Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Expanding Quality Child Care Program with new grant

OWATONNA, Minn., October 26, 2015 - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) received a second grant from Mardag Foundation to help more children become better prepared for kindergarten. After successfully launching its Quality Child Care Program (QCCP) in 2013, this grant will help SMIF expand the program to Rice County, although providers from other counties are welcome and encouraged to attend.

SMIF's goal is to continue to expand and increase the number of Parent Aware-rated, licensed family providers so they can provide quality programming, ensuring more children are ready for kindergarten. The program gives providers opportunities close to home: group trainings, one-on-one mentoring, and curriculum to support improved quality ratings. Through scholarships made possible by this grant, these opportunities are available at no-cost to providers.

The state average for child care providers who participate in Parent Aware is 10 percent, while nearly 30 percent of providers who participated in QCCP in the four counties where SMIF held trainings last year.

“The Mardag Foundation is committed to creating building blocks that set Minnesota children on the path to successful and productive lives,” said Jerry Timian, a program officer at Mardag Foundation.

“Studies show that by 2018, at least 70 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require some training beyond high school,” Timian said. “That is 2.1 million Minnesota jobs that will require skilled workers, and we know that the foundation for those skills is laid in preschool.”

Parent Aware is run by the state, and it identifies and rates child care programs that go beyond state licensing requirements. As with hotel or restaurant ratings, it has a four-star rating system. The more stars, the higher the quality - of knowledge, learning environment, and use of best practices. Independent analysis has found that Parent Aware-rated programs effectively prepare children to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

Other funders of QCCP include the Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® of Minnesota Foundation, Medica Foundation, and Otto Bremer Foundation, helping SMIF offer the program in 12 counties thus far and five new counties added this year, including Rice. SMIF will continue to work with Child Care Aware Southern by Families First of Minnesota, First Children's Finance, and other local early childhood partners to implement the program.

“After a great first couple of years, we’ve established QCCP as a key component in helping southern Minnesota child care providers engage with Parent Aware,” said Rae Jean Hansen, Vice President of Early Childhood at SMIF. “With over 2,000 licensed child care providers in our region, there continues to be a need to expand QCCP. Ultimately, we strongly believe QCCP is helping to make more children better equipped to enter kindergarten.”

About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in 20 Minnesota counties. The Foundation has provided more than $50 million in grants and loans within the region during the past 29 years. SMIF's key interests include early childhood and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission call 507-455-3215 or visit

About Mardag Foundation
Established in 1969, the Mardag Foundation is the legacy of Agnes Ober. The Foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations that enhance quality of life, inspire learning, revitalize communities and build capacity for the arts across the state of Minnesota. Agnes’ passion lives on through the work of her descendants who serve on the Foundation’s board. The Foundation is an affiliate of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. Learn more at and

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