A $5 million grant program to establish and expand child care in Tennessee is now available.

As part of their continued partnership, ChildcareTennessee, an initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, and the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) have a new addition – administering Establishment and Expansion Grants across Tennessee.

Two-thirds of parents in the state say they struggle to find child care at all, according to a 2019 study by Tennesseans for Quality Early Education. The same study reported that 48 percent of Tennesseans live in a child care desert.

While the coronavirus pandemic cast a spotlight on the importance of child care, the need to create more accessible child care has been an issue for decades.

“Since 1994, The Foundation has worked diligently with organizations to create and expand child care access in Tennessee,” said Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. “These grants are an important investment in child care providers and Tennessee’s children and have been needed in all the intervening years.”

New and existing providers will be able to apply for furniture, equipment, supplies, curriculum and other items and services associated with opening a new child care agency or expanding licensed capacity at an existing agency.

“These grants will enable prospective child care providers to open or expand programs creating increased access to child care for families across Tennessee,” said Cassandra Brown, ChildcareTennessee senior grant manager.

Each grant allows providers to apply for up to $1,000 per licensed child care slot, up to a maximum of $100,000 per program.

“This grant process is establishing the tone that providers are valued through pre-licensure criteria, training and support,” Brown said. “That sets the tone for professionalism and the importance of child care. Paired with business management resources on ChildcareTennessee.com, this partnership is positioning providers for success right from the beginning.”

The ChildcareTennessee/TDHS partnership also provides other services. An administrative website, ChildcareTennessee.com, features more than 2,000 resources to assist child care directors with administrative tasks, from human resources to staying compliant with federal and state regulations. These resources alleviate some of the administrative load so directors can focus on what matters most — more than 162,000 of Tennessee’s children.

By logging onto ChildcareTennessee.com, child care directors also can browse multiple local and national businesses offering discounts that provide cost savings in child care administration. Directors can then reallocate those savings to better support the children they serve.

The organizations also are administering a new round of Support and Enhancement Grants for existing child care providers. Applications are open until Sept. 1, 2022. Providers can apply at ChildcareTennessee.com.

Since October 2019, thanks to the partnership with TDHS, ChildcareTennessee has distributed nearly $71 million in Support and Enhancement and Disaster and Emergency Grants to licensed child care programs across the state.

Registering on ChildcareTennessee.com is free for licensed programs. Child care directors can register now and set up an account to start utilizing services.

About ChildcareTennessee

ChildcareTennessee, an initiative led by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, focuses on collaborative opportunities in our child care centers’ administrative, programmatic and operational services. ChildcareTennessee’s goal is to improve the quality, accessibility and sustainability of the services offered to the children and families we serve. For more information visit www.childcaretn.com.

About The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

The Community Foundation exists to promote and facilitate giving in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee and beyond. It does this by accepting gifts of any size from anyone at any time and by empowering individuals, families, companies, nonprofits, and communities to respond to needs and opportunities that matter. The Community Foundation works with people who have great hearts, whether or not they have great wealth, to craft solutions that reflect the intentions and goals of their charitable endeavors. For more information, call 615-321-4939 or visit www.cfmt.org.

About the Tennessee Department of Human Services

The Tennessee Department of Human Services is responsible for licensing and monitoring more than 2,300 child care agencies across the state. The primary purpose of licensing is to support child care agencies in providing environments that are safe, healthy, and educationally rich.