Vermont Early Childhood Fund

The Vermont Early Childhood Fund (VECF) is a Building Bright Futures (BBF) program. VECF supports creative solutions that will improve the well-being of children from the prenatal period to age 8, their families, and the Vermont communities where they live.

Now accepting applications for the VECF Opportunity Grant and Innovation Grant!

Preview the Opportunity Grant application, the Innovation Grant application, and the budget template for both applications. View a recording of the February 15 information session and a  list of Frequently Asked Questions which includes what items can and cannot be funded by this grant, and the Scoring Rubrics (coming soon!).

Apply now for the Opportunity Grant

Apply now for the Innovation Grant

You can find more details about the current round of funding in our latest blog post.  For technical assistance or questions about the application, please email mkersey@buildingbrightfutures.org or call 802-281-3709.

Grant Timeline

This timeline applies to both the VECF Opportunity Grant and the VECF Innovation Grant.

Application Portal Opens: Monday, February 12, 2024

Virtual Informational Sessions (Registration Required):

Virtual Question & Answer Sessions:

Application Portal Closes: Friday, March 22, 5 p.m. EST

Award Notification: By mid-May 2024

Program Period: July 1, 2024–June 30, 2025

General Information

BBF will open the application process for the spring 2024 round of VECF funding on February 12. The VECF Opportunity Grant will provide one-time funding ranging from $10,000 to $80,000 to about 15 recipients, with the goal of supporting easy-to-achieve solutions with direct results. The VECF Innovation Grant will provide up to four grants of $100,000 to $200,000, with the goal of creating innovative, replicable solutions to address some of Vermont’s most persistent barriers to serving children and families. Innovation Grants will have the possibility of renewed funding in 2025. This round of funding will distribute $1.5 million to support Vermont’s early childhood system. Additional rounds of grants will be made in 2024 and 2025. Grants are open to nonprofits, businesses, municipalities, and schools. To be eligible, projects will focus on families and children from the prenatal period to age 8.

Background

VECF was established in 2021 thanks to a generous grant from a private donor. Thanks to the Sunflower Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation, VECF was able to continue in 2022 and 2023. In its first three years, VECF distributed nearly $200,000 to 14 organizations addressing a variety of needs throughout Vermont.

In late 2022, Vermont was awarded a $23 million federal grant to strengthen the state’s early childhood system, support the early childhood workforce, and improve the quality and availability of services for family and children from prenatal to age 8. The Vermont Integration Project: Building Integration in Vermont’s Birth-5 Early Childhood Systems (VIP B-5) will provide a total of $6 million in subgrants over a three-year period to local communities. 

BBF administers the subgrant program through VECF. Awards made through the Fund address the gaps and opportunities outlined in the 2020 Early Childhood Needs Assessment and align with the goals laid out in the Vermont Early Childhood Action Plan (VECAP).

Goal 1:  All children have a healthy start.
Goal 2:  Family and community play a leading role in children’s well-being.
Goal 3:  All children and families have access to high-quality opportunities that meet their needs.
Goal 4:  The early childhood system will be integrated, well-resourced, and data-informed.

Vermont Early Childhood Fund Grantees

Map of Fall 2023 VECF grantees

 

In December 2023, BBF awarded the following grants:

Innovation Grants

The Janet S. Munt Family Room in Chittenden County 

In response to the exponential growth of Spanish-speaking migrant families across the state and particularly in Chittenden County, The Janet S. Munt Family Room parent-child center and UVM Extension’s Bridges to Health will create a replicable Community Orientation Program to address barriers to accessing critical services, connect families, and increase family engagement in current systems. This project will enhance dynamic community collaborations by hiring a full-time educator to enhance connections between providers, build workforce capacity in regards to culturally appropriate care, and ultimately increase the equity and quality of early childhood services in our state. 

Northwestern Medical Center in Franklin County
The Northwestern Medical Center’s (NMC) Pediatric Developmental Clinic Collaboration Pilot represents an innovative approach to increase timely access to developmental assessments and coordination of support services by addressing critical gaps in available resources for Vermont families with children with developmental differences. This pilot project would aim to increase available opportunities for developmental assessment, follow-up appointments, and comprehensive care for children of all ages throughout Vermont. This would be achieved through thoughtful increase in clinic days, additional staff (including speech and language pathology), care coordination, and consultative psychology services.

