OWATONNA - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) received a second year of grant funding from the Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® of Minnesota Foundation to help more children become better prepared for kindergarten. After successfully launching our Quality Child Care Program (QCCP) in 2013 and receiving funds from the Blue Cross Foundation for four counties last year, this grant will enable SMIF to expand QCCP to Le Sueur, Wabasha, Waseca, and Winona Counties. Trainings for family child care providers will be held in these four counties, 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 funded by the Blue Cross Foundation last year have signed on to Parent Aware. "We were impressed with how much SMIF was able to accomplish over the past year in Martin, Faribault, Fillmore, and Houston Counties, and their ability to engage and connect with providers across very rural areas in Minnesota" said Allison Corrado, Program Officer at the Blue Cross Foundation.
"We're proud to support SMIF in their continued efforts to encourage young learners and their education and care providers," said Carolyn Link, Executive Director at the Blue Cross Foundation. "Education and health are strongly connected, and a solid start is essential for healthy futures."
The SMIF grant is one of five awarded across the state to help licensed family child care providers participate in Parent Aware, Minnesota's quality rating system. SMIF will work with Child Care Aware MN Southern, 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. “We’ve received very positive feedback from both new and experienced providers about QCCP and are excited to expand the program’s reach. Ultimately, we strongly believe QCCP is helping to make more children better equipped to enter kindergarten.”
For more information on the Blue Cross Foundation’s grantmaking programs, visit www.bcbsmnfoundation.org or call (651) 662-3950. For more information about SMIF, visit www.smifoundation.org or call 507-455-3215.
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 www.smifoundation.org.
About Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® of Minnesota Foundation
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation exclusively dedicates its assets to improving health in Minnesota, awarding $41.5 million since it was established in 1986. The Foundation’s purpose is to make a healthy difference in communities by advancing health equity and improving the conditions where people live, learn, work and play.