Dream Up!

Dream Up! Child Care Supply-Building Grant Program.

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) provided competitive applications in 2022 and 2023. Through this program, awarded communities received strategic planning support and $75,000 in grant funding. Additional $5,000 stipends were allocated to participating child care providers who submit updated business plans during the strategic planning process. Through a collaborative community approach, teams of community stakeholders, worked to evaluate, plan, sustain, and expand existing child care, and support new child care programs.

Project Growth is one of many initiatives DCF introduced to stabilize our communities’ child care systems and boost Wisconsin’s economy. As one of its grant programs, Dream Up! provided funding and strategic planning guidance to support child care supply-building through a collaborative community approach. After awarding a couple of cohorts of recipients, DCF partnered with KW2 to conduct an evaluation. Early findings were released in October 2022, and the final reports for the Dream Up! grant program are now available as well. Access each report below:

Childcaring Staff were on several community teams within our service area.

To learn more about each team, click on the county.

Goals of Adams County Dream Up!: 

  1. Identify at least 3 locations for expansion of current child care facilities.
  2. Develop a messaging strategy to communicate the benefits of expanding access to quality child care.

Team Lead: Erin Schiferl, Children and Family Services Manager, Adams County Healthy and Human Services Department

Active Team Members:

  • Tina Smith-Child Welfare Specialist-ACHHSD
  • Sheila Michels-Health & Wellbeing Educator-UW Extension
  • Kristine Joyce-Early Childhood Consultant/Trainer-Childcaring, Inc.
  • Daric Smith-Director-Adams County Economic Development Coordinator
  • Erin Hess-Branch Executive Director-SWC/Adams YMCA
  • Suzanne Hoppe-Executive Director-Renewal Unlimited (Headstart)
  • Gayle Schiszik-Certifier/Pre-Licensing Technical Consultant-Childcaring Inc.
  • Audra Jackson-Administrative Support-ACHHSD
  • Amber Taylor-Economic Support Manager-ACHHSD
  • Kelly Borchardt-Executive Director-Childcaring Inc
  • Jerry Exterovich-Rural Community Liason-USDA
  • Candy Schraufnagel-Birth-3 Educator-ACHHSD
  • Michelle Allard-School Counselor-AFASD

Success story: Possibly our most successful outcome from the Alliance, and particularly the Dream Up! grant, would be the collaboration with community partners, especially the YMCA, Headstart, local school district, Midstate and Childcaring Inc. There have been some fruitful conversations and many ideas generated to support the infrastructure to bring in more local childcare. Our first focus is on building an early childhood education workforce, starting with our youngest community members, by offering the SafeSitter program to promote responsible caregiving at a young age. 

Langlade County wants to invest in and retain the current child care providers in their community. Child Care Dream Up! Grants were available to aid regulated child care programs with staff retention compensation, program supplies/equipment, continuing education, or minor renovations. Related education required for new start ups and/or costs associated with the start-up of a new child care program were able to receive up to $1000. More grant opportunities may be available in the future. To learn more about this Early Childhood/Dream Up team, please contact Childcaring and visit the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation Facebook page.

Round 3 – Child Care Dream Up! Grant

The Langlade County Dream Up! Team has funding available to support you and your efforts to continue to serve families! Funding is available for related education required to maintain regulation, new staff, and/or costs associated with the start-up of a new child care program – up to $1000, while funding is available. Final award amount may be based on overall participation.


  • Application Due: June 1 – December 31, 2024
  • Notice of Award: Within two weeks of Childcaring receiving your application
  • Awards Granted: Notification sent to bank for checks to be cut within two weeks of award notification
  • Report with Receipts Due: Within four weeks of receiving grant payment

During the Community Roundtable Event this spring, Logan, a community member and father, shared his personal experience struggling to find child care.

“Areas struggling to retain its younger population…need affordable child care as a necessity, if you want young families to be invested in this town.”

To read more about Logans journey, like many families in Langlade County click here. 


Langlade County child care task force shares local data demonstrating crisis, asking for community solutions! Click here to view the coverage by Emily Davies – WSAW

Child Care in Langlade County: 

  • Currently 11 providers with the capacity for up to 267 children
  • 360 additional slots are needed
  • 1 in 3 survey respondents left the child care workforce in the past 5 years


Team Lead: Lincoln County Government

Active Team Members:

Lincoln County Administration

Lincoln County Social Services

Merrill School District

Tomahawk School District

Childcaring, Inc.

