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Early Learning Indiana Announces Winners of Infant & Toddler Access Challenge

The competition focused on improving Indiana’s infant and toddler care shortage.


Early Learning Indiana today announced recipients of a $45,000 prize focused on bringing forth bold ideas to increase infant and toddler care options across the state. The Infant & Toddler Access Challenge, supported by Indiana’s Preschool Development Grant, is an effort by FSSA’s Office of Early Care and Out-of-School Learning to grow inadequate care services for children age birth to three.

Indiana loses $3 billion annually in costs associated with lack of access to early child care. With few safe, affordable care options for the more than 80,000 Hoosier babies born each year, many parents who wish to work make the difficult decision to delay or forego returning to the workforce. This results in decreased productivity for employers and economic activity for the state.

Infant and toddler care is costly, with the statewide average tuition rates for high-quality infant care approaching $12 thousand annually. Safety regulations that limit the adult to child ratio to 1:4 in infant rooms and 1:5 for toddler rooms lead to a higher cost of care, more than three times that of a pre-K classroom. Despite significant demand, the low profit margin for infant and toddler care leads many providers to opt out of offering it. Through the Infant and Toddler Access Challenge, the state of Indiana sought to catalyze creative, collaborative thinking to reimagine the current business model while ensuring child safety.

“Early Learning Indiana was proud to host this competition and support the state’s bold effort to engage new voices and identify fresh solutions to this complicated problem,” said Early Learning Indiana President and CEO Maureen Weber. “We know that it will take more than traditional approaches to disrupt the fundamental challenges of providing safe, effective and affordable infant and toddler care. By bringing those most involved in this work to the table, along with unusual suspects to the early learning field, we can harness the innovation that exists in our communities.”

Early Learning Indiana received 34 submissions from organizations, teams and individuals across the state that include a broad range of recommendations to address administration, physical operations, and staffing issues in infant and toddler care. Submitted solutions were evaluated on their level of innovation, feasibility for implementation and replication, and the degree to which they could be scaled and sustained in Indiana communities of all sizes.

The five selected prize recipients are:

Monroe County Community School Corporation, Bloomington$15,000Micro centers operated on-site for employers through a single provider
Fayette County Early Learning Coalition, Connersville$10,000Shared services for multiple providers to reduce the cost of managing staffing and enrollment
Meisha Wide and Shellye Suttles, Indianapolis$10,000Co-working space that provides near or on-site care for parents with flexible schedules  
Cathleen Nine-Altevogt, Carmel$5,000Care centers in non-traditional locations such as retirement communities and low-cost retail spaces
Yvonne Abel, Hobart$5,000Senior partner model to recruit and train retired volunteers to supplement staff 


Early Learning Indiana will share a report on the winning ideas from Infant & Toddler Access Challenge Learning and best practices from across the national landscape later this year.

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. More information is available at

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