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Navigating Childcare Grants and Other Funding Resources in Maine

Understanding childcare grants in Maine can be challenging, but they can offer a lifeline to providers looking for support. Learn how to access the financial aid you need to provide quality care to every child.

Navigating Childcare Grants and Other Funding Resources in Maine

Navigating Childcare Grants in Maine

The childcare industry is undeniably a critical component of Maine's economy, supporting the workforce by ensuring families have access to quality child care. However, running or starting a childcare facility can be financially challenging. 

Thankfully, various grants are available to assist childcare providers in Maine, from enhancing their facilities to furthering their professional development. This guide outlines the types of grants available in Maine and how to prepare your application to maximize your chances of receiving funding.

What is a grant?

A grant is a sum of money given by the government, private foundations, or other entities to fund a particular project or service. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid, making them an attractive funding option for childcare providers looking to improve their services or expand their operations.

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 Maine

In Maine, several grants are specifically designed to support childcare providers. These grants can be categorized into financial assistance from government agencies, professional development support, and funding offered by private foundations.

Grants and resources from government agencies

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is the lead state agency that oversees the distribution of the federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) in Maine. 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.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child and Family Services provides various programs and financial assistance that supports childcare providers in meeting the state's health and safety standards and improving accessibility:

    • Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program: This grant supports providers in starting, renovating, or expanding their current facilities. The program provides direct financial assistance to improve program safety and infrastructure, as well as start-up costs and business planning. 
    • Child Care Affordability Program (CCAP): This program aims to assist childcare providers by subsidizing the cost for children from families that meet certain income criteria. This program benefits providers by ensuring a stable flow of income for children who might otherwise be unable to afford childcare services.
    • Rising Stars for ME: This initiative is Maine's quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) designed to recognize and incentivize childcare providers in Maine who commit to providing high-quality care. Benefits for participating providers include increased visibility through a state-recognized quality rating, potential eligibility for higher reimbursement rates under state subsidy programs, and access to specialized training and professional development opportunities. 
    • Early Childhood Educator Workforce Salary Supplement System: This system is designed to directly enhance the compensation of qualified early childhood educators in Maine, improving the retention and recruitment of high-quality educators in the childcare sector. Salary supplements are given directly to providers for eligible workers based on their education and experience level.
  • Maine Early Childhood Consultation Partnership (ECCP): This innovative program provides childcare providers with direct access to early childhood mental health consultants. These experts work closely with staff to enhance their understanding of child behavior and development, offering strategies to support the emotional and social needs of children in their care.

Professional development support

Ongoing professional development is crucial for childcare providers to stay updated on best practices and regulations. Maine supports this with programs and resources aimed at professional growth:

Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN)

The MRTQ PDN is a comprehensive initiative designed to support childcare providers in Maine through professional development opportunities and resources. It aims to enhance the quality of childcare services by offering access to training, workshops, and courses that cover a wide range of topics relevant to early childhood education. Additionally, MRTQ PDN provides a pathway for childcare professionals to advance their careers through certification and credentialing programs.

T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Maine

The T.E.A.C.H. program provides scholarships to childcare providers pursuing further education in the early childhood field.

Grants from private foundations

Beyond government initiatives, private foundations in Maine also offer grants to support childcare providers:

John T. Gorman Foundation

This foundation offers grants focusing on improving the lives of Maine’s children and families and preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which includes support for childcare services.

The Libra Foundation

The Libra Foundation plays a pivotal role in supporting the state's communities through investment in the arts, education, and social services.

Maine Community Foundation

The Maine Community Foundation provides funding for projects that enhance community well-being, including childcare services. The foundation has over 20 competitive grant programs that serve communities throughout Maine. 

The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation

Known for its philanthropic efforts in Maine, this foundation provides financial assistance for projects that improve community health, education, and the arts, including supportive measures for childcare services.

Teacher and students coloring with crayonsSource

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 Maine. 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.

Applying for grants

Applying for childcare grants in Maine 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 Maine. 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

Childcare grants in Maine offer a valuable opportunity to enhance the quality of care and expand services without the financial strain. By understanding the types of grants available and preparing a strong application, childcare providers can secure the funding they need to make a meaningful difference in the lives of 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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