Innovation & Collaboration to Address


Part of Early Learning Indiana’s Solution Series, the Indiana Child Care Deserts Competition invites local communities to join us in solving the significant challenge of child care deserts. Four out of 10 Hoosier children live in a child care desert, where there is just one early learning seat for every three children.
The Indiana Child Care Deserts Competition is made possible by the generosity of the Lilly Endowment, Inc.


Early Learning Shelby County

Johnson County Learning Center

Kosciusko County Community Foundation

Lake Area United Way

Montgomery County Community Foundation,

Right Steps Child Development Centers

Scott County School District 2

 Shepherd Community Center

The Oaks Academy

United Way of Grant County

United Way of St. Joseph County

United Way of the Wabash Valley, Inc.

Wayne County Foundation


Common questions about the Indiana Child Care Deserts Competition

What is the Indiana Child Care Deserts Competition?

Early Learning Indiana invites communities across the state to apply for participation in its Indiana Child Care Deserts Competition. At least ten access grants will be awarded to communities that submit winning proposals focused on expanding access for children, from infants to age five, to quality early learning opportunities.

Where can I find information about the state of child care access in my community?

The Indiana Business Resource Center and Early Learning Indiana recently released a study, DESERTS AND HUBS: Child Care Access in Indiana, which tracks known child care providers throughout Indiana. Additional information can be found at Early Learning Indiana’s data center.

Who is eligible to apply?

Awards must be made to a 501(c)3 nonprofit or an organization that is exempt from filing for a 501(c)3 status, such as school corporations and religious organizations.

Each application must have one lead organization matching the above eligibility standards that will serve as the main contact and fiscal agent for the award. Additionally, we encourage lead organizations to assemble community-wide teams with diverse and active stakeholders.

How much funding is available?

Early Learning Indiana will award at least ten access grants to communities that submit winning proposals, awarding between $10,000 and $100,000 per winning submission, with the possibility of greater funding for worthy applicants.

How does an organization apply?

Interested organizations must submit a letter of intent by September 20, 2019, via our online application. Following a review, Early Learning Indiana will invite selected organizations to submit a full grant application, which is due November 15, 2019.

Are there any guidelines for submission?

The goal of this challenge is expand access in Indiana, so all submissions should provide solutions that create early childhood seats specific to the needs of local communities in existing care settings and/or new programs. Additionally, proposals selected for advancement will be required to secure local match support (monetary or in-kind) representing 10 percent or more of the total cost of requested funds.

General submission considerations:

  • Proposals should be locally inspired and represent the thinking of diverse community stakeholders, including local early learning providers, local leaders, K-12 stakeholders and business leaders.
  • Priority will be given to submissions that address child care deserts, increase infant and toddler access, build the capacity of existing high-quality providers, and/or feature innovative models of care.
What is the application timeline?
  • August 8: Challenge announced
  • September 20: Letter of intent due
  • September 27: Invitation to submit full application given
  • November 15: Application due
  • December 6: Awards announced
  • December 31: Contracts signed and funds issued
What is required for the letter of intent?

The letter of intent should include the following information:

  • Name and mission statement of lead organization
  • Names, titles and organizations for all members of community planning team
  • Synopsis of community need
  • Current programs or partnerships with the United Way of Central Indiana (if applicable)
  • Type of project (existing program expansion or new)
  • Brief project description
  • Amount anticipated to be requested
  • Projected outcomes and success measures
  • Approximate timeline
Project activity must be completed by September 30, 2020, although measuring results may extend past this time.
Submissions should be no more than two-three pages.
How will submissions be evaluated?

Applications will be evaluated on:

  • Complementariness: Does your solution work with and add to the current care in your community?
  • Collaboration: Have you involved all the right stakeholders? Do you have a robust local collaborative planning team?
  • Feasibility: Can your project be completed well with the proposed funds and timeline?
  • Sustainability: What is your plan to sustain the new seats created?
If invited to submit, what will be required for the full application?

The full application may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Project plan narrative
  • Project plan budget
  • MOU with partnering organizations
  • Lead organization’s most recent IRS Form 990 or 990-N
What expenses are allowable?

Project budgets may include both direct and indirect costs. Indirect costs should not exceed 10 percent of the total budget.


Finding Solutions to Early Learning Challenges

Early learning experiences are essential, for Indiana’s children, families and communities. As the leading voice in early childhood, we seek to harness imagination and hard work, cultivating a learning ecosystem with bolder and better solutions to our early learning challenges.

The Indiana Child Care Deserts Competition is part of Early Learning Indiana’s Solution Series.

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