Wisconsin one of 11 states awarded a Pritzker Children’s Initiative grant

Governor Tony Evers today announced that Wisconsin was named a winner of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI) Prenatal-to-Age-Three State Grant Competition. Awards went to cross-sector coalitions in 11 states to develop and strengthen high-quality prenatal-to-age-three services. Wisconsin’s grant was awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA).

“I’ve said all along, what’s best for our kids is what’s best for the state,” said Governor Evers. “Investments in early childhood education return their value to the kids we serve, the adults working on their behalf, and the economy as a whole. I am pleased PCI saw value in the collaboration we have built in Wisconsin.”

Research continues to show that a child’s brain develops faster in the first three years than at any later period in life, making this time period essential to building the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. PCI created the Prenatal-to-Age Three State Grant Competition to identify states with a strategic vision for supporting infants, toddlers and their families.

Recipients of the grants are awarded $100,000 to establish a coalition of state- and community-level partners inside and outside government to develop an ambitious prenatal-to-age-three policy agenda and action plan. The state plans will focus on expanding access to high-quality programs designed to support children’s healthy development and build a strong foundation for future learning. Planning grant recipients will also be eligible for implementation grants based on the quality of the plan they develop.

“Child care access and affordability touches nearly every resident of this state. PCI’s grant presents Wisconsin with an opportunity to really dig into the challenges facing our early childhood system and work together with our stakeholders to craft a plan that best serves our kids,” said DCF Secretary-designee Emilie Amundson. “I want to thank PCI for investing in our state and WECA for partnering with DCF.

The Wisconsin Infant Toddler Policy Project promises a bold and innovative plan to put the state’s youngest children on a path toward future success in both education and life.  This planning grant brings together a multi-sector collaborative of leaders who understand the need for a unified policy agenda that expands high quality child care options for infants and toddlers. The grant, in combination with the proposed funding included in Governor Evers’ budget for Wisconsin Shares and, will position our state to become a leader in early childhood education.

“This grant competition has illuminated the nation’s commitment to supporting infants and toddlers. We knew that there was widespread agreement on the importance of the earliest years in a child’s life, but we were delighted to see the innovative thinking by states to significantly expand services to families with infants and toddlers,” said Gerry Cobb, director of PCI. “The most promising applications integrated approaches that build on locally-driven efforts and maximize the best practices across child care, health, early childhood education and human services to address new challenges facing infants, toddlers and their families. Wisconsin submitted a bold proposal that brings diverse leaders to the table to coordinate across fields and establish a unified policy agenda and action plan supporting infants, toddlers and their families.”

“Over 54% of Wisconsin’s residents live in child care deserts and that number would be higher if we considered just infant and toddler child care,” said Ruth Schmidt, executive director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA). “Working families struggle to find child care due to limited availability, cost, geographic disparities and long waiting lists. What’s more Wisconsin businesses and communities need a reliable workforce in order to thrive.  Therefore, we are grateful for funding from PCI to be able to advance this critical work.”

The unprecedented interest and clear demand from the field indicates both the need and growing momentum around investing in prenatal-to-three efforts that will support families. By the February deadline, 42 of 44 eligible states plus the District of Columbia submitted applications identifying strategies to expand high-quality early childhood services. To ensure the innovations, policies, and best practices developed in state coalitions are shared and effectively implemented, grant winners will also join the PCI-funded National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT). Joining Wisconsin in this round of grant funding is Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

About the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI)

The Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI), a project of the J.B. and M. K. Pritzker Family Foundation, is committed to building a promising future for our country by investing in and supporting solutions in early childhood development for children prenatal to age three, with the goal of every child reaching kindergarten ready to learn. Learn more about PCI by visiting their website.

About The National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT)

The National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT) is committed to advancing policies and programs that ensure families have the support they need to give their infants and toddlers the foundation for a strong start in life. Funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a program of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, this effort brings together national partners, early childhood leaders, policymakers and practitioners inside and outside state and local government to create and strengthen promising policies and programs and share what works so that more states and communities can support the healthy development of our youngest children. Learn more about NCIT by visiting their website.

About Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA)

WECA works to advance positive change for children by focusing on the professionals who provide child care for well over 70% of Wisconsin’s children. WECA strengthens the capacities of child care professionals through a variety of services including T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship and REWARD stipend program, Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network, conferences and trainings, and a food program. WECA also advocates for policies and programs that support the well-being of children and early childhood educators. Learn more about WECA by visiting their website.