The Northland Foundation administers Early Learning Scholarships that help parents, guardians, and foster families afford high-quality child care and early learning programs for children under five. 

Helping Families
Afford Child Care

Minnesota Early Learning Scholarships (or ELS) is a state program that we help administer in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis County.

Whether you are a parent or guardian, or a child care provider, find more helpful information and forms below.

Is My Child Eligible?

Children under age five may qualify for scholarships of up to $15,000 per year.

The money is paid directly to the licensed child care, child care center, Head Start program, preschool, or school-based prekindergarten program each month. The Northland Foundation manages the payments. Families do not have to worry about that part.

Early Learning Scholarships must be used at a Parent Aware-Rated program. Parent Aware is a rating tool to help parents select a high-quality child care or early education program. For more information, visit the Parent Aware website.

For most children, family income must be 185% or less of the federal poverty rate based on household size. Income guidelines are found in the application directions below. Special priority is also given to children:

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

Families of Young Children: Application & Instructions

Make sure you fill out all the pages and don’t forget to sign it. This is a PDF form you can 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 with 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 help you 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 & 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. 

Funding provided by the Minnesota Department of Education using state funding to support administration of early learning scholarships, 124D.165.

For Help With

Early Learning Scholarships, call 218-260-2736 or email us at You should hear back within 24 hours or the next business day.

From traditional, ancestral & contemporary lands of Ojibwe, Dakota, Northern Cheyenne & other Native people. See a more detailed acknowledgement of this land and its history.


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