 

Opportunity Grants

ABC & LOL Preschool & Child Care Center in Caledonia County

The mission of the ABC & LOL Preschool & Child Care Center’s project is to create inclusive and diverse classrooms with staff who are properly trained on equity. Their goals are to create more training opportunities around diversity and inclusion, revamp their classrooms with appropriate materials and curriculum, and create an aesthetically pleasing environment that is welcoming to all. Crucially, this project will support the hiring of a home-to-school coordinator who will provide behavioral assessments, work with teachers to create plans, and provide support to families, which should allow the Center to increase their toddler and preschool enrollment.

Alburgh Family Clubhouse in Grand Isle County

The Alburgh Family Clubhouse (AFC) Child Care Center Project plans to open a full-day, year-round, high-quality early child care and education (ECCE) center by September 2024, creating 20 new full-time and part-time jobs with good pay and benefits, and serving 16 infants, 10 toddlers, 18 preschoolers, and 18 afterschool children. In creating a community-owned, nonprofit ECCE Center, the Alburgh Family Clubhouse serves as a model for how small, rural communities can come together to meet the needs of young children and their families where they live.

Cabot Community Association – The Cabot Children’s Center in Washington County

The Cabot Community Association (CCA) took the lead in launching the Cabot Children’s Center in November 2023. For this project, the CCA will assist with workforce development and family engagement to ensure positive outcomes for children and families by achieving the following objectives and goals: 1) Build and retain a strong team of early childhood educators, 2) Become familiar with Washington County and Central Vermont resources and service providers to promote family engagement and support, and 3) Effectively and efficiently meet community and family needs and share those successes with the local community.

ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Chittenden County

ECHO Early Learning (EEL) is a free, year-long academic caregiver-child enrichment program, training caregivers and supporting healthy development and school readiness for early learners outside the formal care system. The program focuses attention on experiences that support children’s physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development and aims to lower the achievement gap between low-income and middle- to high-income children within our community. ECHO educators run EEL twice a week at two locations from September through June, including a location in the Old North End of Burlington, a densely urban neighborhood with diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds.

GROW Prenatal & Family Center in Chittenden County

GROW will provide three types of no-cost, low-barrier support groups to families with babies currently or previously in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). These support groups are tailored to the unique transitions in a family’s journey: NICU admission, transition home, and transition to “regular” life. Each phase comes with its own challenges that affect a family’s mental, physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing. GROW aims to fill some of these gaps as a bridge to build community, peer support, and family engagement.

Hartford Area Career and Technology Center in Windsor County

To address the need for early educator preparation, the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center (HACTC) will substantially modify an existing program to add in training for early childhood educators. This project will allow them to further develop the curriculum for this program. HACTC will work with a consultant who is an expert in early childhood education to help develop the essential outcomes that are needed. An HACTC teacher will continue this work over the summer, fully developing the lessons needed for this to be a robust program. The goal is that the teacher will have comprehensive lesson and unit plans to use in training for early childhood educators when the school year begins in August 2024. 

Kid Logic Learning in Chittenden County

This project will support the expansion of Kid Logic Learning, creating 34 new child care slots. Funding will contribute to start-up costs such as supplies and materials, staff salaries, and the training of three educators for the first six months. 

Lund in Chittenden County

Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program (LECP) is a 5 STAR, high-quality, trauma-focused program that benefits all families, especially those who are low- to moderate-income. This project will allow Lund to strengthen the early childhood workforce by creating a supported pathway to the profession, with a specific focus on New Americans. The funding will also support DEI training for current staff and translation of the parent handbook and recruitment materials into Maay-Maay, Vietnamese, Spanish, and French. 

Middlebury Community Music Center in Addison County

This project will support Middlebury Community Music Center (MCMC) in the growth of their Early Childhood Music program via expanded training, administering, and new, in-school workshops for youth ages 0-5. It will allow them to train and deploy instructors from their Music Together® curriculum into local preschools and daycare programs. With a suite of school-specific offerings, trainings, and professional development courses, the Music Together® program will allow them to provide access to the developmental benefits and early childhood enrichment that MCMC currently offers through their paid classes to all youth enrolled in partner schools and centers. 

