By Rebecca Carlin, executive director
In looking back over the past year, the word that comes to mind is resilience. Resilience is an important skill that allows individuals and organizations to adapt to change. This year, Wisconsin Youth Company practiced resilience. We learned we are capable of doing hard things. Because of our ability to adapt, be flexible, and manage change, we have overcome obstacles and provided essential care to children safely through a challenging year.
At the beginning of the school year, Wisconsin Youth Company developed a new program model to provide all day child care to children participating in school virtually. Our staff took on new roles as tech support, internet monitors, and homework supervisors while practicing new health and safety regulations like additional cleaning, social distancing, and wearing masks. In districts where children were in-person during the school day, our After School staff changed program spaces to allow more distancing, purchased additional materials to avoid children touching the same things, and planned activities that could be done without coming into close contact. While we knew how much continuing to offer programs meant to children and families, we also grappled with the fear and anxiety around COVID-19. With careful planning, strategic changes, and resilience we were able to support the children and families who needed care most.
We have retained staff at an amazing rate for our industry. We applied for and received funding from many different sources and have grown a dedicated community of supporters and donors. Through a recognized effort to make tuition assistance more accessible, we have been able to serve more families in need. Wisconsin Youth Company staff and board have committed to doing the anti-racist work to make our organization a more diverse, equitable and inclusive place.
At the start of the pandemic, many people in the business community said that only those who could adapt to the dramatically changing world would still exist on the other side of the pandemic. Wisconsin Youth Company has operated in much the same way since 1974. Change was not easy for us, but our mission is important. Our tireless staff never gave up. Children continue to thrive in our programs. And, Wisconsin Youth Company continues to provide opportunities for children to be their best selves.