DCF Secretary Visits LCO Child Care Center to Kick Off Project Growth Grant
Updated: Mar 14
By Joe Morey
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families kicked off a new grant announcement by visiting the Lac Courte Oreilles Child Care Center. DCF Secretary Emily Amundsen and several of her staff took a tour of the facility and held a press conference to announce the opening of the application process for Project Growth.
Amundsen stated Project Growth is a $20 million grant program designed to help solve challenges facing Wisconsin’s child care system and bolster the state’s economy.
“Strengthening Wisconsin’s child care system is critical to supporting families and boosting our economy,” said Amundsen. “When parents can’t find care that meets their family’s needs, they are unable to remain in the workforce. By bringing together businesses and child care programs, we can begin to build strong, sustainable partnerships that benefit everyone.”
Amundsen said the new LCO Child Care Center is a beautiful facility. She stated she visited LCO in 2019 and met with Chairman Louis Taylor and other tribal leaders and at that time, she heard the Tribe’s message about their need.
“People couldn’t get to work because of a lack of child care,” Amundsen stated. “I’m a working mom and this message resonated with me. Child care is a piece of the puzzle, so through DCF, we’ve been able to provide funding to help.”
She went on to explain that DCF helps organizations take that first big step.
“You had the plan and the foresight should federal money come along and that’s what Project Growth is all about,” Amundsen explained. The program is a combination of federal (ARPA) and state money coming together.
Taylor acknowledged the Secretary and her department’s work with kids.
“It’s what we’re about up here and this Child Care facility is what our people have wanted for years,” Taylor said. He added that the pandemic is what allowed this new facility to happen through CARES Act funding. He also said the Governor has been good to the Tribes and thanked the Secretary for kicking off Project Growth at LCO.
There are two types of grants available through Project Growth.
The Partner Up! grant program focuses on supporting partnerships between businesses and child care providers by offering funding to businesses who purchase slots at existing regulated child care providers. Funding under this program will be awarded based on existing community child care needs throughout Wisconsin.
The Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building grant program focuses on building child care supply through a collaborative community approach. Funding under this program will be awarded to 30 communities around the state to help create new child care businesses and enhance existing providers through expansion, new programs, and other offerings.
LCO Vice Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge said LCO is thankful the state and federal government is helping the Tribe grow.
“We had a short time to make this (child care center) happen and we were successful,” Gouge said. “The governor has always been there for education and he continues to do that. We appreciate it and you’ll see it as you drive through our Reservation at our school and our college, all facilities that have been assisted through the pandemic, but it starts here at the child care center.”
LCO TGB member Michelle Beaudin explained how quickly the child care center was built when CARES Act funding came through. She said the facility was built in six months from meeting with architects and builders to a finished facility stocked full of equipment. She thanked Marie Wooten, the Child Care Center Director and her staff for all they did to make it happen.
Chairman Taylor said the Tribe’s businesses would also be looking into how the grant can assist them. He said it’s difficult for our employees to work if they don’t have child care.
Wooten said the child care center has reached out to tribal businesses, Walmart and Jack Links about creating a partnership to help pay for their employees’ child care.
Wooten said the child care is open to everyone, not just tribal members and that they have no waiting list. The facility has the capacity to take 200 children and currently, they have 80 kids.
Businesss are encouraged to apply for Partner Up! grants, while child care providers, community organizations, businesses, and local government agencies or school districts are encouraged to apply for the Dream Up! grants. Applications for both grants are open through April 4, 2022, and available on DCF’s Project Growth page.
To help design a grant program that meets the needs of Wisconsin employers and communities, DCF, surveyed nearly 1,000 employers from every county in the state, across a wide range of industries. The results highlighted the importance of child care to the state’s economy and workforce with 73% of respondents agreeing that providing employees with resources to support their child care needs is a strategy that all employers should consider to address workforce/labor shortages. However, many respondents cited barriers in providing such benefits, with a majority stating federal or state government incentives would increase the likelihood that their company could implement or expand child care resources.
Project Growth is primarily funded through the state’s $30 million Preschool Development Grant – Birth to 5 (PDG B-5) award, which is designed to provide states with the funding necessary to plan changes to their early care and education systems. To increase program capacity, DCF is also using federal funding from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
Pictured are TOP: From L-R) Stephanie Lozano (Tribal Liaison for DCF), Karent Breit (LCO College), Chairman Louis Taylor, Marie Wooten (Child Care Director), Erin Arango-Escalante (DCF staff), Secretary Emily Amundsen, TGB Member Michelle Beaudin, LCO Vice Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge and Dorrie Sharlow (Child Care Admin Asst.). MIDDLE: Chairman Taylor and Amundsen with TGB Member Gary "Little Guy" Clause as he welcomes the Secretary. BOTTOM: Gouge in middle welcoming the Secretary (left) with Wooten and Beaudin.