Richard C. Wegner, Acting Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, today announced a sweeping new, six-point program to encourage expanded services throughout the state so that there is enough healthy and safe child care for everyone — W-2 participants, the working poor, as well as middle class families.
Wegner, acting upon the direction of Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, said the Department will “marshal all the resources at hand, private and public, needed to turn our state into an active child care incubator that will help today’s child care services expand and tomorrow’s new services to get up and going.”
“No other state — not even the federal government — has ever made this kind of commitment to child care.” — Gov. Tommy G. Thompson.
“Our goal is child care that is plentiful, safe and affordable, that provides a rich and stimulating environment for our children, and that meets the needs of parents leaving AFDC to go to work for the first time. We will settle for no less,” Wegner said.
Welfare reform initiatives, including Wisconsin Works, will require up to 45,000 current adult AFDC recipients to go to work, joining a growing Wisconsin workforce totaling 2.8 million people. Welfare recipients themselves have identified the availability of child care as essential to their entry into the workforce.
The initiative will provide well over $25 million in federal matching funds Wisconsin has earned thanks to its success in reducing the AFDC caseload (43.9% since January 1987 — more than any other state in the nation). Wegner added that while these initiatives are targeted to helping the poor, the whole community will benefit.
This is in addition to the subsidies contained in the W-2 legislation, which will triple the resources for subsidized child care to $158.5 million the first year of the program and $180 million the second year to provide subsidized day care to all low-income working families, even those who have never been on welfare.
Wisconsin has strong child care services placing it among the top in national rankings for the last four years, as determined by Working Mother magazine. Although no one can guarantee that unfortunate incidents will never occur in child care, Wegner said safety and quality have been built into the action plan announced today. Inspectors understand that they are expected to investigate immediately all reports of substandard conditions, that they demand prompt remedies, and that they close down child care operations that refuse to comply.
Wegner said this initiative will serve as a catalyst to encourage creative approaches at the community level that will build on the strengths of the current system without forcing the state itself to become a direct child care provider.
To assure the best chance for success, the child care initiative marries the resources of such state agencies as the Technical College system, UW-Extension, UW Small Business Development Centers, The Department of Health and Family Services and the Department of Commerce with local and private agencies like Head Start, Milwaukee YWCA, Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, the Wis. Child Care Improvement Project, and the Wis. Women’s Business Initiative Corp. The initiative for child care will:
Named Working Mother magazine’s “Working Mother of the Year” for 1994, Brandes serves on the boards of two national child care advocacy organizations: the National Child Care Action Campaign and Corporate Family Solutions.
Wegner said state government will not become a direct provider of child care services, “but will encourage the expansion of child care in the private sector. I am confident that local governments, foundations, businesses, and private agencies will join us in helping provide safe and sufficient child care for all.”
Planning for the new child care supply initiative began several months ago; W-2 is not scheduled to begin until September 1997.
Protecting children is a top priority
Wegner reiterated the state’s commitment to protect children in child care settings by:
More initiatives to come:
Acting Secretary Wegner said his department has been totally engaged for many months in preparing for the successful delivery of the Wisconsin Works program:
“The W-2 program has enormous potential to have an extremely positive impact on the lives of thousands of people. Governor Thompson has directed me to lay a strong and solid foundation for the successful management of this program in the DWD.
“The child care initiative is simply the first in a series of new efforts which are designed to achieve the Governor’s objective. We start with child care because it is perhaps for many people the single greatest obstacle to financial independence through work. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be launching similar comprehensive campaigns on W-2 issues including community service jobs, an employer initiative, child support, the important role of advanced technology in welfare reform, and others.
“I am extremely confident that W-2 will be a highly effective and successful program.”