wisconsin. However, affordable, high-quality child care could add a huge boost to Wisconsin’s economy each year. When we all invest in quality child care everybody in Wisconsin benefits. Download an infographic that illustrates how the community approach to solving child care challenges could work and read more about real communities putting these ideas into action below. 

Does your community have their own solutions to share? Submit them through our innovative communities form and you may see them featured here too.

Jackson County Childcare Network

In 2021, a collective impact was started with the Jackson County Childcare Network and Children's Wisconsin to engage the local community to address the ECE crisis in Jackson County and enhance protective factors for families to mitigate negative outcomes and support family well-being. Protective factors are attributes of individuals, families, or communities that can mitigate risk and promote healthy development and well-being, such as the capacity to cope with stress and trauma through skill-building, social connections, and resilience. Children’s, the main provider of community services in Jackson County, and the Jackson County Childcare Network determined the way to create change was to bring together the community, including businesses, tribal members, child care providers, elected officials, agency representatives, and caregivers to work on solutions in a collaborative capacity. 

We have been working together to facilitate outreach to stakeholders, seeking community input on strategies, and evaluating and reporting on progress. Building consensus around root causes and the impact of the ECE crisis and developing effective strategies to address it can only be done through ongoing community outreach and relationship building. This model of change is often referred to as the “collective impact model.” Children's WI and the Jackson County Childcare Network are working to create a shared understanding of protective factors through evidence-based training and community education and outreach to ensure that parents and caregivers in Jackson County are involved in developing solutions that work for them. To date, the collective impact has already held three community stakeholder meetings, attracting over 75 participants, ranging from parents to judges, school leaders, tribal leaders, early childhood educators, legislators, and social services providers. The outcome of these events was two fold: the bold and common goal of increasing the number of child care slots in Jackson County from 276 to 776 by 2028 (500 new slots) and six strategies were determined. Currently, three workgroups are meeting to work on these strategies and determine the metrics for each strategy. For Jackson County, having 276 childcare slots for over 1,000 children has many consequences for children, families, and businesses. 

Brown County United Way, FRCNEW, and COMSA

Through a partnership between Brown County United Way, COMSA, and Family & Childcare Resources, foundational classes for early childhood educators have been offered to Somali Refugees. The partnership is providing translators and child care providers (to provide child care for the children of the participants in the class) so the participants can attend the class and hear the content in their first language. The first class, Foundations of Infant and Toddler Care, just wrapped up with 29 participants successfully completing the course. The team of translators and trainers is currently working to schedule the next class, Introduction to the Child Care Profession. By having early childhood professionals that reflect the diversity of our community families are more willing to bring their child to a child care program. Read the full article in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Preschool of the Arts

We spent the spring and summer of 2022 developing a new equitable wage scale with the goal of creating a fair system of compensation across all of our child care workers and raising our wages to be competitive, fair, and rewarding. It impacted every member of our school community as every person employed by Preschool of the Arts received a considerable raise in salary. The key was to make sure whatever we did with the wage scale would be sustainable over the long haul. Our board is dedicated to making sure that happens, and staff salaries and benefits are priorities in our strategic plan for years to come. Treating teachers and early childhood staff like the experts they are is crucial for the quality of the program, the good of the children, and for supporting the families. Grateful every day that we could do this vital change!

Milwaukee Succeeds-led MKE ECE Coalition

The Milwaukee Succeeds-led MKE ECE Coalition began as a group of partners and community leaders working to support Milwaukee’s early childhood education sector through the pandemic, including distributing PPE and cleaning supplies and raising local and national philanthropic funds for flexible stabilization grants to over 440 ECE providers in predominantly Black and Brown communities. Over time, the Coalition has grown in membership and scope. Today, the Coalition is comprised of home- and center-based ECE providers, organizations that support early educators and families, and representatives of government, philanthropy, physical and mental health providers, and K12 and higher education. The Coalition has two goals: increasing access to quality, affordable ECE for Milwaukee’s Black and Brown families and increasing recruitment, retention, compensation, and professionalization of the ECE workforce. 

The Coalition has successfully advocated for the City of Milwaukee to invest $7 million in ARPA dollars into wage stipends for early educators and efforts to strengthen and diversify pathways into the workforce with a focus on young men of color. It has secured a $5 million state Workforce Innovation Grant to build a new pipeline into the ECE workforce based on earn-as-you-learn accelerated coursework, wraparound supports, career counseling, and job placement. It has provided 350 early educators and 450 families of young children with free mental health trainings and resources. Coalition members conduct timely research and analysis of needs and opportunities in Milwaukee’s ECE sector, including an analysis of the demographics, educational attainment, and career aspirations of the ECE workforce and a first-of-its-kind provider survey on the uses and impact of the Child Care Counts program. And the Coalition works to build awareness of the importance of ECE, the challenges facing the sector, and ways to support it among Milwaukee’s leaders and members of the public. 

Kids First Preschool & Child Care Center

Kids First is able to provide free child care to our employees for the first time. This is an added benefit for staff that we otherwise would not be able to provide. Early childhood teachers' rate of pay is low in comparison to teachers in the school district and to pay for child care as well can be difficult. 

On the side of a small business owner, it is very difficult to provide the benefits for our staff that make a job more attractive. If we want longevity with our staff, we need to be able to provide benefits. Partner Up! made this possible and it was a win/win situation for the employee, the employer, and our community.

A Million Dreamz

A Million Dreamz is not yet open but working through the licensing process. They are instituting a new approach to child care where the main focus is on service to families. They will be their county's only 24/7 child care center, offering full time, part time, and occasional care to meet the direct needs of each family. In addition, they have the support of a Community Development Block Grant from the City of Sheboygan to start their flexible rate program to make the costs of child care affordable to all.

In addition, they are instituting an Extra Needs Program for children with disabilities or challenging behaviors. They believe that these two additional programs combined with scheduling to meet the families where they are at will create a ripple effect in service to different sectors throughout the county. Workforce development, financial independence, elimination of child care expulsion rates, and lower rates of child abuse should follow the development of this center as they provide services to support the continuing development of healthy families.

Dream Up! Communities

As part of the Project Growth program, 28 communities were awarded $75,000 in Dream Up! grants. The Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building grant program, administered by our partner, First Children’s Finance, focuses on building child care supply through a collaborative community approach. As these communities continue their strategic planning, we will provide updates. So far we have captured the work of two awardees in the videos below.

Bad River Tribe

Rusk County

Sun Prairie