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Navigating Childcare Grants and Other Funding Resources in Pennsylvania

By understanding childcare grants in Pennsylvania, as well as how and where to apply for them, childcare providers can strengthen their businesses and continue to nurture children in their care.

Navigating Childcare Grants and Other Funding Resources in Pennsylvania

Navigating Childcare Grants in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's childcare sector is a crucial backbone for communities, supporting the development of young minds, and offering working families the security of professional care. However, for many childcare providers, financial stability remains challenging, especially given the economic uncertainties of recent times. 

Recognizing this, the state of Pennsylvania and various private organizations offer a multitude of grants and financial assistance programs. This comprehensive guide is tailored for childcare providers in Pennsylvania, who are looking to access funding to improve their services and facilities.

What is a grant?

Grants are non-repayable funds or products disbursed or gifted by private organizations, governments, or foundations to individuals, businesses, or government agencies. Unlike a loan, they don't accrue interest and don't require repayment, provided the recipient complies with the terms and conditions of the grant.

Grants can serve various purposes, and in the childcare industry, they can be used for starting a new childcare business, expanding existing ones, or investing in staff development and training.

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!

Group of children with teacher sitting on the floor indoors reading a book.Source

Childcare grants in Pennsylvania

The state of Pennsylvania has established multiple channels through which childcare providers can access financial support. Whether you're looking to enhance your facility's safety features or equip your team with the latest in child development, there's a grant tailored for your needs.

Grants and resources from government agencies

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning is the lead state agency that oversees the distribution of the federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) in Pennsylvania. 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.

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) offers several initiatives to help improve the quality and accessibility of child care in the state: 

    • Keystone STARS: This program is Pennsylvania’s quality rating and improvement system. Providers can earn award funds by reaching higher levels of quality within the Keystone STARS rating system, with support available for professional development, equipment, and materials.
  • PA Pre-K Counts: Pre-K Counts is a state-funded program that offers grants to help eligible childcare providers offer high-quality pre-kindergarten to three- and four-year-olds. The grant can cover a range of expenses from curriculum materials to professional development for teachers.
  • Child Care Works (CCW): The Child Care Works (CCW) program functions as a subsidy for operational expenses for qualified childcare providers. This initiative not only supports the providers' sustainability but also upholds the state's commitment to accessible and quality childcare for all families, particularly those in need.

Preschool Development Birth through Five (PDG B-5) Renewal Grant 

The funds from the Preschool Development Grant (PDG) are used in various ways, including providing mini grants to childcare providers to expand facilities in childcare deserts and obtain support for challenging behavior. 

Professional development support

Investing in the professional development of childcare staff is crucial for maintaining quality in early childhood education. Pennsylvania provides grants to build the skills and knowledge of childcare professionals:

Rising STARS Tuition Assistance (RSTA)

This program provides financial aid to eligible childcare employees, enabling them to pursue credentials in early childhood education without the burden of tuition costs. Applicants must currently work a minimum of 20 hours per week in a classroom setting, work at an eligible childcare program, and meet certain income requirements.

T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Pennsylvania Scholarship Program

The T.E.A.C.H scholarship program offers scholarships to early childhood educators working in Pennsylvania. The scholarship covers 80% of tuition costs while the recipient commits to specific education and employment conditions.

Grants from private foundations

Beyond government assistance, there are also private foundations in Pennsylvania that offer grants to childcare providers.

William Penn Foundation

The William Penn Foundation provides grants and technical assistance to help childcare organizations in the greater Philadelphia area improve the quality of their programs and support the development of their staff.

Highmark Foundation

The Highmark Foundation is focused on initiatives that address children's health and well-being. Providers can find funding opportunities for programs that promote early childhood health and development.

The PNC Foundation

Through its Grow Up Great initiative, the PNC Foundation supports early childhood education efforts, offering grants to providers for curriculum development, teacher training, and classroom resources in Pennsylvania and beyond.

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 Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania. 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

By tapping into available grant and financial assistance programs in Pennsylvania, providers can ensure that their programs are high-quality, and the professionals who work there have the tools and training to guide children's development.


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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