Family Connections – Child Care Resource & Referral History

Family Connections, Inc. is a Child Care Resource & Referral Agency serving Sheboygan, Manitowoc, & Fond du Lac Counties. Family Connections began in the late 1980’s as an outreach service of the Sheboygan Wellness Association, which was affiliated with First Congregational Church of Christ. The Wellness Association’s main emphasis was on providing programming to educate the community in Sheboygan County on health and other wellness issues. In 1988, the organization restructured itself to reflect its growing focus on issues affecting families. 

The organization accordingly changed its name to Family Connections. Its primary work focused on programming dealing with changing family structures, pressures on families as a whole, and on members individually. 

In that regard, child care resource and referral became clear issues that demanded a significant amount of time from the organization. In Sheboygan, as well as other areas in the state and country, there was a serious shortage of regulated child care available for families. Per a 2006 NACCRRA (National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies) study, 70% of young children spend time in early education and care outside their homes. Child Care Resource & Referral involved recruiting and training child care providers and connecting those child care providers with families who were in need of care. 

In 1990, Family Connections received its first grant from the State of Wisconsin for Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) programming. At that time, Family Connections decided to formalize its organizational structure, conclude its relationship with First Congregational Church, and focus solely on child care related programming and issues. Due to requirements to receive state funding, Family Connections expanded services into Manitowoc County (1992), Kewaunee County (1994) and lastly Door County (1995). 

Family Connections is a 501c (3) organization funded by state grants (Wisconsin Department of Children and Families) and United Ways (Sheboygan &Fond du Lac). In 1992 and 1995 the organization completed an accreditation process sponsored by the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association and was recognized by the State of Wisconsin. Family Connections is also a member of NACCRRA and the Wisconsin’s network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. 

In 2007, the WI CCR&R Network came together with Family Resource Centers funded through Children’s Trust Fund, to create the Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA). The Association is was made up of Wisconsin’s Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies and Children’s Trust Funded Family Resource Centers. 

In 2010, Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies throughout Wisconsin were re-organized into eight regions serving all 72 counties in WI, under the guidance of Supporting Families Together Association. The reasoning behind the structural change was to be most effective and efficient with funding and to move forward with strong branded images of CCR&Rs. Through this change, Family Connections formed as the hub partner in relationship to the hub, Child Care Resource & Referral, Inc. (CCR&R), located in Kimberly WI. Child Care Resource & Referral, Inc. has long been a best practices CCR&R in the state of Wisconsin. Several service delivery models were changed as a result of this partnership. Family Connections now serves Sheboygan County, Manitowoc County, and Fond du Lac County, and has now adapted their main focus on child care provider services. We continue to serve family providers and group centers with technical assistance and consulting, and we provide trainings and workshops through professional development opportunities. Child Care Resource & Referral, Inc. is the agency that offers child care referrals to all families for our region. 

Since 2010, Family Connections has grown and expanded its programming. With the introduction of the YoungStar Program, Wisconsin’s Quality Rating Improvement System, in 2012, Family Connections began working with providers on quality improvement efforts using a strength-based approach. YoungStar Quality Coaches mentor and rate participating child care providers as well as provide professional development opportunities. Over the year’s we have expanded our training offerings to individuals throughout the service delivery area.  

In 2017 Family Connections became part of the Community Partnership for Children and hired Resources Specialists to carry out the Welcome Baby program. The Welcome Baby program offers a visit from a Resource Specialist to parents and their newborn in the Sheboygan County hospitals. During the visit, parents are connected to the Parents as Teachers home visiting program and other community resources to meet their needs. 

In 2023, Family Connections became a joint Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) and Family Resource Center (FRC) as programming to service families increased. Family Connections offers many primary prevention programs to the communities it serves so the decision to add Family Resource Center to our title made perfect sense. Through Supporting Families Together Association, we became a joint agency CCR&R/FRC. 

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