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. Learn more about our spring 2024 Innovation Grant and Opportunity Grant recipients below.

General Information

BBF received a total of 70 competitive applications from throughout Vermont for the spring 2024 round of VECF grants, and requests far surpassed the available funding. Applications were evaluated by 32 reviewers including BBF staff members, parents, nonprofit leaders, and state agency representatives from the Office of Racial Equity, Vermont Department for Children and Families – Child Development Division, Vermont Department of Health, and Department of Mental Health. A total of $1.6 million has been awarded to 24 organizations throughout the state to increase equitable access to services and programs, improve program quality, develop workforce, and engage families and connect them to services. BBF will begin accepting applications for the Fall 2024 round of VECF grants in August.


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 spring 2024 VECF granteesIn May 2024, BBF awarded the following grants:

Innovation Grants

Kingdom East Unified Union School District
Caledonia and Essex Counties

The Kingdom East School District (KESD) aims to provide systemic support to Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) partner preschool programs for improved early interventions and outcomes for the students and families that represent 75% of the students bound for kindergarten. KESD will provide Early MTSS professional development opportunities and coaching, early childhood program administrative oversight and management, expertise in early childhood and behavior, embedded practice-based coaching, staffing and materials needed for inclusion of all children (with an emphasis on universal preschool instruction), and school-to-home coordination.

Myers Prouty Children’s Campuses
Bennington County

Myers Prouty Children’s Campuses (MPCC) and Partner Programs serve over 250 families within the Bennington County community and regularly find that children are not having their basic needs met. MPCC and Partner Programs have made a commitment to the families they serve to provide safe, accessible, equitable, affordable, and high-quality services. MPCC currently has a Health and Wellness manager and a part-time Behavior Interventionist on staff. This funding will be used to increase the Behavior Interventionist position to full-time, hire a part-time Family Support Worker and a part-time Speech and Language Pathologist, and provide a space for these services to take place. This consultant team will improve the quality of childcare and family engagement, allowing MPCC and Partner Programs to increase their abilities to connect families with local resources. 

Seed & Sew
Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans Counties

The S.E.E.D. (Schools Excelling in Emotional Development) Certification® is a research-backed, scalable, comprehensive workforce development program and teacher community. Since 2020, the S.E.E.D. Certification® has grown to support thousands of teachers in over 220 programs across 12 states/provinces in both the U.S. and Canada and has shown real results in improving quality, retaining teachers, and strengthening family engagement. Seed & Sew has heard from close to 100 programs across Vermont who would love access to the S.E.E.D. Certification® but face financial barriers. This funding will facilitate immediate access to the S.E.E.D. Certification® for 45 Family Child Care Home providers and 40 center-based Early Childhood Education programs across the Northeast Kingdom in Essex, Orleans, and Caledonia counties. Recognizing the essential role of families in their mission, Seed & Sew includes access to their evidence-based parenting program, “Tiny Humans Big Emotions,” to families whose children are enrolled in programs that participate in S.E.E.D. Certification.

Opportunity Grants

Ascension Childcare
Chittenden County

Ascension Childcare is a 5 STAR, NAEYC-accredited, Seed & Sew-certified nonprofit program committed to providing high-quality early childhood education for families in their community. Funding will help revitalize the workforce and reopen a pre-K classroom that was closed in part due to the pandemic, creating 8 to 10 slots for children ages 3 to 5.

Business and Workforce Development of the City of Burlington
Chittenden County

The First Steps Training Program was created in the fall of 2023 in direct response to the desperate need for more early childhood educators. This program is sponsored by the Early Learning Initiative of the City of Burlington and is free to Burlington residents in an attempt to remove barriers to accessing quality training. Funding will secure spots in the program’s fall 2024 cohort for 7 to 8 students from outside of Burlington. 

Driver Hill Kiddie Care
Orleans County

Driver Hill Kiddie Care, a registered family child care home located in Derby, is in the final stages of expanding and becoming licensed. Opportunity Grant funding will help hire a full-time staff member and create two additional spots in their program.

Good Beginnings of Central VT
Washington County

After 30 years of delivering high-impact programs and services to expectant and new parents throughout Central Vermont, Good Beginnings is poised to begin expanding their reach. Funding will support the expansion of their successful Wellness Parenting Workshop series, Caregivers’ Meet-ups, and Postpartum Angels programs.

