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REETAIN’s 20th Anniversary

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This year is the 20th anniversary of the REETAIN program! The REETAIN Bonus program (Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now) helps supplement income for early childhood educators as they work to establish a career. The goal of this program is to keep qualified educators in the early childhood field. REETAIN bonuses can be used for program supplies, professional development, or personal expenses. During the last fiscal year, 577 early educators received bonuses averaging $2,000 each.

REETAIN began with philanthropic funding, and public financing of the program started a few years later. Funding increased significantly last year, which allowed the program to fund 80% of eligible applicants instead of less than half as in previous years.

Why is this program important? According to Grants and Scholarships Coordinator Mai Na Vang, “REETAIN is an award for the hard work that you’ve done. It lets you know you are appreciated and helps you stay in the field.”

REETAIN was a new concept in 2003. Val Peterson, Financial Supports Department Director, notes that Child Care Aware of Minnesota had given grants and scholarships before, but “this was the first time we gave money and said, ‘Your needs come first, and we trust you to know where to spend this money.’ It helps shift the way providers feel about themselves when we say, we are trusting you with our children, so we can trust you with a bonus.”

Mai Na finds that the most satisfying part of working with REETAIN is reaching the end of an application round and making the awards. “Some people will send emails instantly thanking us, and saying, ‘You don’t know how much this means to me.’”

In the future, REETAIN staff would like to see the program expand to others in the early childhood education workforce, such as bus drivers, home visitors, parent educators, and food service workers. Additionally, expanding funding so that everyone with a specific level of higher education or training could receive a bonus would incentivize people to increase their education and training and help retain even more educators in the field.

More information about the REETAIN program is available on the Child Care Aware of Minnesota website.