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Navigating Childcare Grants and Other Funding Resources in Iowa

Discover how childcare grants in Iowa can provide essential financial support to childcare providers, helping to enhance the quality and accessibility of early childhood education across the state.

Navigating Childcare Grants and Other Funding Resources in Iowa

Navigating Childcare Grants in Iowa

Navigating the financial landscape as a childcare provider can be challenging. Grants and other resources offer a ray of hope, constituting crucial funding that could revitalize your facility, advance your staff training, or otherwise assist in enhancing your services as a childcare provider. 

Fortunately, the state of Iowa provides various grants and funding opportunities for childcare providers to help them grow and improve their operations. This article lists different funding resources in Iowa and steps to follow to increase your chances of receiving this important funding.

Toddlers sitting on floor at daycare with teacher.Source

What is a grant?

Grants are essentially financial gifts; they don't need to be repaid, making them an invaluable tool for organizations seeking financial assistance. Grants can be obtained from various sources, including government agencies, private foundations, and non-profit organizations.

Grants hold the potential to be a game-changer for childcare business owners. By providing financial support without the burden of repayment, grants enable owners to invest in quality improvements, such as upgrading facilities, incorporating innovative educational tools, and offering professional development opportunities for staff. 

The U.S. government’s second and final funding package for fiscal year 2024 includes a $1 billion increase for programs focused on child care and early childhood education¹. This new funding includes an additional $275 million for the Head Start program and $725 million for the Child Care and Development Block Grant which funds state efforts to provide child care to families and improve the quality of care. 

Download a free grant writing guide for childcare programs here!

Childcare grants in Iowa

Iowa offers several grants and funding resources specifically targeted towards the early education industry. Below are some of the key grants offered to childcare providers.

Grants and resources from government agencies

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the lead state agency that oversees the distribution of the federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) in Iowa. This funding can be in the form of certificates, grants, or contracts to provide childcare services to low-income families or improve the quality of care provided.

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funds various initiatives to increase access to and improve the quality of childcare services:

  • Iowa Quality for Kids (IQ4K®): The IQ4K® program is Iowa’s quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), a voluntary program designed to quantify the level of care and services provided by childcare programs. Participating providers are eligible to earn monetary bonuses that can be used to grow your program.

Iowa providers: Click here to get brightwheel for free!


Child Care WAGE$ Iowa

Childcare providers who participate in Iowa's Quality Rating System (IQ4K/QRS) and meet specific criteria can receive salary supplements through the WAGE$ program. It aims to support the retention of highly qualified, experienced, and dedicated childcare professionals.

Professional development support

Investing in the professional development of childcare staff is crucial for maintaining quality in early childhood education. In Iowa, there are specific grants focused on professional development to ensure that childcare providers and educators are equipped with the latest techniques and strategies.

T.E.A.C.H. Iowa

This program provides scholarships to early childhood educators in Iowa pursuing further education in the field. In addition to covering tuition and book expenses, it also compensates recipients for time spent outside the classroom and provides a bonus upon completion of the scholarship contract.

Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R)

Iowa’s Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) provides various training resources to early childhood professionals to comply with state regulations and improve their quality of care. 

Grants from private foundations

Private foundations in Iowa offer additional opportunities for childcare providers seeking funds to improve their programs, facilities, and staff training. Here are a few noteworthy organizations:

Iowa Women’s Foundation

This foundation is dedicated to breaking down barriers to child care in Iowa. The Iowa Women’s Foundation Childcare Solutions Fund offers grants that support innovative solutions and initiatives aimed at increasing the quality and availability of childcare services.

Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center

The Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center matches missions to donors with the Iowa Grants Guide, a database of nearly 700 funders in Iowa or with an Iowa connection. You can filter by grantor name, area of interest, or county.

Iowa Community Foundations

Many community foundations in Iowa offer grants and funding opportunities for child care providers. These foundations often have a focus on local needs and priorities, making them an excellent resource for providers looking to make a positive impact in their community.