King Street Center
Chittenden County

For 53 years, King Street Center has served children and families experiencing economic insecurity and systematic marginalization in Burlington. Opportunity Grant funding will support the early education portion of their new Family Support Program, which provides wraparound services for families with children ages 18 months to 8 years of age. The goal of the program is to actively prevent families from falling into crisis and work with those who are in crisis providing resources, case management, and support. This partnership between King Street Center and caregivers ensures everyone’s needs are being met, fosters positive relationships between program staff and family members, and increases stability and well-being for the entire family.

Lil’ Sunshine Child Care Center
Orange County

Lil’ Sunshine Child Care (LSCC) will address the pressing need for child care by creating eight new infant spots and 10 toddler spots for families who live or work in the Orange Southwest School District. Located in downtown Randolph, this project will also ultimately provide economic support as part of the larger goals for downtown revitalization by offering jobs paying a fair wage and offering critical support for the existing workforce. 

Little Dippers Doodle Children’s Center
Caledonia County

This project will work to address the mental health crisis in young children within the community by funding a full-time staff member to implement social-emotional curriculum throughout Little Dippers Doodle Children’s Center’s classrooms, provide support to classroom teachers and direct support to children, and facilitate conferences with families and provide parent education.

Little Lakers Academy LLC
Chittenden County

Little Lakers Academy, a center-based early childhood program in Colchester, is opening a second preschool classroom, creating eight infant spots, one toddler spot, and five prekindergarten spots. Funding will support hiring additional staff and purchasing necessary supplies and materials. 

Milton Family Community Center
Chittenden County

Milton Family Community Center will improve outcomes for youth and families through newly designed and expanded parental engagement opportunities, including involvement at a leadership level and targeted opportunities for parent education and support groups. Funding will help hire a dedicated part-time staff person focused on family support programming, including expanding Parent Cafes and hosting monthly facilitated parent workshops.

Montessori School of Central Vermont
Washington County

The Montessori School of Central Vermont (MSCVT) is a nonprofit independent school providing Toddler, Primary, and Elementary education to 110 children ranging from 18 months to 12 years. MSCVT is the only fully ADA-accessible independent school in Central Vermont, and their ability to provide an all-day option for children in special education programs is unique to the area. Funding will support the development of a five-year strategic plan for inclusion of children with more diverse learning needs and as well as six MSCVT employees in completing their Montessori Guide Training.

Prevent Child Abuse Vermont

Schools have been identified as an excellent place to disseminate programs for the primary prevention of child sexual abuse (Walsh et al., 2018), since schools know the culture and also the specific risks faced in their community. Although schools in Vermont are mandated to do child sexual abuse prevention education annually, there are barriers, including budget constraints and a lack of properly trained personnel to fulfill that role (French et al., 2022). To address this gap, Prevent Child Abuse Vermont (PCAVT) will provide Vermont early childhood centers and elementary schools that serve children between ages 3 and 8 with free professional development and materials using the Care for Kids program, an effective prevention tool to decrease the incidence of child sexual abuse.

RIVET (Reggio Inspired Vermont EarlyEducation Team)
Chittenden County

RIVET and five collaborating partners will implement a professional development program during the 2024-25 school year. Funding will support three part-time consultants, classroom materials, and substitutes to allow teachers to spend time outside the classroom reflecting on their observations, collaborating with each other and families, and planning “next steps.” The five partner programs in this project will form the nucleus of a Chittenden County network of Reggio-inspired Hubs of Study and Practice which will serve as resources to area early childhood educators. RIVET envisions these “hubs” as places where teachers will learn with and from each other while studying an approach that views children, teachers, and families as agents of their own learning and development and views learning as a holistic, relational, and inclusive enterprise. 

Rutland County Parent Child Center
Rutland County

Opportunity Grant funds will support strategic investments that will bolster Rutland County Parent Child Center’s capacity to reach, engage, and serve families. Their project will utilize multiple community outreach initiatives to connect families to childcare services; provide ongoing professional development for educators, including training through SPARQS as well as CLASS’s “Train-the Trainer,” which will support the scale of CLASS implementation throughout their early childhood education programming and open up the possibility of training community partners; invest in a daycare management software system as well as the technology necessary to ensure cohesive implementation; and support on-site and by-appointment therapy opportunities for children and families. 

