February 26, 2019

Councilperson Strassburger Introduces Legislation to Combat Pregnancy Discrimination

Today, Pittsburgh City Councilperson Erika Strassburger announced the introduction of legislation to safeguard employment protections for pregnant employees, individuals seeking to become pregnant, and their partners. In addition, the City of Pittsburgh’s Commission on Human Relations released an accompanying Guidance Document to empower employers to take steps to prevent discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions and events.


Strassburger’s Statement

“Employees should not be forced to choose between their livelihood and their reproductive decisions. My legislation ensures that pregnant workers, regardless of whether they work in a corporate office, a retail store, or a warehouse, can work in a safe and comfortable environment, attend medical appointments, and sustain a healthy pregnancy without fear of losing their job or benefits,” said Councilperson Strassburger. “I encourage employers citywide to review the Guidance Document to help prevent pregnancy-based discrimination from ever occurring.”

Details and Impact

Councilperson Strassburger’s legislation would explicitly prohibit employment discrimination against pregnant individuals, those seeking to become pregnant, and their partners before, during, and after the nine-month gestation period and after childbirth. This change to the City Code may require employers to provide reasonable modifications to employees’ workspaces and offer justifiable flexibility in scheduling to allow employees and their partners to attend procedures, tests, and other appointments associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. A copy of the legislation is available here.

With this change, Pittsburgh would become one of the first jurisdictions nationwide to clearly safeguard employment protections for the partners of pregnant employees. Additionally, the legislation would make Pittsburgh one of few cities to guarantee employment protections for related events that occur before, during, and after gestation and after childbirth.


View the entire press release here.


Those who feel they may have been treated unfairly are encouraged to call the Commission on Human Relations (CHR) at 412-255-2600 or visit for more information. The CHR also offers free training and resources for employers.


February 25, 2019

Trying Together 2019-2020 Public Policy Agenda Released

Trying Together is pleased to announce the release of its 2019-2020 Public Policy Agenda. The objectives listed build upon our successes and expand to include new areas of focus.

The 2017-2018 agenda called for several action items which were positively advanced in the past two years. While there is still work to do, Trying Together helped to achieve several key accomplishments in support of these goals including:

Advance the use of developmentally appropriate practices (DAP).

End early childhood suspensions and expulsions*:

*Notably, Pittsburgh Public Schools ruled in 2017 that suspensions and expulsions for minor, non-violent infractions for K-2 students would be ended, after which Philadelphia followed. Additionally, The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) released a policy announcement and provided resources on how to do reduce suspensions and expulsions. 

Increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten (pre-k) programs.

  • partnered on the Pre-K for PA campaign which successfully advocated for an increased investment of $55 million dollars in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 budgets collectively.

Increase access to high-quality infant toddler care.

  • successfully advocated for an increased investment of $26.8 million dollars in child care services as of the 2018-19 budget;
  • and convened and partnered on a workgroup to launch the Start Strong PA campaign in January 2019 to advocate for high-quality child care for infants and toddlers.

Transform the early childhood profession.

  • provided several dozen Level 1 Teachers their Induction program;
  • hosted the ECE Advocacy Fellowship for more than 20 early childhood professional;
  • and successfully updated language state statute and regulations to use the term ‘child care’ instead of ‘day care’.

Leverage resources and partnerships.

  • has continued its partnership with the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University to provide professional development to 1,000 early care and education professionals who utilize the Message From Me digital tool, allowing 20,000 children to consistently communicate about their day with caregivers. In 2019, we, along with our partners, will develop an Advisory Board to bring this to PNC markets nationwide;
  • and partners with the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU3) to lead the Hi5! Kindergarten Readiness and Registration campaign – working with nearly all 43 school districts in Allegheny County to facilitate roundtables and networking for best practices in supporting young children as they transition into kindergarten.

As a leading advocate for high-quality early childhood care and education in Pennsylvania, Trying Together educates and engages regularly with policymakers on access, affordability, and quality policies that affect the lives of children, families, and professionals throughout the state. Partnering with education, government, business, nonprofit, and philanthropic stakeholders, Trying Together advocates for public policy changes throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, with an emphasis in the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Visit to view the full 2019-2020 Public Policy Agenda.

