Wisconsin Early Childhood Association: Advocacy initiative dedicated to state’s youngest children, families set to make lasting impact

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Cassie Perenchio, Communications & Outreach Manager | 608-230-8000 | [email protected]

Raising Wisconsin supports early care and education, optimal child health and well-being

Amber Edwards has long been searching for a resource to assist her with political advocacy as she uses her voice to push for high-quality, affordable child care.

Now, she has what she needs in a powerful, new advocacy initiative – Raising Wisconsin.

“As busy parents, we don’t have the time to figure out how to advocate on our own. We need straightforward resources, tools and strategies to band together with our collective voices – because we’re juggling a lot of different demands and priorities. We know our stories are important, but we need the power of a dedicated coalition to support us,” said Edwards, a mother of one from Green Bay.

“Raising Wisconsin gives us that. I’m incredibly hopeful about its power to influence real policy change.”

Wisconsin Early Childhood Association this week launched Raising Wisconsin, a statewide policy and advocacy effort powered by the support of a multi-sector coalition of influential and expert individuals and organizations. The initiative’s launch marks major milestones in advocacy centered on transformational change in child care and optimal child health and well-being to support Wisconsin’s infants, toddlers and their families. The effort builds on WECA’s decades-long history of advocacy in support of early care and education and early childhood educators.

“As child care access and affordability continues to be a challenge throughout Wisconsin, we have seen increasing numbers of state organizations, economic leaders, parents and community leaders who recognize the critical importance of high-quality and affordable child care for healthy children and a healthy Wisconsin economy,” said WECA Executive Director Ruth Schmidt.

“As more people looked to join that conversation, the next step was the development of Raising Wisconsin.”

Raising Wisconsin’s launch comes during the national Week of the Young Child with a dynamic new website dedicated to sharing research, data and tools and resources designed to assist residents across the state engage in political advocacy. The
initiative urges action from the standpoint of families, community leaders, child care professionals and economic leaders and how their unique perspectives and collective experiences illustrate the need for change.

“Employers and economic leaders throughout the state have long known how critically important child care is as a support for working families and also for economic recovery, stability and growth,” said Chris Hardie, Chief Executive Officer of the 7 Rivers Alliance, an economic development organization based in western Wisconsin. “That is why the launch of Raising Wisconsin is so important – and timely. It really is a groundbreaking advocacy initiative because it brings all players to the table who are invested in affordable, accessible child care – and, at this critical moment.”

Raising Wisconsin’s roots are in the Wisconsin Infant Toddler Policy Project, also led by WECA. The effort relies on the expertise and insights of its State Collaborative Team and Business Advisory Council, which includes leaders from more than 50 Wisconsin organizations representing early care and education, child health, municipal and county governments, economic development and a host of social impact associations from across the state.

These insights have helped influence Raising Wisconsin’s current policy agenda, which calls for improving the child care infrastructure, supporting the child care workforce and investing in optimal child health and well-being.

“It’s abundantly clear that what really makes the biggest difference for children and their families over time is the existence of strong, supportive, nurturing relationships,” said Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, an associate professor of pediatrics and human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “… we need to make sure we are investing in early education and that we’re investing in those that are providing that education and those loving, nurturing and responsive interactions every single day.

“(Raising Wisconsin) is an investment in all of us, ultimately, and makes a huge difference.”

Raising Wisconsin also this week hosted its first public event, a virtual panel discussion on the importance of community organizing to make meaningful improvements in child care. The event, “The Power of Community to Support Child Care,” brought together leaders from Milwaukee, Black River Falls, Watertown and Amery to discuss their unique needs and the solutions they have been implementing at the local level. A recording of the event is available on the Raising Wisconsin website’s community leaders page.

For more information on Raising Wisconsin, visit www.raisingwisconsin.org and follow the initiative on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) is a leading state non-profit organization, founded in 1971, that advances positive change for children by supporting and advocating for early care and education (ECE) and early childhood educators.

Raising Wisconsin is a WECA-led advocacy initiative dedicated to transformational change in early care and education and the optimal health and well-being of Wisconsin’s infant and toddlers.