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Applications are now Closed


The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) are leading a comprehensive, statewide effort – Caring for MI Future – to increase the number of licensed child care programs across the state. Caring for MI Future is a $100 million investment that will help more Michigan families find quality, affordable child care in their community by opening 1,000 new, or expanded, child care programs by the end of 2024. First Children’s Finance received $600,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, awarded by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) as part of the Caring for MI Future initiative to expand the Rural Child Care Innovation Program (RCCIP) to serve six rural communities with a focus on the sustainability and supply of Michigan child care.

Child care is an economic driver for rural communities, but many Michigan communities are facing shortages of high quality child care.  First Children’s Finance’s RCCIP is a community engagement process designed to address the challenges of child care in rural America.

The RCCIP is based on the fundamental idea that rural communities are greater than their size in numbers and greater than their current challenges.  By mobilizing and empowering rural communities, the landscape of early care and education is changing in Michigan.


While many communities have child care shortages, only some are ready to roll up their sleeves and embark on the journey to address this critical community issue.  Through this competitive process, First Children’s Finance will select communities who demonstrate commitment to the community engagement process for an 18-month period.

Communities that demonstrate readiness will have identified the specific child care challenges impacting economic development in their community and are strongly encouraged to apply to be a part of the RCCIP. Child care shortages have a broad impact beyond the family, and communities need to address these issues with right-sized solutions that meet the unique aspects of the community.

The work with these communities includes:    

  • Development of an engaged community Core Team to drive change by identifying resources to increase the supply of high quality and affordable childcare  

  • A thorough analysis of the community's current childcare gaps and needs

  • Use of First Children’s Finance’s expertise, resources, and tools, including research and financial modeling.

  • Events that provide education on the links between quality child care, rural economic development, and viable communities

  • Development of a Community Solution Action Plan that includes innovative solutions to increase the supply of high quality and affordable child care

  • Support and business improvement services to existing family child care providers and child care centers through business leadership cohorts and one-on-one consulting

Grant Eligibility

  • Applicants can include a single city, a cluster of small towns, a school district, or a single county

  • In addition to scoring the proposals for their merit First Children’s Finance will take into account areas of high need

Please note that the Metro Detroit area, and the cities of Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Lansing and individual child care business owners are excluded as applicants. Rural is defined as all population, housing, and territory not included within an urbanized area or urban cluster. A rural area’s population density is very low.

Historically all RCCIP activities have been held in-person.  Due to the pandemic, we have developed systems to adapt the RCCIP process so it can be done in-person, virtually or a combination of both. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis by the local Core Team and First Children’s Finance staff dependent upon local health and safety regulations.]

Applications are now closed. 



If you have additional questions during the application process, please contact: James Henderson at 248-270-0257 or

©2020 Rural Child Care Innovation Program 

A program of First Children's Finance sponsored by Michigan Department of Education

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