First Year in Review: Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$® Plus

First year? In many ways, yes! If you are familiar with Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$®, then you know this education-based salary supplement program actually began back in 2018. However, in FY23, the program transitioned to AWARD$ Plus with expanded eligibility. The primary differences in eligibility are shown below.

Starting education
Associate degree with at least 24 birth to five focused semester hours
At least 12 semester hours of birth to five focused coursework or the National CDA
Employer qualifications
Sites with at least three stars
All licensed sites
Income cap

What stayed the same? Teachers and family child care home providers must work at least 30 hours per week with children birth through two to qualify, and the funding is provided by the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE).

To roll out this “new” program, Child Care Services Association (CCSA) blanketed the state with information about these changes through mailings, emails, social media, presentations and calls to child care programs. As a result, AWARD$ Plus put an average-six month supplement of $1,200 into the hands of 1,483 infant and toddler educators. 

This additional compensation made it more feasible for educators of our youngest children to stay in their child care programs and provide much needed stability. Despite significant workforce challenges across many industries, including early childhood, the AWARD$ Plus participant turnover rate was only 14%, and 96% of the participant survey respondents said that the AWARD$ Plus supplements encouraged them to stay with their employers. One teacher said, “It helps so many educators and influences us to stay in the education field. We already have a passion for young children, but of course AWARD$ Plus gives us more motivation to continue in that field.”

Applicants can qualify on the AWARD$ Plus education scale with a few semester hours or the CDA all the way to a PhD, with logical benchmarks in between. Because the scale is graduated, more money is earned as participants advance up the scale. The higher supplements encourage participants to take additional coursework and may also help them cover school-related expenses. According to one teacher, “This program has been rewarding to me because it comes during a time in my life that I need it most. It also encourages me to want to continue my education and learn more in this field.” Another said, “AWARD$ Plus is helping me to stay on top of my education without the stress of finances.”

Easing financial stress is a key goal for AWARD$ Plus, and 97% of survey respondents said the supplements did just that. “AWARD$ Plus helps me financially and lessens stress, which allows me to be focused while working,” said one teacher. With salaries that are rarely competitive with other fields and often insufficient to meet basic needs, the supplements are a critical resource. The participants made it clear how much the supplements matter. For example, a teacher said, “AWARD$ Plus is very important to teachers. It has made a difference in my household by helping with gas, food, bills, and things for my classroom. It has helped me keep my head above water. Without it, I don’t know what I would do or how I would make it.”

Beyond enhancing compensation, encouraging education and supporting retention, the supplements also recognize the accomplishments and contributions of these dedicated educators. In fact, 99% of the survey respondents said they feel more appreciated and recognized for their work as a result of AWARD$ Plus. According to one family child care provider, “AWARD$ Plus helped me realize how important and vital my role in child care is.”

Early educators deserve the compensation and recognition, and CCSA is proud to offer the AWARD$ Plus supplements thanks to funding from DCDEE. Learn more about AWARD$ Plus here or call 919-967-3272. For additional information about the FY23 AWARD$ Plus results, including participant perspectives, the full report is now available.

North Carolina Impact
2022 - 2023

3.1+ million

More than 3.1 million invested in AWARD$ Plus salary supplements for infant-toddler teachers and family child care providers


turnover rate


average six-month supplement


supplement recipients


early education programs with supplement recipients


of active participants have the AAS ECE or higher or have submitted education during the year to document additional coursework