Bright Beginnings

bright beginnings logo

UWNEMN's Bright Beginnings program can offer financial grants for the following uses:

  • Start up and expansion support
  • Construction and capital improvements
  • Early learning environment and school readiness materials
  • Equipment that fosters physical activity

Who qualifies:

  • Providers must be located/serving families in northern St. Louis County, western Itasca County, all of Koochiching County, and all of Lake of the Woods County (click here for a list of communities we serve)
  • Providers must be creating a new facility or expanding an existing facility to serve more children

To apply for this funding, contact or call 218-215-2421.

UWNEMN partnered with Wilder Research in 2013 to determine the needs and issues regarding childcare in the region from parent, provider, and employer perspectives to determine how we could best address the emerging issue in our service area.

The results

  • Finding childcare arrangements with all the features families find important was difficult. Families indicated that the lack of flexible scheduling and lack of quality child care were their top difficulties. An alarming 50% survey stated the lack of childcare affected their likelihood of continuing to live in our area.
  • Barriers to finding childcare included waiting lists as long as one year (sometimes longer, especially for infant care), flexible scheduling to accommodate shift work, and not enough formal early education options.
  • Childcare providers expressed concern about meeting parent needs due to space limitations, expensive and hard to access trainings to become accredited or rated, and climbing costs for updated equipment, learning toys, curriculum, and educational materials.

The outcome

UWNEMN partnered with the Iron Range Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, Northland Foundation, Blandin Foundation, and UMD Center for Economic Development to create added momentum on the development of childcare in the region. Outcomes included tracking and supporting expansion projects, creating a Business Case Study for Child Care, and creating solutions for workforce issues surrounding childcare and legislative work. 


Now 10 years after our initial study - 10 years of continued collaboration and many success stories - we know many of the same barriers for families and providers still exist.

UWNEMN and community partners remain committed to supporting the expansion of existing childcare facilities and creation of new facilities for the betterment of our region!


To view Wilder Research's full child care report for UWNEMN and infographics, please click on the links below:


Expanding access to childcare

In 2023, UWNEMN began offering free babysitting trainings for children ages 11 and older led by the Mountain Iron Library Director and American Red Cross certified trainer Anna Amundson. Each participant will leave with a certification of knowledge and skills necessary to safely and responsibly care for children and infants. 

Based on high demand and positive feedback, UWNEMN will offer classes each summer and winter break through funding from the Northland Foundation and State of Minnesota.

Trainings will be offered June 11, July 11, and August 15 for summer 2024. Click here to join the wait list and receive an email when registration opens.

    Babysitter Pictures    Babysitter 4  Babysitter 2