businessman shaking handsPartner Up! Grant Program

The Partner Up! grant program will provide $21 million in funding to support partnerships  between businesses who purchase slots at existing regulated child care providers. The funding will be awarded based on existing community child care needs throughout Wisconsin. The funding from this program can be used to increase staff compensation, pay expenses, reserve child care slots for local business employees, improve the quality of a child care program, and more.

Who Should Apply:

  • Businesses
  • Child care providers who want to help sponsor the cost of their employees’ child care

Note: Governmental entities are not eligible for Partner Up! grants.

Applications for Partner Up! have now closed.

Child care providers: If you only want to partner with a business to provide care for children through Partner Up!, you DO NOT need to submit a Partner Up! application. Instead, you should contact your local CCR&R to let them know you are interested in accepting families for Partner Up!

If you have already submitted an application in error, contact your local CCR&R to have your application removed. If you have already contacted SFTA or your CCR&R about removing your application, you do not need to take any further action at this time.

If you are interested in reducing the cost of care for your own employees, then you needed to submit a Partner Up! application for your child care business. 


Grant Program Partner: Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA)

SFTA, in partnership with Wisconsin’s nine Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (CCR&Rs), will administer the Partner Up! grant program. CCR&Rs will work with interested businesses and child care programs in their regions and provide ongoing support to program participants. SFTA will administer the program and issue the payments. Watch for upcoming communications from your local CCR&R with more information about how Partner Up! could support your business and how to apply. Find your local CCR&R.

Supporting Families Together Association is Wisconsin’s statewide association for organizations and individuals committed to making every early childhood a great one. Their members are Wisconsin’s Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (CCR&Rs) and 22 Family Resource Centers (FRCs). They provide services and supports to their member agencies in order to positively impact children, parents, child care providers, and the world of early childhood care and education throughout Wisconsin. By partnering with their members, they ensure effective family support and early childhood programming is available statewide; resources are strategically leveraged and maximized; and meaningful connections, relationships, and systems are built. Learn more about SFTA.

Partner Up! Webinars

Project Growth Kick-Off Webinar

Join DCF and other project partners to hear about Project Growth and its two grant programs: Partner Up! and Dream Up! You’ll learn more about the programs and why child care is so important to Wisconsin’s economy.

Watch the recorded webinar. (Passcode: 2=LU3J&%)

Partner Up! Informational Webinars

Watch the recorded Partner Up! webinar. Download the corresponding presentation.

Additional Resources

Sample Survey on Employee Needs for Child Care

Download the Survey on Employee Needs for Child Care to gain better insight into the child care needs of your employees. This sample survey is provided in a Word document format so that you can adjust the questions to best fit your business. You can send the survey to your employees in this format to fill out, by email, or create your own online form. Please keep in mind that your employees may perceive these questions as sensitive, so we strongly suggest that:

  1. You keep the survey anonymous and offer for employees to share their name only if they want to
  2. You keep all results anonymous and unidentifiable when sharing.

Download the survey now.

Monthly True Cost of Care Tables

The per child monthly true cost of care amounts for part-time and full-time care are below.

Full-Time (21+ hours per Week)
Age Group Monthly Total 25% 30% 40% 50%
0-1 year,
11 months
$1,800 $450 $540 $720 $900
2-year-old $1,400 $350 $420 $560 $700
3-year-old $1,100 $275 $330 $440 $550
4 & 5-year-olds $1,000 $250 $300 $400 $500
6+ years old $900 $225 $270 $360 $450
Part-Time (1-20 hours per week)
Age Group Monthly Total 25% 30% 40% 50%
0-1 year,
11 months
$1,200 $300 $360 $480 $600
2-year-old $925 $231.25 $277.50 $370 $462.50
3-year-old $725 $181.25 $217.50 $290 $362.50
4 & 5-year-olds $675 $168.75 $202.50 $270 $337.50
6+ years old $600 $150 $180 $240 $300


The maximum number of child care providers that a business can contract with will be determined by the number of slots secured, as outlined in the table below.