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center
Bennington County

After Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) expanded The Learning Tree program by 17 slots in 2020, they quickly filled those slots and realized another expansion was needed. This funding will allow SVMC to provide mentoring for new and existing staff and hire a new director-in-training, supporting the expansion of their program to create 10 additional toddler slots.

Starksboro Cooperative Preschool
Addison County

This project will address an urgent need to create both toddler and preschool slots in Addison County, allow families with younger children to place siblings in the same program, and improve staff compensation. After several years of starting the school year with a wait list, and after repeated family survey requests to enroll siblings ages 2 to 5 in the same program, Starksboro Cooperative Preschool is expanding their preschool program to add six toddler and five preschool spots.

Turn to Joy
Grand Isle County

Families in Grand Isle have few opportunities to gather together in social settings that support early learning. Opportunity Grant funding will support a Saturday morning playgroup facilitated by experienced staff members that will encourage community building through accessible events open to all members of the community. The foundation of that work is developing a group of early educators and caregivers who have access to anti-bias materials, including materials that foster equity and diversity in our small community. The resources needed to support this work includes access to online trainings, teaching resources, books, and consultation with professionals in the field.

University of Vermont
Addison County

UVM Extension began health outreach programming with migrant farmworkers in Franklin County in 2010, establishing Bridges to Health, a Health Promoter (aka Community Health Worker, or CHW) Program, in 2012. This program has since grown to serve agricultural and non-agricultural workers and families across all 14 counties of the state. With the drastic increase in requests for support from immigrants and migrants themselves and from community-based organizations, UVM Extension sees the need for creating smaller service areas so that CHWs can adequately meet the needs of immigrant and migrant families. Funding will support an Addison County-based bilingual CHW to provide direct services to pregnant individuals and families with young children while improving collaborations with local partners to ensure immigrant and migrant families have equal opportunities to receive information about and access to health, social, and educational opportunities within their communities. 

Vermont Village School
Windham County

Vermont Village School will partner with community organizations to create liberatory spaces for early childhood in Southeastern Vermont. The project will include two workshop series, one for families and one for early childhood educators, titled “Building Liberatory Worlds with Young Children,” as well as classroom visits and a pilot affinity group for BIPOC families.

Washington County Mental Health Services
Washington, Franklin, and Grand Isle Counties

Doula care is an evidence-based practice with short- and long-term impacts. It is well established that doula support results in better, safer, less expensive births; improved birth outcomes; and increased infant health and maternal well-being. Traditionally, doulas are available only to families who can afford to pay out-of-pocket. Opportunity Grant funds will support the creation of a birth and postpartum doula training to be offered free of charge across the state in an effort to grow the community doula workforce. Washington County Mental Health Services (WCMHS) and Northwestern Counseling and Support Services (NCSS) will collaboratively create trainings based on their levels of expertise and experience. WCMHS will focus on prenatal and birth training and NCSS will focus on postpartum supports, both with special attention to the unique needs of marginalized families in our state. Funding will also support hiring a consultant to help create a Doula Advisory Board, a key component of Medicaid coverage, to work closely with Vermont Office of Professional Regulation to create multiple pathways for certification or recognition as a “Medicaid doula.” 

Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development
Windham County

The Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development (WPC) is the regional anchor organization for inclusive early childhood education and family support in southern Vermont. They support young children and their families by offering a diverse set of programs which include early intervention services, home-visiting nursing care for prenatal/postpartum mothers, family support, early childhood and family mental health care, family supportive housing services, supervised visitation services, food assistance, child care referral services, child care financial assistance, the Early Learning Express Bookmobile, and high-quality early childhood education. Opportunity Grant funding will support WPC’s recruitment and retention efforts through compensation and professional development, allowing them to reopen a classroom that will create 12 toddler slots.

Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum
Rutland County

“Have a ‘One’derfeet Year” is designed to engage families in activities and habits that encourage optimal brain development during the critical birth-to-age-3 window. Wonderfeet will partner with pediatric medical providers, visiting nurses, Help Me Grow, and Rutland County Parent Child Center to inform families that they are eligible for a free Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum membership if they have a 1-year-old, are residents of Rutland County, and have completed a developmental screening through the Help Me Grow VT Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) online portal. Families will have an opportunity to ask questions about their ASQ results, make a plan to talk with their medical provider, or fill out a CIS referral if requested. All participating families will receive additional supports, including recommended developmental activities, milestone check-ins, screening opportunities, information on parenting supports, nutritional programs, and special events offered by Wonderfeet and our partners.

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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