Northland Foundation Special Initiatives

Early Learning Scholarships

Minnesota Early Learning Scholarships (ELS) is a program that helps parents, guardians, or foster families afford the cost of high-quality child care, preschool, or other early learning programs for young children.

The Northland Foundation can answer questions, help figure out if your child qualifies, take applications, and manage the process and payments for families and providers in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis County counties.

We are here to help! Call us at 218-260-2736 or email us at You will usually hear back within 24 hours or the next business day.

Does My Child Qualify?

Children under the age of 5 may qualify for scholarships of up to $15,000 per year. The scholarship money is paid directly to the licensed child care setting, Head Start program, preschool, or school-based prekindergarten program each month.

For most children, family income must be 185% or less of the federal poverty rate based on household size. You can find the income guidelines in the application directions, below.

Special priority for scholarships is also given to children:

  • With a parent who is under age 21 who is working on earning a high school diploma or GED.
  • Who have experienced being homeless in the past 2 years.
  • Receiving child protective services.
  • In foster care. (Foster families do NOT need to meet the same income guidelines.)

Families of Young Children: Application and Information

We are here to answer your questions and help. Use the contact information at the top of this page to reach us, and we will get back to you quickly.

When applying, be sure to fill out all the pages and don’t forget to sign it. It is a PDF form you can open and fill out online, or you can print a copy and fill it out by hand. The application is 15 pages.

If you do not have access to a printer or are having trouble filling out the form, please contact us, and we will work with you!

  1. Directions for the Application
  2. Early Learning Scholarship Application
  3. Download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free if you need it to complete the form.

Send completed applications by email to, FAX to 218-723-4048 or mail to:

Northland Foundation
202 W Superior Street, Suite 800
Duluth, MN 55802

You can find a list of rated child care sites in your area on the Parent Aware website. Learn about more different kinds of assistance and benefits for families on the Help Me Connect and Bridge to Benefits websites.

Child Care Providers: Forms and Information

If you are a northeast Minnesota child care provider and have ELS questions, please contact us for assistance.

Below are links to FAQs and the forms you’ll need to accept scholarships. For the fillable PDFs, simply click the link and type into the blue boxes then select Print or Save.

  1. Providers' Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
  2. Invoice Form (PDF) or Invoice Form (Excel file) - use whatever format works best for you
  3. Example of Award Planning Agreement (PDF) - to use as a guide
  4. Blank Award Planning Agreement (fillable PDF) - to complete for your program
  5. Family Update Form (fillable PDF)

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Early Childhood Screening

To learn more about Early Childhood Screening in Minnesota, visit the Minnesota Department of Education web page: Early Childhood Screening Information.

To find out about Early Childhood Screening in your community, click on the following link and contact the coordinator in the school district where you live/your child will attend school: Early Childhood Screening Coordinators by School District.

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