Mount Mansfield Unified Union School District in Chittenden County

An Early Multi-Tiered System of Supports (eMTSS) is essential to building an inclusive and equitable school system. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is essential to accommodate the needs and abilities of all learners and to eliminate unnecessary barriers in the learning process. Mount Mansfield Unified Union School District will hire an eMTSS and UDL coach who will support teachers to build positive relationships, create supportive environments, teach social emotional health, determine the meaning of behavior, and develop appropriate responses. 

Northshire Day School in Bennington County

Northshire Day School will expand equitable access to early childhood education by offering transportation to families who are unable to transport their children. They aim to increase engagement with their Family Tree Program and help families to access community events by offering transportation to those who need it.

Oak Hill Children’s Center in Bennington County

Oak Hill Children’s Center will work to increase staffing to pre-pandemic levels so that they can serve as many families as their license allows. One of their continuing/long-term goals is to pay their staff livable wages, and they are approaching the Minimum Compensation Standards proposed by the Vermont Association for the Education Of Young Children (VTAEYC) and Let’s Grow Kids. This project will provide workforce retention bonuses for existing staff and sign-on bonuses to attract new staff. 

Orange County Parent Child Center in Orange County

In partnership with the Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation, the Orange County Parent Child Center is renovating and repurposing a building in Randolph into an early child care and education (ECCE) center. This will create 88 new high-quality, affordable ECCE spaces. The design includes adult space dedicated to ECCE workforce training and education, and other child and family support services. The new center will provide full-year ECCE services ten hours a day, five days a week for 32 infants, 22 toddlers, and 34 preschoolers. Funding will support start-up costs including staff salaries, training, and materials and supplies.

Rutland Mental Health Services in Rutland County

This project will focus on training, coaching, and consultation for child care providers; mental health services for families, utilizing the Circle of Security™ Parenting and Classroom models; additional training for Early Childhood and Family Mental Health staff; and a separate one-to-one coaching project. 

Stay & Play Daycare Center in Caledonia County

Stay & Play Daycare Center provides affordable, high-quality early care and education to children in Caledonia County. After a fire destroyed their building in May 2023, they decided to rebuild in a new location and expand their capacity from 23 to 51 children. The Center’s director is in the process of becoming a licensed Universal Prekindergarten educator. This project will help Stay & Play Daycare Center purchase new materials and supplies, hire additional staff, and cover some of the costs connected with becoming a UPK provider.

Vital Partnerships in Windham County

In collaboration with Winston Prouty, Early Education Services, the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, the Vermont Department of Health, and United Way of Windham County, Vital Partnerships is dedicated to providing critical support, alleviating immediate burdens, and initiating sustainable change. This program will hold group sessions that serve parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) ages 0 to 5. In the first year of this three-year program, at least 60% of parents and caregivers of children with a possible or confirmed ASD diagnosis in Windham County will be surveyed and/or interviewed to identify specific resource needs. This data will be used to design the opportunities and resources to be coordinated in the two to five years following this assessment through future funding.

Wonder in the Woods in Windham County

This project will support Wonder in the Woods in transitioning this small 5 STAR family child care program to become a licensed group child care program, as well as to open a satellite site at the owner’s home as an additional registered family child care home. This will allow Wonder in the Woods to double the number of children they serve and help meet the needs of more parents who have been unable to work or have been underemployed because of the lack of quality childcare options in the area.

See a list of past VECF Grantees

Questions? Contact VECF Grant Manager Michelle Kersey.

Headshot of Michelle Kersey

Michelle Kersey

Vermont Early Childhood Fund Grants Manager

Michelle Kersey is thrilled to join the Building Bright Futures team as the Vermont Early Childhood Fund Grants Manager. She comes with more than two decades of fundraising experience and looks forward to using her understanding of the grant application process to create a strong program for BBF. Most recently, she has worked for a nonprofit affordable housing organization, raising funds to help create homes and provide housing-based services for community members with low and moderate incomes. She started her professional fundraising career at the Montshire Museum of Science, where she enjoyed the sounds of joyful children exploring hands-on science exhibits.

Michelle is passionate about social justice and ensuring equitable access to resources for everyone. Recognizing the impacts of social drivers, she is excited about helping to improve the well-being of children and their families throughout Vermont.

Michelle holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College, and serves on the Steering Committee of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. In her free time she enjoys cooking, reading, fishing, mowing the lawn, and renovating a home in Chelsea with her partner John.

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