Categories: Youth



High-quality early education from birth to 5 can have a meaningful impact on a child’s success in school and beyond; however, systemic barriers prevent children and families from maximizing this opportunity, limiting their future choices.

In Indiana, there are over 500,000 children age 0-5, and two-thirds of them need early care and learning so that parents can work. Yet, many children and families cannot access the high-quality early care and learning they need as a result of systemic barriers related to access, affordability and quality.

Like many other Indiana communities, Unity Foundation of La Porte County applied for the recent Early Years Initiative grant for a La Porte County “Smart Start” initiative to strengthen and expand La Porte County’s early learning and childcare ecosystem. This initiative would also revive and expand a regular La Porte County early learning and childcare convening group to prioritize these needs. Other La Porte County partners who pursued the Early Years initiative grant included: Dunebrook, Paladin (Imagination Station and Head Start of La Porte County) and La Porte County Family YMCA Childcare Center. Grant applicants will be notified by August 2023 of their status.

The Early Years Initiative is administered by Early Learning Indiana (ELI) and funded by a $55 million commitment from the Lilly Endowment. The initiative will provide support to Indiana-based organizations to strengthen the development of infants and toddlers (birth through age 3). To that end, ELI expects to make 200 grants ranging from $75,000 to $500,000.

The Lilly Endowment grant includes up to $50 million for the initiative and $5 million to help ELI administer it and provide technical assistance to organizations funded through it. The initiative will focus on funding programs and projects that influence healthy brain development in young children and other aspects of their physical, social-emotional, and cognitive well-being.

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