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The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health is awarding $1 million to the Supporting Families Together Association's project "Preventing Expulsion Among Wisconsin's Children Ages Zero to Five." 

A grant awarded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health last week will fund a project that seeks to address disparities in expulsion rates for young children.

The Supporting Families Together Association’s project, “Preventing Expulsion Among Wisconsin’s Children Ages Zero to Five” will bring together a wide array of community partners and researchers to develop a model to lower expulsion rates at early child care programs.

The project is modeled on a similar endeavor in Arkansas called BehaviorHelp, according to Jill Hoiting, the executive director of SFTA. BehaviorHelp resulted in the expulsion of only 5 percent of children who were at immediate risk, according to Hoiting.

The SFTA said early childhood expulsion rates have significant negative effects on a child’s life for years.

“Young students who are expelled or suspended (from an early child care program) are as much as 10 times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure and grade retention, hold negative school attitudes and risk incarceration,” the group said in a statement.

Hoiting said early expulsions occur when a child and their family are either asked or made to leave early child care and education programs for reasons other than an inability to pay.

A 2015 survey of Wisconsin’s regulated early care and education programs showed that one in five programs had expelled one or more children in the past 12 months, according to Hoiting.

“Early expulsions impacted some groups of children more than others," Hoiting said in an email. "Boys, African-American children and children whose families are utilizing child care subsidy were expelled at disproportionately higher rates than their counterparts.” 

The organizers of the project note that eliminating these disparities is crucial to developing healthy outcomes later in life for children.

“Early expulsion occurs because of an adult’s decision, so we need to support the adults in a young child’s life so that they can make another choice,” Hoiting said.

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Hoiting and Lana Nenide, the executive director at the Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health, both stressed that adults need to be supported so that other options can be considered besides expulsion.

“Caregivers, both at home and in early education, need to be supported in the work they do so that all children can thrive in early care and education settings,” Nenide said.

In addition to the Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, Child Care Partnership, 4C for Children, as well as Dr. Katherine Magnuson and Dr. Christine Neddenriep of UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater, respectively, will be a part of the project.

The project is one of four Community Impact Grants funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program, according to a statement.

The group hopes to replicate the success the Arkansas model had by rolling out implementation in Milwaukee and western Wisconsin.

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Education Reporter

Negassi Tesfamichael is the local education reporter at The Cap Times. He joined the paper in 2018. He previously worked as an intern at WISC-TV/Channel3000.com and at POLITICO.