Federal grants and funding opportunities

The federal government offers a variety of grants and funding opportunities to support childcare providers across the United States, including Iowa. These grants are designed to improve access to quality childcare, support the professional development of childcare workers, and enhance the learning environments for children under their care. Some key federal funding sources include:

U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offers discretionary grants that are awarded using a competitive process, as well as student loans or grants to attend college, and formula grants determined by Congress. Here are some helpful resources to explore:

  • ED grants homepage: The ED grants homepage allows you to browse funding opportunities, links to grant applications, and your eligibility status.
  • The website is the central location that provides information on grants across the federal government. You can search for and apply to different funding opportunities, determine your eligibility, and access grant writing tips. 
  • Head Start and Early Head Start Programs: Aimed at promoting school readiness for children under five from low-income families, these programs provide grants directly to public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services. The Office of Head Start (OHS) posts notices of funding opportunities (NOFOs) that seek applications for grand funds. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) manages various financial assistance programs for rural applications. One example is the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program that provides funds to be used to purchase, construct and/or improve essential community facilities like childcare centers, purchase equipment, and pay related project expenses in rural areas with no more than 20,000 residents.

Teacher doing arts and crafts project with preschool children in the classroom.Source

Applying for grants

Applying for childcare grants in Iowa can be a competitive process, as funding is often limited. To increase your chances of receiving a grant, it’s essential to carefully review and follow all application guidelines and requirements. Here are some general steps to take when applying for childcare grants:

  • Meet all licensing requirements: Ensure that your program meets all of the licensing requirements in Iowa. Maintaining licensing compliance shows a commitment to high-quality standards and is often also required for you to be eligible for specific grants and funding opportunities.
  • Do your research and determine your eligibility: Research available grants and determine which ones align with your needs and goals. Before applying, check to see that you meet all the necessary criteria. Most (but not all) government grants are aimed at 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, so be sure to read the eligibility requirements carefully.
  • Gather your documentation: Most grant applications will ask for specific documentation, such as financial statements, demographic information, licenses, and certifications. Be sure to have these prepared in advance. With brightwheel you can quickly and easily access custom reporting to meet your specific needs.
  • Write a compelling grant proposal: Read successful grant applications to learn how to structure your approach. Include an executive summary of your project and clearly define the need or problem your childcare services address. Provide a detailed description of your program and list your objectives and expected outcomes. Follow all grant application instructions, have someone else review your proposal before submitting, and submit your application on time. 

Download a free grant writing guide for childcare programs here!


Additional tips for success

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when applying for grants for your childcare center:

  • Stay informed: Connect and engage with local and state organizations focused on early childhood education. If possible, join their email lists or follow their social media pages, as these organizations will often share grant and funding information as it becomes available. Also, regularly check the websites of federal agencies to stay informed on available grants or programs. 
  • Create a budget: A comprehensive childcare center budget will highlight the financial needs and priorities of your program and give funders a clear understanding of how a grant will be utilized. With a clear picture of your program’s finances, you can also maximize the impact of any funding that is received.
  • Plan a fundraiser: Hosting a fundraising event can raise necessary funds for your program. Have a bake sale, organize a silent auction, or host a trivia night. 
  • Hire a grant proposal writer: If your budget allows, consider hiring a grant proposal writer. A grant proposal writer can craft a compelling narrative about your program and navigate the complexities of the grant application process for you.

Final thoughts

Grants and funding resources provide essential opportunities for childcare providers to enhance their services, improve their facilities, and invest in professional development for themselves and their staff. By taking advantage of these grant programs, childcare providers in Iowa can continue to provide high-quality care to the children and families they serve.


1. “Former Preschool Teacher Patty Murray Delivers $1 Billion More to Help Families Find and Afford Child Care & Pre-K”, United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, 03/21/2024.

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