PDG Partners

The Preschool Development Grant is a statewide initiative to make lasting changes to the Birth to 5 early childhood state system. Wisconsin will conduct a needs assessment and gather stakeholder feedback to develop a Birth to 5 Strategic Plan – a common agenda to address how all state, regional, and local systems that serve children Birth to 5 will align to produce better outcomes. Direction and leadership comes from the following areas:

  • Wisconsin Governor and First Lady
  • State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Secretary at DCF
  • Leadership Council on Early Years (LCEY) comprised of state agency leaders
  • WI’s Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC)

The following state agencies take leading roles.

Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF)

The Preschool Development Grant is administered by DCF, which serves as PDG’s organizational home. Our department’s vision is that all Wisconsin children and youth are safe and loved members of thriving families and communities. To reach our goal, we are focused on reducing racial and ethnic disparities in our programs and services, focusing on five key priorities:

  • Systematically increasing access to quality early care and education programs that support the needs of children and families statewide
  • Putting families in the center of successful child support and good-paying jobs programs
  • Safely transforming the child welfare and youth justice system to dramatically increase the proportion of children supported in their homes and communities
  • Dedicating additional resources to support vulnerable and historically underserved youth, specifically teenage girls, kids with complex care needs, and youth transitioning out of the foster care system
  • Fostering a workplace where agency staff feel engaged, valued, and connected to our vision

DCF serves children and families through programs including Wisconsin Shares, Family Foundations Home Visiting (in conjunction with DHS), Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, Trauma and Recovery Project, Connections Count and more.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) advances public education for children (4K-12) and libraries in Wisconsin. Their goal is to ensure that every child graduates ready for further education and the workplace. Led by State Superintendent Stanford Taylor, DPI administers state and federal laws affecting Wisconsin’s local education agencies. The department manages several state and federal education programs that serve children under 6, including the Wisconsin Head Start State Supplement Grant, Title I- and IDEA-funded programs, and child and community nutrition program.

The DPI is committed to early learners. The DPI serves as a primary partner in administering the PDG. State Superintendent Stanford Taylor serves as co-chair of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) along with Secretary Amundson of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and is also a member of the Governor’s Leadership Council on Early Years (LCEY). Additionally, the DPI provides over 70 percent of the federal cost sharing/match requirement for Wisconsin’s PDG award.

2020 PDG highlights include the following:

  • Establishment of DPI’s Young Learners Tribal Language Revitalization Initiative through PDG-funded grants to Wisconsin tribes
  • Planning and facilitation of regional listening sessions to gather needs assessment data
  • Development and dissemination of the following resources:

Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)

DHS serves children and families through programs including Part C Early Intervention (Birth to 3 Program), Family Foundations Home Visiting (in conjunction with DCF), Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs, Early Hearing Detection and Intervention, Lead-Safe Wisconsin, Seal-A-Smile and more! Along with forming part of the interconnected network of services for young children, DHS also contributes to the grant in other ways. Part of the PDG is identifying an unduplicated count of children 0-5 and the services they received during these critical years. DHS is a vital contributor to this effort.

PDG Partners

The following organizations and programs have partnered to support the PDG in the following ways:

The Applied Population Lab (APL) provides information solutions through a unique set of skills that unites applied demography, health geography, spatial analysis, information systems, planning, and community development.

2020 PDG funds will be used to:

  • Conduct focused interviews with WI vulnerable populations as part of the WI Needs Assessment
  • Produce updated maps of childcare deserts based upon impacts from COVID-19 pandemic as part of the WI Needs Assessment

The Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (CommNS) builds capacity and knowledge in community, civil society, and nonprofit studies through the integration of action and applied research, education, outreach, and engagement.

2020 PDG funds will be used to:

  • Conduct focused interviews with WI vulnerable populations as part of the WI Needs Assessment

“FAST, at its essence, helps families build healthy relationships whether that’s within their family, the family and the community, or the family and the school. FAST nurtures the relationships between all of those groups. For little ones, it’s about building strong relationships before school so that they are ready for school. We create teams to meet the needs of children and families, giving them a strong start. Our providers are also representative of the families they serve.” – Toni Rivera, Executive Director

Background: Families and Schools Together, known as FAST, is an award-winning, evidence-based program that helps kids succeed in school and in life. Focused on family strengthening, parent engagement, and social capital, FAST uses a variety of research-based activities to empower parents and strengthen the relationships between families, schools, and the community. FAST is a highly successful program that has been implemented throughout the United States and in more than 18 other countries. Their mission is to nurture the inherent potential of every child by uniting families, schools, and communities.

