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Early Learning Indiana Announces Statewide Finalists for $1M Child Care Desert Competition

Finalists eligible to receive up to $100,000 to increase access to child care

Early Learning Indiana announced today the finalists in a competition designed to address the fact that more than four of every 10 children in Indiana live in a child care desert. Nineteen organizations – including schools, child care centers, community organizations and United Way agencies – from across Indiana will now submit their formal applications for the opportunity to receive up to $100,000 to increase access to high-quality child care for children ages six months to six years.

“For too many Hoosier children and families, high-quality early learning opportunities are out of reach, not just figuratively, but geographically,” Early Learning Indiana President and CEO Maureen Weber said. “These 19 finalists represent organizations with the most innovative solutions to help us build a stronger network of opportunity to support both working parents and the next generation of the workforce.”


Learn more about Indiana’s child care deserts with this special data report.


Child care deserts exist in each of Indiana’s 92 counties, according to a 2018 study conducted by the Indiana Business Research Center and Early Learning Indiana. A child care desert is a neighborhood, town or part of a city where there is no more than one child care seat for every three children. In Indiana, 45.2 percent of children live in a child care desert.

The 19 finalists, listed by organization and Indiana city or town, are:

  • Kosciusko County Community Foundation, Warsaw
  • Right Steps Child Development Centers, Lafayette
  • STEAM Academy, Lafayette
  • The Oaks Academy, Indianapolis
  •  Shepherd Community Center, Indianapolis
  • Washington County Family YMCA, Salem
  • Montgomery County Community Foundation, Crawfordsville
  • United Way of the Wabash Valley, Terre Haute
  • Forward Wayne County, an initiative of Wayne County Foundation, Richmond
  • United Way of Huntington County, Huntington
  • Johnson County Learning Center, Greenwood
  • United Way of Grant County, Marion
  • Lake Area United Way, Griffith
  • Rural Community Academy, Sullivan
  • United Way of St. Joseph County, South Bend
  • Early Learning Shelby County, Shelbyville
  • Scott County School District 2, Scottsburg
  • Child Care Network, Seymour
  • Community Foundation of Wabash County, North Manchester

These finalists will now submit full applications by Nov. 15, focused on expanding access to high-quality learning. Early Learning Indiana will announce 10 grant winners in December. The Indiana Child Care Deserts Competition is made possible by a 2014 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.



Early Learning Indiana is a leading voice in the conversation about the future of early learning and its role in helping to solve K-12 and workforce challenges. Today, Early Learning Indiana operates nine high-quality Day Early Learning centers, a network of premier community-based lab schools used to advance the science of early learning, train the next generation of teachers and leaders, and instill essential skills in the children we serve. Through regional and statewide programs, the organization enables early learning providers to build capacity, transform operations, and improve learning outcomes.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private family foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr., and his sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While these gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

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