Redeemer Learning Center

Trinity Merrill Lutheran Early Learning Center

Merrill Chamber of Commerce

Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation

Children’s WI

WI Department of Children & Families

Community Members & Parents

Prairie River School for Young Learners

St. John’s Lutheran Church & School

Mission: Creating unique opportunities to increase child care capacity in rural communities

The Lincoln County Dream Up! Team is excited to share the work of this group and the benefits to Lincoln County as we wrap up the Child Care Supply-Building Grant.  Lincoln County was selected by the Department of Children and Families for the 2022 fall cohort and the Lincoln County Board through resolution approved acceptance of this grant.  Over the last 12 months, agencies throughout the county have come together to assess Lincoln County child care capacity, the economic impact to the county due to child care shortages, and work to support current and aspiring child care providers.  On November 10th, the team was able to showcase their efforts to the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, Emilie Amundson, who toured Trinity Childcare and heard from the team members about the successes of community collaborative efforts, barriers to building the childcare supply and future hopes. 

Through the support of this grant, Lincoln County Dream Up! was able to:

  • Provide $41,000 in retention and sustainability grants to current Lincoln County providers.  These funds helped obtain quality and safe equipment providers otherwise couldn’t afford, provided staff bonuses, purchased large motor skills equipment (tricycles), outdoor playground toys and met other essential needs.
  • Partner with Trinity Childcare to support training needs of staff to meet regulations to support obtaining licensure.  This will allow greater access to those who receive WI Shares, the state child care assistance.
  • Support both Tomahawk and Merrill Schools who are working toward providing high school students curriculum where students can receive college credit and training towards Early Childhood Education. 
  • Collaborate with the Chambers of Commerce in Merrill and Tomahawk to provide educational outreach to multiple non-profit organizations and businesses to support increasing childcare capacity.  This included sharing information from a locally conducted survey.
  • Support the Lincoln County Health Department in providing a Community Baby Shower that provided care packages and access to community resources that address childcare, child safety and healthy development.
  • Partner with Langlade County Dream Up! Team to develop marketing and support our shared childcare resource agency, Childcaring Inc., who now hosts a landing page for our teams.  Childcaring can provide information regarding how to become regulated, funding available to support the process of becoming regulated, information for people looking for childcare, and more. 

While the grant is wrapping up, the Lincoln County Dream Up! Team will continue to work with our community to support our current and aspiring providers


76 Lincoln County Residents participated in a recent survey regarding childcare. Of those participants:

  • 14 have multiple children at different locations for childcare
  • 39 currently use a family member or friend for childcare
  • 26 left the workforce in the last 5 years because of childcare issues
    • 11 more had a significant other or another family member leave the workforce for a total 49% surveyed
  • 60% of the participants had challenges within the last 2 years accessing childcare

According to the WI Department of Children & Families – Preschool Development Grant Sandbox Data: 75% of zip codes in Lincoln County are considered child care deserts (areas with little or no access to quality childcare. There are only 15 regulated (certified or licensed) child care options with a capacity to serve 429 children in Lincoln County as of July 2023! The Median Household Income in Lincoln County according to the 2020 census was $59,152. The Median Income is $56,645. A family with a child age 0-1 in a group child care setting will pay an average of $9,392/year which is 2.4 times the affordable amount (16.6% of income is spent on child care). The Federal Government defines affordable care as no more than 7% of a family’s yearly income should be spent on child care. Data last updated: 2/7/2022 https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/childcare/pdg/sandbox/data2

Are you interested in helping?

  • Consider volunteering! Providers have shared that even just 1 day per week can result in Healthier Meals (by helping prepare fresh fruits and vegetables) and Support Retention of Teachers/Assistant Teachers.
  • Teachers spend their days with the children. Cleaning and preparing curriculum/activities happen after the day ends. Helping clean the classrooms allows teachers the time to regroup and focus on improving their teaching
  • Help with opening/closing times. The transition times of children coming and going is chaotic for teachers, caregivers, and the children. Having extra hands and eyes improves safety and communication.
  • Respond to any future “call to actions”
  • Dream Up! Is excited about current community conversations and anticipate action in the near future that will provide additional support to regulated providers. Stay informed and share these as they develop with others
  • Support school districts in their efforts in developing Early Childhood Education Programs
  • Consider the opportunity of becoming a child care provider – either in your home as a Family Child Care Provider; or work in a Group Child Care Center. Contact Childcaring for more information to get started!



