Shifting the Mindset in Child Care Business Practices

Let’s explore how owners of early education businesses, regardless of program type or setting, can shift into a growth mindset and use that shift to think more creatively when solving business problems.  

Let’s also frame this in the challenges providers across Montana face with the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ (DPHHS) announcement that Best Beginnings Scholarship (BBS) reimbursement rates increased significantly on March 1, 2024. 

  1. The Power of Mindset

In my experience as a business advisor supporting early education owners, operators, and directors, when problems are experienced the scarcity or fixed mindset takes hold. This can hinder a fundamental element to problem solving which is entrepreneurs, by nature, own and operate businesses to capitalize on opportunities.  

What are “mindsets?” There are two we, as humans, take when viewing, analyzing, and making decisions in the world.  

  1. Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset 

  • Barrier Thinking: Challenges as insurmountable. We might say, “Enrollment is dropping; there’s nothing we can do.” Fixed mindset individuals believe their skills are fixed—unchangeable traits. They resist change and innovation. 

Growth Mindset 

  • Opportunity Lens: Challenges are opportunities. We embrace change and adapt. Instead of saying, “We can’t,” growth mindset individuals say, “We haven’t figured it out yet.”  
  1. Creative Problem-Solving Strategies
  • Encourage Play and Imagination 
    • Just as children benefit from imaginative play, so can child care providers. Think beyond the usual solutions. Often, this is most helpful with a third party like an assistant director, mentor, or business advisor.  
  • Break Out the LEGOs  
    • Structured playtime, like building with LEGOs, can unlock creativity. Use this approach to break through mental roadblocks.  
    • What unconventional solutions can you piece together? For this to work, we must comprehensively and accurately understand true causes to problems so solutions can be aligned correctly. 
  1. A Practical Problem – New BBS Rates
  • Historic Challenges  
    • The child care industry has long faced the challenge of the true cost of care exceeding the ability to generate revenue.  
    • BBS rates have historically been lower than private pay rates.  
  • Historic Calls to Action 
    • Years, if not decades, of policy and advocacy work to increase subsidies into childcare programs is making progress. 
  • Progress 
    • Increased federal funding has gone into creating programs like ours, Montana Child Care Business Connect (MCCBC) a program of Zero to Five Montana. MCCBC’s message has empowered higher quality business decisions, as evidenced by the Market Rate Survey results increasing BBS reimbursement rates.  
  • New Problem 
    • The ‘lower-rate rule’ requires DPHHS to pay the lesser of a program’s published rate or the BBS rate.  
      • Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship payments are made at a rate determined by the ECSB (Early Childhood Services Bureau), through a market rate survey, or the provider’s rate, whichever is lower. Child care providers may not charge the State a higher rate than they charge the public.“  
    • But for the first time, BBS rates are at or above what many programs statewide charge their private pay families.  
  • Growth Mindset and Innovative Problem Solving 
    • Can providers create policies around discounted tuition for prepayment? 
    • Can fundraising be utilized to create internal scholarship programs for income eligible families to offset the cost of the new rate?  
    • Can employers of families of kids in care help offset the cost of care for private pay families?  
    • Do we need to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done?  
    • Can we advocate with legislators or DPHHS for rules and policy changes to de-couple BBS rates from private pay rates?  
    • Can we work within the rules to identify creative solutions?  


As a business advisor to the early education industry, we are at a precipice. We can continue saying “We can’t” or start saying “We haven’t figured it out yet.”  Now is the time to celebrate the wins while rethinking how things can be done moving forward.  

– Jason Nitschke is Zero to Five Montana and Montana Child Care Business Connect’s Senior Business Advisor. He can be reached at  


  1. Sauber Millacci, T., & Schaffner, A. K. (2021). How to Nurture a Growth Mindset in Kids: 8 Best Activities. PositivePsychology.com2 
  2. Andersen, S. C., & Nielsen, H. S. (2016). Growth Mindset in Early Learners. Nebraska Extension3 
  3. Read more 
  4. Explore 
  5. CHILD CARE 1-4 Scholarship Rates (