Advocates are invited to sign on support for the 2019-2020 Trying Together Public Policy Agenda at to begin engaging their legislators today.


February 22, 2019

Community Check-Up Staff Interview

Every Monday from 1:00 – 5:00 pm, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Lydia Strickhouser performs a wide array of services for children and young adults ages birth to 21 years old at the Homewood-Brushton Family Support Center as part of Community Check-Up.

Service Examples
    • Asthma and Allergy Care
    • Check-Ups
    • Driver Permit Physicals
    • Hearing and Vision Screens
    • Lead and Anemia Screens
    • School and Flu Shots
    • Sports Physicals
    • WIC Forms
Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment, contact Lisa Drake at 412.310.7114.

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We interviewed Lisa and Lydia to learn more about their experience working Community Check-Up as far as what they do, how they’ve grown, and what it’s like building relationships with the families.

First, tell us more about Community Check-Up and your roles within it.
    • Lydia: Community Check-Up has been going on since October 2017. On average, we see five to seven patients each Monday afternoon, and eight is the maximum. Technically, children only need to be seen once per year for check-ups, but families can come as often as needed. We offer follow-up appointments for specific concerns like weight or blood pressure checks. It’s really about the needs of the patient. In addition to seeing patients for all the different types of appointments, I also work with them in social and behavioral health as well. A lot of research shows how the social disparities a person faces significantly influence people’s physical and mental health, so it’s important that I assess each family’s needs in a comprehensive way. This includes making sure they have adequate food and asking about other concerns like employment and child care. All of these factors affect their outcomes.
    • Lisa: Having this clinic in the heart of Homewood helps minimize transportation as a potential barrier. Some of our families who come in live within walking distance, and the Center provides transportation services for those who need help getting to the appointments. My goal at the Center is to support the parents in bringing their children to appointments. Community Check-Up started as an initiative to decrease the no-show rate of Homewood children at doctor’s appointments by bringing services closer to them, and it has been much more convenient for the families. On top of scheduling the appointments and doing outreach in the community, my job is to look out for certain things. Parents and children both have needs, and I work to assess them and connect families with the necessary resources.
What was your first impression of the Center?
    • Lydia: I hadn’t realized that the Center would be a house. I assumed the building would be more square and colder, but because it’s a house, it’s like you’re walking into someone’s home. The environment is open, warm, and inviting, and it’s helpful to be able to give patients care in this type of environment. I got into this position because of my work in community health. The previous doctor moved out of state, so I was approached about working here, and I fell in love.
    • Lisa: I found out about Community Check-Up when I was called about my son’s doctor’s appointment and asked if it would be helpful to bring him here instead of the Oakland location. My uncle used to live in this house before it became a family support center. I was excited to take this position because as a parent, I know how much of a difference having these services in Homewood has made for me, and I want to share that with other families here in the community. Getting to the Oakland location was difficult to manage with my son’s school schedule and transportation difficulties. I had to take two buses to get there. I understand how hard it can be to get your children to their doctor’s appointments and how easy it can be to fall behind on immunizations. Working here at the center as a community peer advocate gave me the ability to help parents with the same areas that were difficult for me.
What can caregivers and children expect when coming to Community Check-Up?
    • Lisa: Respect, comfortability, and a warm environment. We are interested in the parents’ and their children’s wellbeing, so we work with them to uncover their needs and any things that may hinder them from getting to the appointments, such as issues with housing, food, and water. We ask what we can do to help, and we are genuinely concerned about them. It’s more than just a check-up.
    • Lydia: In addition to asking social questions about each family and getting the forms and consents we need, we also have normal conversations with the parents. We are careful to not be accusatory, but instead, we are supportive in gauging situations so that families get the best help.
How have the families impacted you?
    • Lydia: Working with the families has changed how I ask questions and encouraged me to show more understanding when parents don’t get their children to appointments. Also, I have become more realistic in my tests and referrals, and my approach to medicine in general. I can order 50 tests and make 10 referrals, but maybe this patient can only do one of each. Again, social disparities are so important in determining health and behavioral outcomes. Through this role, I’ve learned to be sensitive while still getting an honest answer.
    • Lisa: Working here has helped me learn how to approach families, especially those headed by single parents. As we mentioned before, it’s important not to be accusatory towards parents who need support. People are so quick to judge situations they know nothing about, and we shouldn’t be one of those people. I’ve learned that you never know what a person is dealing with, so I have made it a point to be more understanding, more patient, and more helpful. This role has made me want to help people as much as I can.
What do you find most satisfying about your interactions with families? What is most challenging?
    • Lisa: The most satisfying part of my job is seeing results and seeing them show up. Nothing makes me happier than them showing up. There are chaotic days when everyone is here at once, and there are children everywhere, but I love that. We have really mannerable kids here. The most challenging part is wanting to satisfy the parents and families, and making sure they have everything they need. The most important part of getting to know the families is building trust and comfortability. We have to establish communication that is open and long. When I call parents, I do more than just remind them of their appointment I feel good when they open up to me and feel safe enough to tell me what’s going on, and I am proud of being available to help them and give them feedback.
    • Lydia: Watching the children’s growth and development is the reason I got into pediatrics in the first place. It’s neat to see how much the kids progress, especially the little ones three and under, who come in more often, every two to three months. I love getting to talk to the kids individually, finding out their goals, seeing them get taller, and asking them about school. The most challenging part for me is the amount of paperwork and charting that I have to do. It’s important to me to maintain relationships with the families and not focus solely on the computer. Usually, I will put in four hours of work before coming in and three to four hours afterward. It’s a full day, but it allows me to focus on the parents and kids while they are here.
Are there any changes you see in the parents as they come back with their kids for appointments?
    • Lydia: Sometimes parents get more relaxed after a while. It’s nice to see their comfort and familiarity with Lisa and me. The kids love the toys, and it’s a very friendly environment.
    • Lisa: I noticed that a couple of parents who used to miss appointments with their child are on it now. The consistency has grown.
Is there anything else that you want the families to know?
    • Lydia: Just that we’re here, 1:00-5:00 p.m. You can show up just to talk if you need to. Though we need to know ahead of time to prepare for appointments, I am able to talk to you about any concerns you have or to look up immunization records if needed.


