Partner Up!

Family Connections to help local essential businesses secure child care for employees through new Partner Up! grant program

Sheboygan, Wis., Feb. 09, 2022] The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) has awarded administration of the Partner Up! grant program to Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) in partnership with Wisconsin’s nine Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (CCR&Rs), including Family Connections in Sheboygan. Partner Up! is a new statewide initiative that aims to connect essential businesses with local child care programs to secure affordable child care slots for essential workers.

“SFTA and the CCR&R network are uniquely positioned to successfully implement this program across all Wisconsin communities,” said SFTA Executive Director Matricia Patterson. “Each CCR&R has close, long-term relationships with local child care providers, businesses, families, and partners. All those relationships will be drawn on to make Partner Up! a success. These agencies have been preparing for years to initiate this type of partnership program between businesses and child care providers.”

Family Connections will support businesses and child care providers in Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Fond du Lac county through the Partner Up! application process and provide ongoing support to program participants. “Family Connections supports and educates families and early childhood professionals to promote healthy child development and strengthen communities.”

SFTA and Wisconsin’s nine CCR&Rs partner to administer a number of programs statewide that support child care providers and families with young children. The agencies have worked closely with DCF for decades to improve the affordability and accessibility of child care in Wisconsin. 

Through Partner Up!, participating essential businesses will be able to secure subsidized child care slots in local regulated child care programs for their employees’ use. Based on costs of care determined by DCF, the employer will contribute at least 25% of the cost of care for each child care slot they reserve, and Partner Up! will contribute the remaining amount to pay the child care provider. This will allow participating essential worker parents to receive quality child care at little or no out-of-pocket cost. The Partner Up! grant program will provide $10 million in total to support child care for Wisconsin’s essential businesses. Applications will open Feb. 28 for eligible businesses interested in participating.

“Wisconsin needs its essential workforce to function, however, parents need safe, quality, and affordable child care in order to participate in the workforce,” said Patterson. “Partner Up! addresses the need for quality child care infrastructure that supports local businesses. For parents, it removes the barrier of paying the high cost of child care. Overall, it will help Wisconsin’s entire economy by allowing more parents to work and businesses to thrive.”

Child care affordability and accessibility is a significant barrier for Wisconsin’s workforce. According to Child Care Aware of America’s Child Care Data Center, Wisconsin has only 57 child care slots for every 100 young children whose parents’ work. While the cost of child care varies throughout the state, the average cost is $10,764 per child in Wisconsin. A 2020 report from United Way found that 50% of Wisconsin’s labor force works in essential industries.

Partner Up! is part of Project Growth, a large-scale grant program from DCF designed to help Wisconsin businesses, communities, and early care and education partners add services, find solutions, and innovate to ensure a stable, high-quality workforce in Wisconsin. Learn more at

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