How South Dakota Daycare Centers Are Spending Federal Dollars

Governor Kristi Noem recently presented ceremonial checks to various child care centers across the state as part of the Child Care Expansion and Start-Up Grants.

In January, Noem approved $12.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help registered or licensed child care providers start a new facility or expand a current facility. The money is distributed by the Department of Social Services.

According to the Department of Social Services, expansion and start-up grants are based on the number of children in the facility. Family and group child care centers with 12 or fewer children can receive between $55,000 and $150,000. Centers with 13 to 49 children are eligible for funding of up to $375,000. Centers with 50 to 99 children are eligible for $600,000, centers with 100 to 149 can receive up to $800,000, and centers licensed for more than 150 children are eligible for $1 million in funding. Before and after school programs can apply for funding of up to $400,000.

KELOLAND News reached out to these child care providers to see how they plan to spend the money and what impact it will have on their facilities, staff and parents.

Little Tykes University, founded in 2014 by Corri Poore, has received $800,000 to start a third daycare center in Sioux Falls.

“This grant gives us the flexibility we need to be able to deliver quality care,” Poore said. “That start-up cost is huge, so we don’t have to pass that huge cost onto our parents through huge tuition.”

Poore said the money will be used for program advancement, safety measures like smoke detectors and sprinklers, playground equipment and payroll for staff.

The new Little Tykes facility has been open for three months and they already have 35 of their capacity of 100 students. Poore says now that the grant money has arrived, Little Tykes will be able to open more classrooms and start filling the rest of the child care spaces, as well as hiring new staff.

Both Kingdom Kids at Celebrate Church and Little Tykes received an expansion and start-up grant.

Kingdom Kids, through Celebrate Church, received $395,421 to help start a new daycare. Kingdom Kids has just completed the first year of its new preschool and the daycare will be open no later than September 5th.

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Debra Walsh, children’s ministry director at Celebrate, said the grant money will help the church reach more financially challenged families and provide a foundation of Christian teachings to the community.

“Our church is very passionate about helping children learn the skills they need as they grow in life, but also learning more about God and Jesus along the way to give them that solid foundation” , Walsh said. “We knew this was something our community needed. Childcare can be expensive, and making sure you have good, safe materials, good quality learning, it all adds up financially.

Walsh mentioned the state’s high need for child care programs and the problem of staffing these facilities. Kingdom Kids will also use part of the grant to support daycare staff.

“Across the state and in other states as well, there is a child care crisis and it’s not necessarily that other providers don’t have openings for children. It’s hard on the staff,” Walsh said. “We are using the grant to ensure we can have the right staff and have a space designed for great learning and support for our families.”

Carli Bunger, owner of Union Little Childcare in Madison, also noticed the need for childcare in the state after having a child of her own last year. After teaching first grade for five years, Bunger decided to become her own daycare to meet this need. Union Little Childcare received $40,576 in ARPA funding.


Bunger said she would use the grant money to update her basement spaces to be more kid-friendly, while adding a fence and play area to her backyard.

“It just creates another child care option here in our community and not just an option, but a quality option,” Bunger said. “The money will really help me strengthen my space and strengthen the things I can get for the kids and the opportunities I can give them.”