FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The state of Indiana is offering a new government-funded scholarship program for the children of essential workers that can cover up to 80% of the cost of child care, summer programs, camps and out-of-school care now through October.
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration launched The Build, Learn, Grow initiative in May, which has 50,000 scholarships available for eligible families. The goal is to provide financial relief of childcare costs for the next 5 months.
To be considered for the scholarship, one adult in the household must qualify as an essential worker such as retail, food service, health care, and manufacturing, to name a few. The families must reach incomes of up to 250% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, for example, that equates to an annual income of about $66,000.
Nicole Norvell, Director of Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning, said that the initiative is a great opportunity for children to get reacclimated to normal life and recover any gaps in learning from this past year.
“We want to be sure that those kids are meeting those developmental milestones. We want to be sure that you are using all your fine motor skills every day that you’re learning how to play and interact with other children to gain those social skills so that come kindergarten, you’re ready to go. I think this summer gives us a good opportunity to reset.”
The Early Childhood Alliance Downtown Learning Center in Fort Wayne is part of the initiative and is encouraging families to apply. Chief Center Administrator Kacey Deverell, said that so far they have 10 families who are under consideration and she is eager for more to apply.
Deverell explained that while many families qualify for other financially assisted programs, some families do not meet the income criteria by a small fraction and The Build, Learn, Grow program might be the right option for them.
“There are so many families that don’t qualify for childcare subsidies because of the income level. Or just missed the mark, literally by I’ve seen families missed the mark by $50. And so they’re having to pay out of pocket, because they want their child in a high-quality program, and sometimes it requires when working two or three jobs, and that’s not really best for the family or for the child so this is just a great opportunity for families to participate and take advantage of.”
Deverell also emphasized the importance of children building social skills and thriving in a classroom environment. Enrolling children in summer programs would be a good time for them to reengage in their surroundings.
“We tell our parents and our teachers all the time it’s not about the ABCs the 123, that’ll come. But if you don’t know how to be in the same space as other individuals around you, you can’t learn those other things. And so really, the social motion development is critical.”
The Downtown Learning Center is just one of many institutions that are involved in the scholarship program in Allen County. The Brighter Future Indiana website has a map that allows Hoosiers to check out all the options in their county. In Allen County alone, there are about 68 participating programs. Parents can submit their applications to their preferred education provider or care center participating in the program.
For those who wish to apply who are non-English speakers, Norvelle said that Brighter Futures Indiana has the resources available to help.
“For our Spanish-speaking parents and in Allen County, in particular, we have a Burmese population, they certainly can get some support from either the call center or their local chapter resource. I don’t want that to be a barrier for families in terms of applying.”
To learn more about the scholarship qualifications and to apply, visit here.