FAST is an 8-week program with parents and children at a school or nonprofit setting. The program works on different activities to build relationships. During FAST, families have an opportunity to spend time together, eat a meal, play games, and get to know other families. The FAST Team invites families to “just try it once.” The result: 80% of families who attend one FAST Session will successfully complete the program. The ultimate aim of Early Childhood FAST is to strengthen infant/toddler/preschooler development within their social ecological relationships by offering repeated positive interactions in a safe, nurturing, and predictable setting. The program also aims to increase the likelihood of each child being successful at home, eventually in school, and in the community.

Resources can be found on the FAST blog.

2020 PDG funds will go toward:

The Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will provide research and evaluation advice and services, and act as the fiscal agent for other University of Wisconsin efforts to support the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families’ Preschool Development Grant, Connecting the Dots for All Wisconsin Kids: Strengthening WI’s B-5 State System and Regional Networks of Support.

2020 PDG funds will be used to:

  • Evaluate Wisconsin’s early childhood system-building efforts, including the effectiveness of pilots
  • Support PDG Needs Assessment Activities
  • Develop a continuous quality improvement plan and performance evaluation

KW2 is a local marketing firm working collaboratively with DCF on a statewide multimedia communications campaign.

2020 PDG funds will be used to:

  • Provide outreach to the general public to educate them on the importance of high-quality early care and education (ECE) and research-based brain science. Additionally, provide targeted outreach to parents of Wisconsin children ages Birth to 5.
  • Provide outreach to parents of Wisconsin children ages birth through five about the existence of available services and supports, and how to effectively access these services and supports, within the state’s B-5 mixed delivery system.

The Literary Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship’s program provides career preparation opportunities for young adult males of color, ages 18-24, who are looking to become early care and education teachers. Their program provides secondary education, hands-on experience, and access to life-long learning.

Our work with ParentPowered will allow WI to use text messaging to expand and enhance family communication methods in alliance with the goals of PDG. Through the use of weekly text messaging and the Ready4K curriculum, DCF will engage with parents to promote child development and increase knowledge of Wisconsin’s early care and education (ECE) mixed delivery system.

2020 PDG Funds will be used to:

  • Providing the Ready4K curriculum in Wisconsin to families in multiple languages.
  • Developing customized text messages with the Department of Children and Families to help families learn important information about Early Care and Education in their communities and across the state.
  • Conducting quarterly, in-depth phone surveys with a sample of Wisconsin caregivers, leveraging their research-based qualitative parent interviewing protocol.
  • Developing a dashboard for Wisconsin and programs such as Head Start, to show the number of families and caregivers receiving support from the Ready4K curriculum.

Reach Out and Read (ROR) Wisconsin is the state affiliate of the national organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. ROR is implemented during well-child visits with children birth through age 5 and their parents. Medical providers are trusted advisers to families and have been shown to positively influence parental behavior.

According to Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, Medical Director of ROR Wisconsin, “Reach Out and Read allows us to take the trusted, skilled, caring, and highly-trained messengers already present in most communities — primary care clinicians — and train and support them in being able to connect with families during children’s regular checkups around sharing books together. People often think we’re a book giveaway program, but we’re secretly an evidence-based, high-quality, cost-efficient parenting support program."

Parents who participate in ROR are two and a half more times likely to make reading aloud part of their child’s daily routine. Children who participate in ROR start kindergarten with language and vocabulary skills three to six months ahead of their peers. Recent research also tells us that the act of sharing books together strengthens the parent-child relationship, supports the socio-emotional development of the child and decreases parental stress.

ROR recently reported to the PDG team that they have kept busy developing resources to ensure that children

2020 PDG funds will go toward:

  • ROR staff time for administering quality assurance and technical assistance
  • A ROR customer satisfaction survey to more than 260 participating clinics
  • Purchasing books for qualifying clinics, particularly those that serve a significantly low-income population
  • Training of medical providers and other clinic staff
  • Sustainability planning for the Wisconsin chapter of ROR

The Registry’s mission is to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to career development, promote member’s professional growth and contribute to workforce data and research. Membership with The Registry is a requirement of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

2020 PDG funds will be used to:

  • Provide coupons for free memberships for ECE professionals. Note: Funds supporting free Registry membership and renewal coupons through the Preschool Development Grant have been exhausted as of November 2020. More than 13,500 individuals in the early care and education workforce were able to take advantage and become a Registry member for the first time or renew an existing membership.

The PDG partnership with UW Department of Pediatrics aims to improve the quality of and access to early care and education programs by providing child care regulators access to health consultation based on the gaps identified in a scan of ECE policies and procedures.

2020 PDG funds will be used to:

  • A scan of the policies and procedures related to health, safety, and well-being from ECE providers statewide and an analysis of gaps and inconsistencies that impact child and family access to ECE programs.
  • Create and disseminate information to childcare regulators on basic health information including (but not limited to) child development, feeding and nutrition, basic medication administration, and some common chronic childhood illnesses.
  • Develop a plan for a sustainable health consultation in a state-wide model.