February 18, 2019

PA Board of Education Hosting Public Hearing in Homestead

The Pennsylvania State Board of Education will conduct a public hearing in Homestead on April 23, 2019 to receive input from interested parties on draft proposed amendments to Chapter 49 (Certification of Professional Personnel).

Current Chapter 49 Regulations.

Testimony Limitations

Testimony is limited to no more than 5 minutes, and participants will be assigned a time slot on a first come, first served basis when they register. If a hearing site reaches capacity, the Board will place interested participants on a waiting list and will notify members of the waiting list if space becomes available. Each hearing will conclude after the last scheduled witness testifies.

Those registered to testify must provide 25 copies of their written testimony at the hearing.

Registration and Questions

Persons interested in presenting testimony must register with the Board office at or (717) 787-3787, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Registrations must be submitted no later than April 18 at noon.

Registrations submitted via email must include your name, affiliation, phone number, email address, and the date and location of the hearing in which you would like to participate.


Individuals with disabilities who wish to attend a hearing and require an auxiliary aid, service, or other accommodation to participate should contact Jenna DeNoyelles, ADA Coordinator, at (717) 783-9338 to discuss how the Board may best accommodate their needs.

Persons with disabilities are invited to submit public comments in alternative formats such as Braille or taped testimony and by means of the telephone. Written and alternative formats of public comment will be afforded the same thoughtful consideration as oral remarks.

Not Able to Attend?

Individuals unable to attend the hearing may submit written testimony directly to the Board on or before April 24, 2019. Written comments should be sent to:

State Board of Education
333 Market Street, 1st Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126

Read the full notice.


