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Douglas County receives $75K child care grant

Wisconsin Department of Children and Families grant supports building child care supply through community collaboration.

Solon Springs Child Care Center 2
Alana Hill, director of Eagles' Nest Childcare Center, talks about the new center in the older kids room during a tour of the site Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Solon Springs, Wis. Douglas County recently received a $75,000 grant from the state to support existing child care providers and to help new providers open their doors.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Douglas County received a $75,000 Project Growth grant, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families announced Tuesday, May 31.

The state agency that oversees child care announced it awarded more than $20 million in Project Growth grants to 28 cross-sector community teams and more than 100 businesses to help solve the challenges facing Wisconsin’s child care system and to bolster the state’s economy.

“We have seen in various communities across the state that when business, economic development, early learning and other community partners come together and innovate, we all benefit,” said Emilie Amundson, DCF secretary. “These grants are helping us kickstart and build those partnerships, as well as find innovative and sustainable child care solutions that can be modeled in communities and businesses across the state.”

032219.N.ST.ElexVan Sickle.jpg
Superior 2nd District Councilor Jenny Van Sickle
Contributed / Jenny Van Sickle

During the five-week application period, the Project Growth grant program received over 660 Partner Up! applications and 39 Dream Up! applications. While funding was limited, DCF was able to award grants to communities and businesses in each region of the state, with an emphasis on areas deemed child care deserts.

Superior City Councilor Jenny Van Sickle applied for the grant on behalf of Douglas County. During her research to help the city develop Child Care Relief grants, Van Sickle said she learned that Douglas County, as a whole, was disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

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“Solon Springs, Lake Nebagamon — I couldn’t leave them out,” Van Sickle said.

The Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building grant program, administered by First Children’s Finance, focuses on building child care supply through a collaborative community approach, according to a news release.

The 28 teams, including Douglas County's, will receive strategic planning support and $75,000 in grant funding to evaluate, plan, sustain and expand existing child care, and to support new child care programs.

Van Sickle said she assembled a volunteer task force of economic development, community and other leaders to develop a strategic plan to address Douglas County’s child care challenges.

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“Basically, child care providers in partnership with the task force that we built will decide how best our grant money can be utilized based on our unique set of challenges and solutions,” Van Sickle said. “The grant money is really customizable based on what a particular area decides.”

Douglas County’s task force, as well as child care providers, will work with a facilitator to develop a long-term strategy.

“For every child care provider that participates in the long-term strategy process, it will make those providers eligible for an additional $5,000 each to implement those strategies and those plans,” Van Sickle said.

Additional $5,000 stipends will be allocated to participating child care providers who submit business improvement plans during the strategic planning process, according to DCF.

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Another round of Dream Up! grants will be available in early 2023, the news release said. Interested communities are encouraged to sign up for DCF’s grant updates listserv by visiting the Project Growth website.

In addition, DCF announced the Partner Up! grant program, administered by Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA), focuses on supporting partnerships between businesses and child care providers by offering funding to businesses that purchase slots for employees’ children at existing regulated child care providers. More than 100 businesses statewide will receive funding based on the true cost of care, number of slots and age group.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.