GREENFIELD – Indiana is offering scholarships to families working in essential businesses for child care and similar services, and the program is already benefiting residents in the county.
The assistance comes at a time when children’s development is especially important, proponents say, following a year when many kids missed out on in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indiana’s recently launched Build, Learn, Grow initiative is making 50,000 scholarships available to families working in essential businesses covering up to 80% of child-care costs, summer programs and camps; and out-of-school care for children from birth to age 12 through October 2021. Since the program started in May, more than 1,000 families have applied.
The Indiana Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning administers the program in partnership with Early Learning Indiana, the Indiana Afterschool Network and SPARK Learning Lab.
“First and foremost, we want to think about how we help children through this summertime,” said Nicole Norvell, director of the state’s office of early childhood and out-of-school learning. “We want to make sure they’re meeting all the goals they have for themselves and their families have for them.”
COVID-19 made the past school year not at all what families are used to, Norvell continued, with students in and out of school depending on how the virus spread in buildings, and some families keeping their children home to learn virtually. The pandemic possibly prevented children from meeting all of their academic goals, and programs available to them outside of school can help bridge gaps to help them from starting the upcoming school year behind.
As for children below school age, between birth and age 5, many weren’t in a formal care setting for most of the past year, Norvell also said.
“We want to get them back into a formal program,” she said. “We know it helps them meet all those developmental milestones. One of the biggest reasons is socialization — how do we help them learn to be around other kids.”
To qualify for a scholarship, at least one adult in the household must work in an essential business and enroll their child in early childhood education, summer learning or out-of-school time care. Essential businesses include health care, human services, education, retail, restaurant and foodservice, essential infrastructure, media, manufacturing and logistics, religious and charitable organizations and many others. A full list is available at coronavirus.in.gov/2496.htm.
Programs must be eligible for the federal Child Care and Development Fund in order for participants to receive scholarships.
To apply and for more information, visit brighterfuturesindiana.org.