Tennessee takes another step to support quality and increase access to child care

Published 8:46 am Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Employers and employees are now eligible for new assistance designed

to grow the business of early childhood education across the state.

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is announcing new investments in child care that improve options for parents, incentivize employment in early childhood education, and ensure a continued bright future for individuals to open a licensed child care agency.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Beginning this month educators at TDHS licensed child care agencies will be eligible to apply for Tennessee’s Child Care WAGE$ program that provides an annual salary supplement, issued in two parts based on specific qualifications. Tennessee is one of the first states in the country to implement the WAGE$ program with the long-term goal of promoting continuous professional development and retention of staff at child care provider agencies.

Under the program, an eligible educator with six credit hours in early childhood education will receive an extra $400 annually. The supplement rises with experience up to $5,200 a year for some educators with a master’s degree. A full breakdown of the annual supplement amounts can be found online at https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/child-care-resources-for-providers/wages–mini-grants-and-more.html.

TDHS is also announcing investments to help improve existing child care. These investments include:

• Mini-grants of up to $4,000 ($5,000 in distressed counties) to help agencies improve quality, meet licensing requirements, and obtain assistance growing capacity. 

• Free online tools to help with business management, human resources, and administration.

• Access to bulk purchasing of supplies at discounted pricing and other shared services.

“We know that there is a real need for quality child care all across our state,” said Tennessee Department of Human Services Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “These investments will give our child care providers the resources they need to thrive and will support them in delivering care that’s not only safe and healthy but also educationally rich for our children.”

Providers who want more information on mini-grants or Information about shared services and business tools should visit https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/child-care-resources-for-providers/wages–mini-grants-and-more.html.

TDHS is also announcing specific training and technical assistance supports to help providers meet expectations for licensing.  Small business academy training and CPR/First Aid training/Certification are being offered at no cost to providers.  For more information on these supports, visit https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/child-care-resources-for-providers/wages–mini-grants-and-more.html. TDHS staff is eager to work with existing and potential child care providers to support them through the licensing and compliance monitoring process. 

These new investments into child care follow two other changes announced earlier this year to incentivize more providers to participate in the Child Care Certificate Program. Those changes included new bonus payments for non-traditional care and child care deserts along with a raise to the weekly reimbursement rates for agencies that take part in the program.

The Child Care Certificate Program provides assistance to parents with a variety of economic needs. The Smart Steps Program provides child care payment assistance to families who are working or pursuing post-secondary education and who meet certain income eligibility requirements.  The Child Care Certificate Program also serves teen parents enrolled in high school through the Teen Parent Assistance for Child Care Program and families taking part in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program known as Families First, parents transitioning off Families First, and children in foster care. Parents interested in applying for the program are encouraged to visit our website at https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/child-care-payment-assistance.html.

Tennessee has more than 4,000 regulated child care agencies including approximately 1,500 providers that are currently participating in the Child Care Certificate program.  Providers who wish to join the Certificate Program should contact the state office nearest them https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/child-care-assistance-office-locator.html.

To support parents, TDHS also provides tips for choosing child care and an interactive database where parents can search for providers in their area https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/find-child-care.html

Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at www.tn.gov/humanservices.