“The first five years of life is the time of unparalleled potential and yet greatest vulnerability. These years are particularly important because they provide the foundation for every domain of human development. Children can only reach their potential in the context of sensitive, responsive relationships, and supportive environments. It is upon us, the adults in their lives, to ensure this happens. I can’t think of another time when having emotionally present, loving adults was more critical. During the global pandemic and this historic time of heightened awareness of racial disparities and action to end racism we need to support our infants and young children in making sense of the world, helping them be kind, empathetic, just, open, curious, healthy, and safe.” - Lana Nenide, WI-AIMH Executive Director

Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health (WI-AIMH) has information available to providers and families on several timely topics:

Background: WI-AIMH’s focus is the promotion of healthy social and emotional development of children birth to five. Their goal is to weave infant and early childhood mental health principles and practices into the fabric of all systems that touch the lives of infants and young children. They provide parents and professionals working with young children and their families (such as child care workers, home visitors, and pediatricians) the knowledge, skills and support to use practices that enhance healthy social and emotional development for all children.

WI-AIMH recognizes that the issue and impact of racism is inextricably bound to social and emotional well-being. WI-AIMH is committed to its mission and acknowledges that this commitment necessitates self-reflection on the thoughts, beliefs and unconscious bias that sustain the oppression of children and families of color.

2020 PDG funds will go toward:

  • Increasing the knowledge and skills of early childhood educators of evidence-based social emotional strategies to address challenging behaviors and reduce the likelihood of expulsion and suspension in early childhood settings.
  • Supporting early childhood programs in creating and implementing suspension and expulsion policy.
  • Offering professional development opportunities to address effects of trauma.
  • Providing training, coaching and mentoring to some YoungStar-participating ECE programs.

T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood WISCONSIN provides higher education scholarships to professionals who work in regulated early childhood and school-age care settings. The T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship Program works to:

  • Make credit-based education more affordable
  • Improve teacher compensation
  • Retain teachers in early childhood settings by making work more rewarding

See if you are eligible and apply today!

The Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network (WEESSN) is the newest program of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA). WEESSN is an innovative system that engages cross-sector partnerships to strengthen early care and education (ECE) programs within communities. Through a shared services hub (centralized infrastructure) and established localized shared services cohorts (family, group, and out-of-school time providers as well as community partner groups), programs can benefit from pooled resources and economies of scale.

According to Ruth Schmidt, Executive Director of WECA, “WEESSN increases financial health and quality programming for child care that allows for a greater and equitable access to high-quality, affordable programming that centers the well-being of children, families, and the child care workforce. During the current crisis, this program is more relevant than ever.”

This network is currently operational in Vernon, Monroe, Dane, and portions of Milwaukee Counties. With PDG funding, WECA will be expanding to seven additional rural counties: Jackson, Richland, Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Green Counties. By sharing resources, knowledge, and expertise, child care programs can build capacity in their caregiving, improve outcomes for young children and families, and benefit the community at-large.

2020 PDG funds will go toward providing:

  • Responsive and individualized strategic administrative and financial goal-setting and mentorship
  • Access to hardware and a child care management software system to streamline administrative practices
  • Access to back office supports like payroll, billing, receiving, record keeping and licensing paperwork compliance procedures
  • Responsive, high quality group professional learning during the year
  • Access to the Relief Squad, a shared substitute teacher pool
  • Discounted, joint purchasing
  • Opportunities for collaborative fundraising and advocacy
  • Farm to ECE supports

WIDA Early Years has taken an active stance in recent months to promote free resources that are more relevant than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

Background: Housed at UW-Madison, WIDA advances academic language development and academic achievement for culturally and linguistically diverse children and youth through high-quality standards, assessments, research, and professional learning for educators. According to WIDA Early Years Director Lorena Mancilla, “WIDA Early Years promotes equitable early care and education opportunities for young multilingual children. We see strength, potential, and endless possibilities in the cultural and linguistic diversity young children and families bring to ECE programs.”

WIDA Early Years focuses specifically on the language development of multilingual children in ECE settings. It was established to support the growing number of children in ECE settings who are developing two or more languages. WIDA Early Years partners with state agencies to provide comprehensive services and access to resources for state leaders, higher education faculty, and ECE professionals who serve multilingual children and families.

“Through our work, we advance WIDA’s Can Do Philosophy – an asset-based mindset. Our passion is to help ECE professionals apply an equity lens to their practice to ensure that multilingual children receive early learning opportunities that are culturally and linguistically responsive, as well as developmentally appropriate,” Mancilla explained.

The WIDA Early Years Member State network includes Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. Visit the WIDA Early Years website to learn more about the resources available.

2020 PDG funds will go toward:

  • WIDA’s support for setting long-term goals, policy work, outreach and technical assistance for state-level initiatives and capacity-building focused on multilingual children and families
  • Statewide electronic access to the WIDA Early Years Promising Practices Implementation Kit