Dubuque child care providers receive $3.8 million in state grants

Grant recipients


  • Aspire Home Daycare, LLC — $78,300 to support the construction of two child development homes
  • Dubuque Dream Center — $750,000 as the center pursues becoming a licensed child care center
  • Ellyn Holzhuter Daycare — $5,621 to create a STEAM focused in-home child development facility
  • Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. — $630,000 for an employee child care center
  • Holy Ghost Early Childhood Center — $750,000 for center renovations to expand the number of children served
  • St. Joseph the Worker Early Childhood Center — $850,000 for renovations to expand the number of children served
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish Immersion School — $345,000 for a summer program
  • Romper Room Child Care Center — $452,591 for a new child care center


  • Frog Hollow Child Development, Inc. — $101,000 for an addition to add capacity


  • Garnavillo Community Day Care — $387,250 for an addition to increase capacity

A slew of state grants could help plug local child care gaps.

Eight Dubuque programs are receiving awards totaling more than $3.8 million from Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Department of Human Services. The grants were announced this week.

Three Holy Family Catholic Schools programs, as well as Dubuque Dream Center and Hirschbach Motor Lines, are among the recipients.

One recipient, Romper Room Child Care Center, plans to open an entirely new facility this spring, pending state licensing. Romper Room, which will be located at 1275 Main St., will be a sister-location to Romper Stompers Childcare Center on Central Avenue.

Romper Room will have about 100 spots for children ages 6 weeks to 8 years old, owner and director Renee Krier said. A grant totaling $452,591 will help fund a remodel of the Main Street building into a space for child care.

Krier said there is a need for more child care options in Dubuque.

“We’re turning away people daily,” Krier said. “It’s much needed at this time.”

In 2021, there were 5,686 child care spaces in Dubuque County, while the number of children ages 5 and younger was 7,342, according to Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral.

Krier said Romper Stompers currently has trouble serving day-shift and night-shift parents. There is an overlap between when first-shift workers can come pick up their children and when second-shift workers need to head off to work, Krier said.

Once the new location opens, Romper Stompers will serve children with second-shift parents in the afternoon and evening, while Romper Room will serve first-shift parents during the day.

Holy Family Catholic Schools received $750,000 to complete a renovation at Holy Ghost Early Childhood Center, $850,000 to renovate St. Joseph the Worker Early Childhood Center and $345,000 to kickstart a summer program at Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish Immersion School.

“At Holy Ghost, we received an initial grant in the summer to renovate that building to add additional child care spaces,” Early Childhood Program Director Lis Ernst said. “That grant didn’t get the building completed. This second grant will be able to continue our work on the other half of our building.”

At St. Joseph the Worker, the renovation will improve the quality of program, with a focus on fully-furnished spaces fit for each age, Ernst said.

Both renovations will allow Holy Family to serve more children, Ernst said.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe program will serve school-age children. The grant will provide for transportation and programing for 60 children.

Ernst said each project fits in with the school system’s strategic vision.

“This funding has been greatly appreciated, and it’s really going to support a great environment for kids and staff,” Ernst said.

Dubuque Dream Center was awarded $750,000. The Dream Center also has a long waitlist, grant writer and marketing coordinator Molly Huhn said. The nonprofit aims to become a licensed child care center by the fall of 2022.

Huhn said the state funding will allow the center to renovate and maintain services for the children who currently spend time at the facility.

“It’s a very old building,” Huhn said. “Since we’ve operated as the Dream Center, it’s gone through little renovation … the goal is to help sustain the Dream Center. We have a waiting list of over 100 students.”

Huhn said the center would like to expand but also must focus on financial sustainability.

“This grant does pretty much set us up for the rest of the renovation,” Huhn said.

Another recipient of funding is Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. The $630,000 grant will support the company’s efforts to create a childcare center for employees near its corporate headquarters on Kerper Boulevard.

Hirschbach officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.