Slots Secured Maximum Number of Regulated
Child Care Providers
1-9 slots 3 providers
10-25 slots 6 providers
26-50 slots 10 providers
51-75 slots 15 providers
76-100 slots 20 providers
101+ slots 25 providers


Scoring Criteria and Priority Consideration

For businesses, priority will be given to:

  • Those who apply by March 14
  • Small businesses
  • Employers applying for low to middle income workers
  • Businesses contracting:
    • Slots for a higher percentage of their total employees
    • Longer-termed contracts
    • Slots for children under 2 years old
    • A higher percentage of full-time slots than part-time slots
  • Businesses willing to contribute more than 25% of the monthly true cost of care
  • Businesses that are contracting slots for third shift employees (as long as there are third shift child care providers available to be matched with)
  • Businesses that are working with other businesses in some type of cooperative or consortium to provide child care slots for multiple businesses
    • Distribution of funding guidance:
      Western Southern Northeastern Northern Southeastern
      $1,500,000 $2,000,000 $2,500,000 $1,000,000 $3,000,000
      *This allocation of funding is based on the number of privately owned establishments reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2020. DCF reserves the right to reallocate funding from any region that is unable to award their full allocation during the time allotted.

For child care providers, priority will be given to:

  • Providers who are regulated and in good standing with DCF
  • Providers who maintain attendance records in compliance with child care licensing requirements
  • Providers located in child care deserts

NOTE: We are not prioritizing entities that received DWD Workforce Innovation Grant funds

This section was updated on 3/11/2022.

Frequently Asked Questions

Partner Up! Grant Program Timelines

  • Grant applications period will run February 28, 2022 - April 4, 2022 at 5 p.m. CST

What is the benefit of applying by March 14 for priority consideration?

Your application will be reviewed and considered for funding first! This can potentially increase your chances of acceptance if there are many applicants, as there is a limitation on the funds available and how many applicants will be able to receive the funds.

Are all businesses eligible for Partner Up!?

All businesses are eligible. In order to take advantage of federal funding guidance, that gives the department additional discretion, funding is targeted to essential businesses and families that would not normally be eligible for child care funding. Additionally, the department has included funding that is available for non-essential businesses.

How is the true cost of care covered through Partner Up!?

The true cost of care (as outlined in the tables above) is jointly paid for by the business and DCF. Businesses will determine the percentage of the true cost of care that they will pay for their employees, but this must be a minimum of 25% of the true cost of care rate. The remaining up to 75% is paid for by Partner Up!

How can a child care provider express interest in contracting with local businesses?

Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCR&Rs) and Business Child Care Advocates will be working with businesses that apply for Partner Up! to connect them with local regulated child care programs. 

DCF also encourages child care providers to reach out to local community members and businesses to share this exciting grant opportunity! You may access the Project Growth Media Bundle for information to share with those in your network.

My program has a wait list, can I still benefit from a Partner Up! grant?

Yes! Your child care program cannot unenroll children for whom they are currently providing care and offer it to children that were approved for the Partner Up! grant program. However, the Partner Up! program will work with families and businesses to partner with child care providers that have availability or ensure families can stay at their existing provider. This means that if an employer wants to sponsor the tuition payments for the parent/caregiver of a child already enrolled in your program, you could receive an increase in monthly revenue because you would receive funding of the true cost of their care, rather than your market-driven tuition rate.

What YoungStar level is required of child care providers who will participate in Partner Up!?

There is no requirement! Providers do not need to be participating in YoungStar. Rather, they must be either licensed or certified by Wisconsin DCF to participate. 

Can child care providers apply as a business to contract slots for their own employee’s children?

Yes! We anticipate that child care providers will apply for funds to support their employees’ tuition expenses at their program. However, there are risks inherent with allowing a child care business to “partner with themselves.” To mitigate these risks SFTA/DCF will more closely monitor this category of contracts and require the providers to submit additional documentation beyond what is described in the eligibility criteria.

  • Adequate training and guidance must be provided to child care providers who apply for funding as a business on what is required and allowable uses of funding.
  • SFTA must document who at the child care program signs the contract and which employees are receiving the Partner Up! funding.

The licensee cannot purchase a slot in the Partner Up! program for their own child(ren) at their child care program.

How does Partner Up! benefit rural areas with farms and smaller businesses?

Partner Up! will prioritize small businesses to ensure greater distribution of resources where they are needed. Partner Up! has also created a distribution of funding guidance table to ensure all areas of the state are receiving necessary resources. 

How does Partner Up! work to ensure equitable distribution of resources in lower socio-economic areas of the state?

