WAGE$®, Enhancement Grants and More

Children with day care teacher_WEB

Child Care Services

The Tennessee Department of Human Services is committed to promoting high quality early childhood environments that are safe, healthy and educationally rich. To support high quality and increase access to early care and education programs, the Department  has launched several initiatives through contracted partners that are available to all DHS Licensed Child Care agencies statewide.


Child Care WAGE$® Tennessee is an education-based salary supplement program with three primary goals: reduce turnover in child care facilities; address the low pay of educators working in the early childhood field; reward educators for their higher education. Depending on how many early childhood college credits an educator has completed, WAGE$ direct deposits an annual award, issued in two parts, directly to the educator. Supplements are dependent on the educator staying employed at their current facility. To qualify, educators must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Work in a TN Department of Human Services licensed child care facility
  • Work in their facility for at least six months
  • Make $20 per hour or less
  • Have at least six credit hours of early childhood college coursework or a bachelor’s degree in an any field (from a regionally accredited college)
  • Work at least ten hours per week with children birth to five years old

Educators who meet those criteria can qualify at one of nine different levels which can be seen in the Salary Supplement Scale below. To apply or learn more, visit the WAGE$ website at www.tnwages.org.

*Temporary levels of education: In order to promote continued education, teachers who are awarded at one of the first six levels (temporary) must move up to a higher level within two years in order to retain eligibility. Deadlines will be reestablished at each temporary level. Family child care providers have three years to achieve the education needed to move up.

**Part-time employment: The supplement amounts shown above are for teachers working at least 35 hours per week in the classroom. For applicants working less than that, their supplement amount will be prorated depending on how many hours per week they work.

Shared Services and Resources

Resources including business management tools, human resource tools, program administration tools and classroom resources will be available at no cost through an online centralized knowledge resource that aligns with State requirements. For example, emergency preparedness plan templates, and more. These tools can help child care providers focus more on the child care side of their agency, and less on business processes. 

DHS Licensed Child Care agencies will have access to shared services including bulk purchasing at discounted pricing. For more information on Shared Services and Resources please visit website: https://childcaretn.com/member-service/

Child Care Enhancement Grant Changes   

Child Care Enhancement grants will continue to be available to licensed child care agencies to increase capacity, strengthen quality, and/or promote compliance with State licensing standards. There is a base amount available of $4000 with additional supplemental amounts based on certain criteria:

  • Physically operate in one of the economically distressed counties as may be identified by the Governor shall be eligible for an additional $1000.00.
  • Are verified by the Tennessee Child Care Resource & Referral Network as having completed Infant and Toddler Specialization (ITCS) for an additional $1000.00.
  • Seeking national accreditation through either the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), or National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA) shall be eligible for an additional $1000.00
  • Participation in the Child Care Certificate Program and meet all criteria under the contract shall be eligible for an additional $1000.00
  • Are referred by the State for compliance or remediation of deficiencies shall be eligible for an additional $1000.00

Allowable expenditures under the enhancement grants includes but is not limited to:

  • Equipment: Playground materials to meet safety standards or ADA compliance for serving children with disabilities; furnishings to create or increase capacity; items that support bulk purchasing or sanitation such as refrigerators or dishwashers; assistive technology or adaptive devices that support serving children with disabilities and the provision of inclusionary care; materials used for learning purposes or meal/feeding activities; or health and safety supports (carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, door alarms, camera recording systems, emergency preparedness kits, transportation upgrades or safe sleep materials); provided that in order to constitute “Equipment” each such item must have a cost of less than five thousand dollars ($5000.00).
  • Program Enhancements, including Supplies: Materials supporting learning, educational, and developmental enrichment (i.e. books, toys, displays, parent information, educator professional development, curriculum for special needs or multilingual children, etc.); behavioral modification supports related to opioid prevalence or other student needs; promoting wellness, physical activity, and good nutrition; family engagement; or strengthening learning and health and safety standards.
  • Consultant and Coaches: Support for purchasing educationally rich curriculum; support for curriculum coaches and consultants; or such professional fees for CPA or tax advisors to improve financial stability (although not routine accounting or tax preparation services).

Pediatric First Aid and CPR Training/Certification

To promote safe environments for children, Pediatric First Aid and CPR training and certification will be available to child care educators and administrators of licensed child care agencies at no cost. For more information on training and certification dates, please visit Child Care Resource and Referral’s (CCR&R) website: https://www.tnccrr.org/

Business Academies

Small Business Academies will be available that promote best practices and strengthen business operations for child care agencies. The focus of the academies will be in the areas of:

  • Budgets, Projections, and Planning
  • Financial Reports and Internal Controls
  • Marketing for Child Care Programs
  • Staff Recruitment and Retention for Center-based Child Care Programs

For more information, please visit the Child Care Resource & Refferal website at https://www.tnccrr.org/

Tech Goes Home

Effective October 1, 2021, TDHS has deployed the “Tech Goes Home” model available to child care agencies which includes the provision of technology devices, coaching and TA on the use of the equipment and how it strengthens business operations.  This program is in collaboration with the Child Care Resource and Referral Network (CCR&R) and will support child care agencies in modernizing their systems and equipment in order to lessen the administrative burden and allow providers to focus on family/child interactions and delivering quality care. There will be a simple application located on the CCR&R website that will be made available when the program is fully launched. 

Establishment/Expansion Grants

TDHS is committed to increasing access to quality child care.  Through Establishment and Expansion Grants, TDHS will use American Rescue Plan Act administrative dollars to provide financial support for furniture, equipment, supply, and curriculum costs associated with opening a new child care agency or expanding licensed capacity at an existing agency.  Promotion of the establishment grants aligns with announcement of the new TDHS Pre-Licensure Support Unit on August 1, 2021. TDHS is also partnering with staff at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development regarding how Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds could possibly be used to support construction or renovation of child care spaces.

Existing child care agencies who wish to expand their capacity should contact their Licensing Consultant after October 1st to begin the process.

Professional Development Opportunities 

The Tennessee Child Care Resource & Referral Network offers Quality Coaches who are highly trained and educated to provide TDHS licensed child care professionals with the training and technical assistance they need to provide the best care possible for Tennessee’s children. For more information visit Tennessee Child Care Resource & Referral Network (tnccrr.org).

TECTA – The Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance is a statewide training and professional recognition system based on the belief that early childhood education program personnel should have professional knowledge and skills to provide appropriate care and education for young children.  The TECTA Scholarship includes the application fee for candidates seeking the CDA® Credential paid to the Council for Professional Recognition, as well as reporting, updates, and verification by TECTA CDA® Professional Development Specialists.

Tennessee Early Childhood Program Administrator Credential (TECPAC) and Infant and Toddler Credential professional credential programs support professional development pathways of early childhood program administrators and infant and toddler educators, respectively, through the demonstration of competencies including academics, experience, and portfolio assessments. Learn more here: Training and Technical Assistance Programs (tnstate.edu)

The Tennessee Child Care Online Training System (TCCOTS), is a free web-based asynchronous training platform to meet the unique and dynamic education needs of the early childhood education workforce. Licensed agencies may access this training at TN Home - ProSolutions Training