Imagine Spotlight: Carli Meek

Two women, a mother and her adult daughter, sit in a car together

This week, we are excited to highlight Carli Meek, the program manager for Imagine U and a longtime child care provider in Auburn, Washington.



When Carli had her second daughter in 2004, she had just finished dental assistant school. But her plans quickly changed. Her sister also had a newborn, and the two enjoyed staying home with their babies so much, they decided to start a family home child care business.

“I was able to stay home with my children. I was able to be a woman business owner and an entrepreneur in my own personal life. As a child care provider, I was really able to make a difference for children in the community and for their families.” 

Little Steps Discovery Zone opened in 2005. Carli’s sister later followed a different career path, but Little Steps was still a family business — Carli’s older daughter, Alexis, started helping as a volunteer when she was a teenager.

Now, Alexis runs Little Steps. Carli still helps manage the business while helping other people become child care providers as the program manager for the Imagine Institute’s relationship-based mentorship program, Imagine U.

A picture of an empty home child care with colorful toys and wooden tables

Little Steps Discovery Zone


After running Little Steps Discovery Zone for 11 years, Carli received a scholarship to earn her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Goddard College. She followed it with a master’s in adult education.

Imagine U allowed Carli to blend her love of teaching children and adults. As an Imagine U Mentor, she prepared future child care providers to open their own businesses.

She also benefited from the Imagine Institute trainings and decided to become a state-approved trainer. She’s an instructor at North Seattle College, too.

When the Imagine Institute launched the Child Care Stabilization Grant program in 2021, Carli saw another opportunity to help child care providers. She became CCSG program manager. Now, she’s the Imagine U program manager.

“It’s been amazing. When I first found out about the Imagine U Mentor program, my dream was to assist in leading this program.”


Because of her experiences, Carli understands the challenges providers face. She’s proud to be part of an organization that supports and empowers child care workers.

“In Imagine U, we’re helping open child cares across the entire state. In the training department, we are training all of these providers for high-quality care. In the substitute pool, we are helping to get substitutes into programs when licensed providers need help or they need time off, vacations, time to be able to go do their professional development. It’s endless.” 

Carli is excited to spread the word about Imagine to people across the state, especially in child care deserts and on the east side of Washington. She’s also excited to add Imagine U Mentors who speak more languages.

Being a child care provider can be isolating, Carli said. She encouraged others to find out how the Imagine Institute can help them.

“We have Technical Assistants on the line that can help in seven different languages immediately. Call and find out! Get involved, because we are a whole community that is there to support you.”