The Tennessee Department of Human Services announced Tuesday new investments in child care that improve options for parents, incentivize employment in early childhood education, and ensure a continued bright future for individuals to open a licensed child care agency.

Beginning this month, educators at TDHS licensed child care agencies can apply for Tennessee’s Child Care WAGE$ program.

According to a release, it provides an annual salary supplement, issued in two parts based on specific qualifications. 

TDHS said Tennessee is one of the first states in the country to implement the WAGE$ program with the long-term goal of promoting continuous professional development and retention of staff at child care provider agencies.

"Under the program, an eligible educator with six credit hours in early childhood education will receive an extra $400 annually. The supplement rises with experience up to $5,200 a year for some educators with a master’s degree."

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TDHS also announced Tuesday investments to help improve existing child care. According to the release, these investments include mini-grants of up to $4,000 ($5,000 in distressed counties) to help agencies improve quality, meet licensing requirements, and obtain assistance growing capacity. It will also add free online tools to help with business management, human resources, and administration and provide access to bulk purchasing of supplies at discounted pricing and other shared services.

“We know that there is a real need for quality child care all across our state,” said Tennessee Department of Human Services Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes.  “These investments will give our child care providers the resources they need to thrive and will support them in delivering care that’s not only safe and healthy but also educationally rich for our children.”

The announcement also included specific training and technical assistance supports to help providers meet expectations for licensing. TDHS release said small business academy training and CPR/First Aid training/Certification are being offered at no cost to providers.  

Tennessee has more than 4,000 regulated child care agencies including approximately 1,500 providers that are currently participating in the Child Care Certificate program.

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