February 15, 2019

Response to Governor Wolf’s Budget Proposal

On Tuesday, February 5, Governor Tom Wolf presented his fiscal year 2019-20 budget proposal. In highlighting his plan to make the Pennsylvania workforce the strongest in the nation, he outlined several increases in early care and education programs, as well as his plans to spend over $101 million in federal child care funds. Governor Wolf’s proposal includes the following:

Child Care

  • $15 million in federal funds to provide subsidized child care for 970 additional infants/toddlers in STAR 3 and 4 programs.
  • $10 million in federal funds to provide a 28 percent increase to tiered reimbursement rates for STAR 2, 3 and 4 providers for infant/toddler care.
  • $2 million in federal funds to support an “Early Childhood Career Pathways Initiative” for education, training and professional supports for an apprenticeship, or work-based learning model for professionals serving infants/toddlers in early care and education programs.
  • $74 million in federal funds to provide a rate increase for subsidized providers for an increase in the minimum wage to $12/hour.

Today only one-third of subsidized children are accessing high-quality STAR 3 and 4 care, 4,300 children are on the subsidy waiting list, with families waiting 88 days to access subsidies they need to work, 50 percent of child care staff are receiving public assistance and child care subsidy reimbursements do not cover the cost of quality care. Trying Together, along with nine partner advocacy organizations, launched a new advocacy campaign last week – Start Strong PA – to turn those numbers around and increase access to high-quality child care for families so their infants and toddlers can grow, learn and succeed.

We are pleased to see the federal spending plan includes a waiting list initiative to serve more infants/toddlers in high-quality care and an increase in tiered reimbursement that will provide further program stability and consistency in teacher:child relationships. These are proposals for which we and partners advocated and align with our goals. We also believe the “career pathways” initiative will help to attract and retain talented early care and education teachers, another hallmark of the campaign.

Trying Together looks forward to learning more about Governor Wolf’s minimum wage proposal’s impact on the professionals in our field and the programs in which they work. While we appreciate the allocation of these critical federal dollars and again thank our federal delegation for strong, bipartisan support for high-quality child care, we are concerned with the lack of new state investments in this area.


  • $40 million for the Pre-K Counts program
  • $10 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program

This expansion would serve 5,500 additional young children.  

Today the commonwealth ranks 18th of the 30 states investing in high-quality, publicly-funded pre-k and with this investment 100,000 children still lack access. As a leading partner in the Pre-K for PA campaign, Trying Together is advocating that lawmakers fully-fund Governor Wolf’s proposal.

Evidence-Based Home Visiting

In addition, the budget proposal includes a $5 million investment in evidence-based home visiting programs to expand home visiting for 800 eligible families.

For more information on home visiting advocacy efforts go to

Evidence-Based Early Intervention

There is a $15 million state funding increase proposed in the Department of Education budget and a $9.75 million increase in the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget for Early Intervention to continue to support the cost of children receiving services.

Trying Together commends Governor Wolf for his continued commitment to early care and education programs in the commonwealth and encourages a state investment be made in high-quality child care so we can provide children with the educational foundation they all deserve. We will advocate for these investments as the budget process continues. Stay up-to-date on how to advocate for these issues by signing-up to support Trying Together’s public policy agenda here.


February 14, 2019

Registration Open for 2019 UnConference

In today’s digital world, learning has found new paths with the advanced development of media and technology. There is a lot of the excitement about the power of technology for learning with a focus on apps and games, but what do we really know about the effectiveness of media and technology on young children?  How are they spending their time? And, even with lots of tech, what are low tech (or maybe even no tech) ideas that help children create and develop critical 21st century skills?  Simply, what is age-appropriate?


In partnership with Carlow University and Avonworth Primary Center, join us Saturday, March 30, 2019 from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Avonworth Primary Center for a day of professional development and explore how we, as early childhood educators, after-school providers, and families can harness the good that comes from the advances made in media and technology for young children. The day features Jennifer Ehehalt, Pittsburgh Regional Manager at Common Sense Media, highlighting the findings in their research report The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight, along with a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Then, attendees will participate in a hands-on workshop and an open session to interact with various displays, technology and media. After you register, we will email you for your workshop preferences.

