Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building Grant Program

child care provider shaking hands

In 2022, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) launched the Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building Grant Program through the Project Growth initiative. To date, Project Growth has provided $10.4 million in funding to 37 Wisconsin communities to support child care supply-building through a collaborative community approach. Dream Up! awarded communities have established their core teams, evaluated their communities, and developed strategic plans. Communities are now focused on implementing their action plans to sustain and expand existing child care and support new child care programs. In addition, $5,000 stipends have been distributed to over 300 child care providers who updated their business plans through the Dream Up! Business Leadership training opportunity. 

As a continuation of this work, in 2024, DCF contracted with First Children’s Finance to provide additional resources to engage and support local or regional efforts related to expanding access to child care across the state and build upon previous grant activities. Some of these resources will be provided in the form of two different webinar series, which you can learn about below. 

At this time, DCF does not have further funding for future cohorts of Dream Up! grants. DCF announced awardees for Cohorts 1 and 2 in May 2022 and Cohort 3 in June 2023. DCF has also worked with a few communities to capture videos of the Dream Up! process. Catch up on the progress communities have been making by viewing these videos on our Innovative Communities Around Wisconsin.

View Cohort 1 and 2 Awardees

View Cohort 3 Awardees

Grant Program Partner: First Children’s Finance

First Children’s Finance engaged with 37 communities throughout Wisconsin to address their child care gaps and help them progress to a sustainable supply of child care. This project of strategic supply and capacity building on a community level, along with evaluation, monitoring and reporting, has included five main activities: 

  1. Design a competitive process for selecting 37 communities for strategic supply-building consultation
  2. Consult on community strategic supply-building efforts
  3. Disseminate community implementation grants
  4. Guide development of business improvement plans, cohort learning opportunities, and stipends for providers
  5. Manage the Dream Up! grant program

First Children’s Finance is a national nonprofit organization that provides loans and business development assistance to child care businesses serving low- and moderate-income families. They address the business and finance needs of child care in three different ways: building the financial sustainability of child care entrepreneurs, partnering with communities to preserve and grow their child care supply, and influencing state and federal systems to provide supports and investments needed to sustain child care businesses. Learn more about First Children’s Finance.

Video: Reflections on the Community Experience with First Children’s Finance

Hear from Rick Bonlender as he shares his experience working with First Children's Finance in his former community: Renville County, Minnesota.

Additional Resources

Dream Up! Grants - Closed

View the guidelines for the closed Dream Up! grant program.

First Children's Finance Training Series

Under the Dream Up! program, First Children's Finance is offering two new training series:

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions? Visit the Dream Up! Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) webpage.

Program Funding

This program has two funding sources:

  • PDG — This program was made possible by Grant Number 90TP007601 from the Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Office of Child Care, the Administration for Children and Families, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • ARPA — This program is funded with Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Questions? Contact DCFMBDECEProjectGrowth@wisconsin.gov