DCF is prioritizing funds for low- and middle-income employees, and distributing funds across the state and to an array of business types, including small businesses. Further, a business may also work with other businesses in a cooperative or consortium to provide child care slots for multiple businesses, together. Project Growth's Dream Up! grant is prioritizing communities who lack infant/toddler care or have child care desert status, etc., which may correspond to lower socio-economic regions of the state. 

Do child care providers need to apply to Partner Up! in order to offer care for reserved slots?

No. Child care providers who wish to partner with other businesses and reserve slots only should contact their CCR&R to be added to the list of interested providers.

Are government entities or governmental units eligible to apply for Partner Up! grants?

Government entities or governmental units are not eligible to apply for Partner Up! grants due to restrictions around CRRSA funding. This would apply to public school districts, federal, state, and local government entities.

However, there are unique circumstances in which these entities may be eligible to apply for their business. If a Tribe or school district owns a casino, a child care center, or other business, they are eligible to apply for those employees.

How does Partner Up! help family care providers?

Providers will have stable enrollment through paid, reserved slots. And because providers will receive the true cost of care, in many cases this amount will be higher than regular tuition rates and provide funds to be reinvested into quality programming.

Are employees able to choose their own child care providers?

In many cases, families will be able to remain with their current regulated provider. Where this is not possible, BCCAs will work to connect businesses with local regulated providers. When a family needs care and does not yet have a regulated provider, BCCAs will be able to assist with referrals and provider/family matching.

Are these programs only for early child care providers?

Project Growth is aimed at the child care challenge in Wisconsin. These grants will help Wisconsin businesses, communities, and ECE providers to partner, find solutions, and innovate. Businesses, including regulated child care providers, are eligible to apply to Partner Up!

Will there be a waiting list if applications exceed available funding?

Yes, SFTA will maintain a waiting list for future funding opportunities. You will be notified if not awarded a Partner Up! grant and will have the option to be added to the waiting list at that time.

How can I participate in Partner Up! if I have no vacancies and am unable to add children due to low staffing?

You could start by providing information to the families of children currently in your care. They are able to discuss Partner Up! with their employers and participate if the employer applies and is awarded a Partner Up! grant.

Will there be a parent contribution for Partner Up!?

For Partner Up!, businesses will contribute a minimum of 25% of the true cost of care. The Partner Up! grant will cover the remainder. In cases where the true cost of care is less than the provider's regular tuition amount, parents would pay the difference. 

Can Partner Up! child care slots sponsor the tuition payments for parents/caregivers who receive the Wisconsin Shares subsidy?

Parents/caregivers who currently receive Wisconsin Shares are not eligible to receive sponsorship from Partner Up! at the same time. These families are able to unenroll in Wisconsin Shares if they would like to participate and would then need to reapply for Wisconsin Shares at the end of the program contract. 

How is low- and middle-income defined?

This decision will be the business's responsibility when choosing which employees they want to offer this program to. 

What happens if Partner Up! funding does not get extended? Would the program end or is it intended for employers to sustain efforts?

If Partner Up! funding does not get extended the program would either need to be sustained by businesses, additional third-party resources, or ended. 

Will someone be available to assist grantees with additional questions and help guide them through the process?

Business Child Care Advocates are Child Care Resource & Referral staff, located in each region, who are ready to provide technical assistance and support to Partner Up! participants. Find your local CCR&R.

How is Partner Up! being marketed on a local level?

Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies are located within each region and are doing extensive outreach to market Partner Up! Business Child Care Advocates are CCR&R staff who are ready to provide technical assistance and support to businesses interested in applying. Find your local CCR&R.

Are child care providers eligible to apply for both grants?

Yes, child care providers may apply to both grants. With Partner Up!, the child care licensee cannot purchase a slot in the program for their own child(ren) at their child care program. Further, we are not prioritizing entities that received DWD Workforce Innovation Grant funds. With Dream Up! individual child care programs are not eligible to apply as a stand-alone applicant, but may be part of a cross-sector team.

What is the sustainability plan and how long can businesses expect for funding from Partner Up! to last?

Businesses may select a length of contract of 3, 6, 9 or 12 months in duration to support sustainability planning. Upon completion of the contract, if Partner Up! funding does not get extended with a new call for proposals, the program would need to be sustained by businesses, additional third-party resources, or ended.

How was the true cost of care determined?

DCF statewide analyses led to the determined levels of true cost of care utilized for Partner Up!