Successor to Day Nursery Association of Indianapolis, Early Learning Indiana is the state’s oldest and largest early childhood education nonprofit. Originally founded as Day Nursery more than 100 years ago, the organization has built a reputation as central Indiana’s leader for excellent childcare.

Eight children sit at a table and play with toys.
Day Nursery, 1943 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

In 1899 the Kings Daughters Society, a group of community-minded women recognized an emerging need in Indianapolis for safe, affordable care that would allow parents to work. The women converted a one-room center near Monument Circle for childcare, outfitted children, and provided food baskets. Day Nursery in 1901 became the city’s first childcare center.

The Day Nursery Auxiliary was established in 1938 to provide support to the Day Nursery. The auxiliary’s continued mission has been to raise funds for the organization, provide volunteer services to its centers, and promote its work to the community.

A large Victorian house sits on a street corner.
View of The Day Nursery Association of Indianapolis, 1943 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

By 1940, Day Nursery had established modern childcare standards in the nursery program. In 1985 it launched a support and training service for family child care home providers as well as a resource and referral service for parents. The Day Nursery Association manages and operates these services, collectively known as Child Care Answers.

Day Nursery’s childcare program gradually expanded between 1977 and 1991, with its average monthly enrollment increasing from 335 to 628 children.

By 1990 it was operating multiple centers and had expanded to offer services and resources for teachers, families, and home care providers. In 2013 it operated eight child care centers in Indianapolis.

In 2014 Day Nursery became Early Learning Indiana to reflect its statewide focus. The child care centers were rebranded as Day Early Learning centers with nine early learning centers serving approximately 1,000 children of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Early Learning helps families locate quality child care, partners with teachers and childcare providers, and advocates for high-quality early education opportunities for Hoosier children. Financial support comes from government fees and contracts (63 percent), program fees (24 percent), private contributions and foundation grants (10 percent), and investment income.

Early Learning’s staff of approximately 275 works with the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, Inc., and the State of Indiana in its effort to positively impact early childhood education.

Revised July 2021

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