The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) and Dodge County partners have received a $75,000 boost for early care and education efforts, in the form of a Project Growth Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building grant from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The grants are designed to help solve the challenges facing Wisconsin’s child care system and bolster the state’s economy.
"Affordable access to quality early care and education is essential to a strong workforce," says Becky Glewen, GWCHF Community Development Strategist. "We are already meeting with early care providers and business leaders, looking for innovative solutions to the child care crisis."
Dodge and Jefferson Counties are classified as child care deserts, with fewer than one slot available for every three children. The cost of care in our region averages 19% of a family’s income. National guidelines suggest no more than 7% of income be spent on child care annually.
Despite the high cost for families, many early care and education providers are unable to make ends meet. Closures spiked during the pandemic and continue in our region. Dodge and Jefferson Counties lost 120+ child care slots since the pandemic.
Why are childcare providers closing their doors? Their business model is not sustainable, because fees charged to families simply do not cover the actual cost of providing care. As a result, wages and benefits for early childhood educators (who are trained and certified), are far from competitive: The median wage in Dodge County is $10.98 per hour. Only 11% of early childhood educators are offered health insurance and 34% reported they were enrolled in Badgercare or Medicare.
The Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building grant program, facilitated by First Children’s Finance, focuses on building child care supply through a collaborative community approach.
"We have seen in various communities across the state that when business, economic development, early learning, and other community partners come together and innovate, we all benefit," said DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson. "These grants are helping us kickstart and build those partnerships, as well as find innovative and sustainable child care solutions that can be modeled in communities and businesses across the state."
GWCHF is one of 10 initial cross-sector teams that will receive strategic planning support and $75,000 in grant funding to evaluate, plan, sustain, and expand existing child care, and support new child care programs.
"This grant highlights our ability to leverage partnerships in order to attract resources to our region," says GWCHF CEO Tina Crave. "We’re grateful to our committee members, who provided leadership in developing an application to earn this valuable funding. These partners are instrumental in creating community solutions to challenges that impact children and families in our region."
Alex Allon, Strategic Initiatives and Development Coordinator, City of Watertown
Jon Lange, Chief Executive Officer, Watertown YMCA
Nate Olson, Community Development Administrator, Dodge County Land Resources and Parks Dept.
Kathy Schlieve, City Administrator, City of Waupun
Emily Dieringer, Community Benefit Coordinator, Marshfield Clinic Health System
Renae Henning, Administrator, Community Care Preschool & Child Care, Inc
Matt Camp, Plant Manager, Richelieu Foods
Connie Curley, Manager of Employee Relations, Specialty Cheese
Tracy Propst, Executive Director, Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce
Jenny Husselman, Principal/Dodgeland Schools
Latisha Spence-Brookens, Associate Dean, Moraine Park
Kelly Matthews, WI Early Childhood Association - WEESSN
Mary Kuntz, School Board Member, Beaver Dam Unified School District
Sylvia Orvitz, Parent Representative
Harper Mruk, United Way of Dodge County
Rebecca Glewen, GWCHF/City of Beaver Dam
Mailia Bachleitner, Parent Representative
Melissa Biel, Parent Representative
Tricia Peterson, Administrator/Owner, Future All Stars Academy, LLC
Brandon and Jessica Holtz, Parent Representative