Team Lead: Marathon County Government

Active Team Members:

Marathon County Administration

Marathon County Health Department

D.C. Everest School District

City of Wausau

Childcaring, Inc.

Marathon County Special Education

North Central WI Workforce Development Board

Wausau Chamber of Commerce

Wausau Child Care

Wausau School District

Woodson YMCA

UWSP at Wausau


All working families in Marathon County have accessible, affordable quality child care in their community.

The Dream Up! grant has been an important catalyst for collaboration and community conversation about child care in Marathon County. The main benefit of the Dream Up! grant so far is that stakeholders have come together to discuss and address the child care crisis in Marathon County. Utilizing the Results Based Accountability (RBA) process, the Dream Up! core team selected a result, indicators, and strategies and have leveraged opportunities to have community conversations with WI DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson, various Marathon County Board committees, and a Child Care Town Hall hosted by the Greater Wausau Area Chamber of Commerce on child care in Marathon County. Through a partnership with Childcaring, Inc, Dream Up! grant funding was distributed to 15 group child care centers that was used to support staff bonuses, professional development opportunities, classroom supplies, and outdoor play materials.

The Marathon County Dream Up! Core Team has prioritized the following strategies:

  • Invest & retain the current child care workforce in Marathon County.
  • Leverage public-private funding partnership with existing child care providers.
  • Explore alternative child care business models.

Team Leads: Wood County Health Department, Extension Wood County.

Active Team Member Organizations:

  • Apple Tree Childcare
  • Aspirus Medical Group
  • Building Blocks Learning Center
  • Centergy, Inc.
  • Childcaring, Inc.
  • Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce
  • Little Sprouts Learning Garden
  • Mama Bears Childcare, LLC
  • Marshfield Area United Way
  • Marshfield Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Marshfield Clinic Health System YMCA
  • Mid-State Technical College
  • South Wood County YMCA
  • United Way of South Wood & Adams Counties
  • Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools
  • Wood County
  • University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Wood County Child Care Task Force

Goals: By February 2024, provide two opportunities for childcare providers who operate in Wood County to come together to network, collaborate, and engage in shared learning events. The expected outcome of this goal is to build a sense of comradery and a mechanism for child care providers to support one another, share ideas, and brainstorm solutions to challenges; provide learning opportunities; gather input on needs.

By February 2024, provide 16 group child care providers with grant funding to be used for things like employee recruitment and retention or expansion. The expected outcome of this goal is that  child care providers receiving funding are able to get and retain employees, resulting in maintaining or opening additional child care slots; expansion funds would also result in added slots.

Success Story: 15 Group Centers in Wood County were awarded $4,250 each! As the local child care resource and referral agency, Childcaring reached out to each eligible group of child care programs to let me know about this wonderful opportunity to apply for retention grants. Programs filled out a very simple application and funds were directly deposited into their bank accounts to make this an easy process for center staff.

Funds helped to support: Infant Formula/Food, Cleaning and Classroom Supplies, Outdoor and Indoor Equipment, Repairs, Insurance, Professional Development, and Staff Retention Bonuses.

Here are just some of the comments from area administrators/directors about how the funds impacted their programs:

  • The funding from this grant has given us the ability to purchase items for every classroom, every age, including for our staff. We have been able to replace & upgrade items that have been donated years ago that have run their course. Thank you so very much for this amazing grant!
  • Food and supply costs along with insurance, rent, etc. have all risen drastically in the last year. We appreciated being able to use these funds to pay for things we use daily at our center. We were able to hold off until March with raising our costs/rates to parents! THANK YOU!
  • This funding will allow my staff to have updated equipment to continue to provide educational materials and support for all our children in care. Also, being able to offer retention bonuses will show our staff support and appreciation of the important services they provide to our families.