Professional Development

Professional development in early childhood allows providers to share, network, and remain current in the field. It is an ongoing process, which prepares early childhood providers to develop and expand upon their skills and knowledge. Visit the Project CHILD Calendar to view our up-to-date training calendar or download a PDF version of the calendar here. Access Illinois’ Statewide Training Calendar on the Gateways’ website.

To access online trainings required for Illinois DCFS licensing, ExceleRate, and additional online training opportunities, please visit You can also download and fill out our registration form. The form can be mailed, emailed, or faxed.

Individual Professional Development Funds

Based on available funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services, Project CHILD is offering funds to support individual pursuit of professional development in early care and education and school-age care.

Funds can be requested for:

  • Registration fees associated with conferences/workshops not required by ExceleRate Illinois
  • The conference/workshop must be off-site from your place of employment and must be related to early care and education, school-age care or childcare administration/management
  • Fees associated with webinars/online training that are approved within the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Registry
  • Travel/transportation cost
  • Lodging cost
  • Costs associated with the following credentials: Child Development Associate (CDA), Certified Child Care Professional (CCP), and Gateways Credentials (IDC, ECE, ITC, FCC, TA, SAYD, FSC)

The FY24 Individual Professional Development has ended.

Click here to download the required W-9

CPR and First Aid funding

The FY24 CPR/First aid funding has ended. Watch for information on the FY25 CPR/First Aid Funding.

Higher Education Navigator (H.E.N.)

Meet Ashley Baldridge our Higher Education Navigator!

Meet Ashley Baldridge our Higher Education Navigator!

The Higher Education Navigator is a new initiative to help the Early Childhood workforce to reach their goals of a higher education.  The Navigator is here to:

  • Smooth out pathways and help overcome barriers so the Early Childhood workforce and those who may be interested in the ECE as a career choice will be able to have more higher education opportunities
  • Recruit and connect incumbent early childhood education workforce individuals with appropriate ECE programs at participating two – and four-year colleges and universities to obtain additional credentials, licenses, and/or degrees-Associates or Bachelors.
  • Connect participants to financial aid tools and opportunities such as FAFSA & ECE Scholarships
  • Provide tech assistance as applications are completed for financial aid and/or connect participants to those who can help them more thoroughly.
  • Navigate the proper contacts at the colleges/universities
  • Build relationships with the incumbent ECE workforce and connect them to resources and tips to help navigate their way through the higher education system, along with support, follow up, inspiration and motivation!
  • Find out more about the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Scholarship Program here.

Contact Ashley Baldridge @ 618-244-2210 x-101 or for more information.

Gateways to Opportunity Scholarship Program

The Gateways to Opportunity Scholarship Program is an individual-based scholarship opportunity for practitioners working in the field of Early Care and Education. Providers working in Illinois Department of Children and Family Services licensed centers and homes can apply for a Gateways Scholarship. The Gateways Scholarship Program will pay a percentage of the cost of tuition and fees based on an eligible participant’s child care position income.

Receiving a financial scholarship may offer the opportunity for a childcare provider to gain a higher level of education and compensation.

For more information about the Gateways to Opportunity Scholarship Program or to receive an application, visit


Great START (Strategies to Attract and Retain Teachers) is a wage supplement program that pays eligible early care and education providers a monetary amount semi-annually for different steps attained within the program.

To be eligible for a Great START wage supplement, an individual must:

  • Be employed in licensed, full-day, full-year child care program, including family child care providers and assistants, center directors, teachers and teacher assistants
  • Work year round, at least 15 hours per week for at least 12 consecutive months

For more information about the Great START program or to receive an application, visit or call (800) 362-7257.