As Families Prioritize Child Care, Indiana Has a New Partner to Help Children Thrive

Early Learning Indiana increases statewide supports with expanded partnership with Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning.

There are over 500,000 children under age five in Indiana, and nearly two-thirds of them have both parents in the workforce. Indiana families and communities rely upon child care and early learning programs to help their children thrive and in order to access economic opportunities. Early Learning Indiana’s Partnerships for Early Learners initiative recently launched a wide range of statewide services aimed at meeting this growing demand. The expansion is funded through a multi-year agreement with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. The expansion comes on the heels of a federal reauthorization and reinvestment in the nation’s signature child care law, the Child Care Development Block Grant.

Key services that ELI will provide through the partnership include:

  • A statewide call center that serves greater than 60,000 families a year with child care referrals and evidence-based information, available at 1-800-299-1627 and in Spanish at 1-866-865-7056.
  • Training Central, an online training portal that serves more than 50,000 unique early childhood professionals with research-backed professional development opportunities.
  • Indiana’s online child care search tool,, which facilitates greater than 35,000 individual searches annually.
  • Coordinated coaching, training and outreach to over 4,000 individual child care providers, in partnership with Indiana’s nine local child care resource and referral agencies and the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children.

Indiana’s nine local child care resource and referral agencies are critical partners in delivering thousands of hours of coaching, training and outreach to families, among other services and supports. The nine agencies are similarly supported by federal resources set-aside for enhancing access to quality early childhood and school-age programs by Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. Federal funds from the Child Care and Development Block Grant fund the work of Indiana’s child care resource and referral agencies, as well as the new Early Learning Indiana contract.

“Children aren’t in a position to advocate for themselves,” said Mindy Bennett, Senior Director of Statewide Child Care Resource and Referral Services. “Our new statewide role allows us to support the people who are central in their lives, their families and teachers, and to share information, spark collaboration and improve childhood outcomes.”

“We look forward to working closely with Early Learning Indiana to help families from all incomes and backgrounds, statewide, to find high-quality child care,” said Nicole Norvell, Director of Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. “Furthermore, the training, mentoring and licensing assistance that our partnership will offer to support our state’s child care workforce will help us to achieve our overall goal of significantly improving outcomes for Indiana’s children.”

mapneedsToday, fewer than 40 percent of Hoosier children ages birth to five in known child care and early learning programs attend high-quality programs — programs that have either achieved a Level 3 or 4 rating on Indiana’s Paths to QUALITY™ rating system or are nationally-accredited. Through Partnerships for Early Learners’ services, partnerships, and communications and engagement efforts, four key audiences critical to supporting young children are targeted: (1) local child care resource and referral agencies, (2) early learning professionals and programs, (3) families, and (4) decision-makers in local communities.

This is the second significant expansion of Early Learning Indiana’s statewide work in as many years. The Lilly Endowment made the first investment of $20 million in October 2014. That five-year award facilitated strategic planning, key partnerships and the hiring of new and visionary leadership. The Lilly Endowment grant will continue to provide working capital that can supplement the staffing and direct services funded by the new Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning partnership.

This unique combination will build on Indiana’s growing reputation for impact and innovation in early childhood. Indiana’s voluntary Paths To QUALITY™ system, new family engagement efforts, and system-level coordination through the Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) exemplify state successes in this field. The state’s recent introduction of publicly-funded Pre-K has garnered national attention, with On My Way Pre-K at the state level and Marion County’s Indy Preschool Scholarship Program (Indy PSP).

“These significant and innovative investments in early learning from our state’s largest public and private funders of early learning speak volumes,” said Ted Maple, Early Learning Indiana’s President and CEO. “Their investment sends a strong signal that high-quality child care and early learning should be a right, not a privilege, for all Indiana families.”

Cover image by Flickr user PinToys, Creative Commons license.