How to Register

Register now to reserve your space!  When the workshops are finalized, you will receive an email from Yu-Ling to select your preferred workshops.  We will do our best to place you in your requested workshop, but this is not guaranteed.  There is limited space in each workshop and workshop placement is based on the date of your registration, so we recommend you register early.  Please register by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, 2019. For groups of six or more people, there is a 10% discount.  Please email Yu-Ling at for more information. To learn more about this event, visit this link.

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February 11, 2019

NAEYC Offering Scholarships for Emerging Leaders

NAEYC will offer six scholarships to individuals who can demonstrate their potential as emerging leaders in early childhood education.

2019 NAEYC Professional Learning Institute
June 2-5
Long Beach, CA

This competitive application process is open to current NAEYC members. Those awarded will receive complimentary registration, hotel accommodations, and a travel stipend (travel provided only within the United States) for the 2019 Professional Learning Institute. Previous scholarship recipients are not eligible to apply. The deadline for submitting an application is March 15, 2019. To learn more and apply, visit the NAEYC website.


February 8, 2019

Start Strong PA Encouraged by Calls for Increased State Investments


Start Strong PA observed the 2019-20 PA budget as an important down payment to ensure all infants and toddlers learn, grow, and succeed. The following statement was issued by the ten principal partners leading Start Strong PA, a campaign to ensure that children across the state can access affordable, high-quality child care programs during the most critical period of brain development, the first three years of life:

Statement on the Budget

“We are pleased Governor Wolf’s budget provides a plan for spending $101 million in federal child care dollars that will help Pennsylvania families who need high-quality child care for their children to thrive. Given the essential role that high-quality child care has to support Pennsylvania’s working families, we urge Pennsylvania policymakers to explore all options to allocate additional state resources to address the critical needs of our state’s early childhood system that limit access and affordability.

Two elements of Governor Wolf’s budget proposal closely align with the campaign’s goals, including: a $15 million allocation to remove approximately 970 infants and toddlers from the subsidy waitlist and move them into programs that will elevate their potential; and a roughly $10 million allocation that will help to reinforce program stability and consistent staff-child relationships by increasing quality add-on rates for infants and toddlers by 28% for STAR 2, 3, and 4 programs.

In addition, the Governor’s proposal includes a $2 million allocation to support early childhood career pathways which acknowledges that children develop best when they have consistent teachers and relationships. The campaign believes this proposal will begin to address the significant need to attract and retain additional talented adults to become early childhood educators. Furthermore, an allocation of approximately $74 million would increase rates to support the move to a $12 per hour minimum wage in Pennsylvania.

The Governor’s proposals use federal Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars. Start Strong PA campaign partners believe that these increased investments demonstrate the bipartisan support for ensuring our youngest children have what they need to thrive, while supporting the needs of our state’s workforce and education systems.” The Governor acknowledged the dual role of high-quality child care for children and families by saying, “We can get more kids off of waiting lists…and help more parents make their way into the workforce. Pennsylvania’s children deserve every chance to succeed.”

Reaction to the Governor’s Address

The importance of quality child care to the Commonwealth’s workforce was also raised by Senator Joe Scarnati in his reaction to the Governor’s address saying, “we have to focus on the families and we have to focus on their problems that stop them from getting to work.” Start Strong PA is urging the Pennsylvania General Assembly to build on the proposed federal allocations, and invest additional state dollars to support the positive brain development of all infants and toddlers by addressing access and affordability issues.

What Does Start Strong PA Support?

Specifically, Start Strong PA supports:

1. Increased reimbursement rates for the highest quality STAR 3 and 4 programs serving infants and

toddlers to the full cost of quality;

2. Increased investments to support more STAR 2 providers to move to STAR 3 and 4 thereby increasing

high-quality capacity;

3. Increased investments in the child care workforce by adding slots for Rising STARS Tuition

Assistance and T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarships, fully funding Education and Retention

Awards, and conducting a child care labor market survey.

“Our state is at a critical moment for determining the future of infants and toddlers in Pennsylvania. Legislators must build on last year’s momentum that acknowledges the role of state funds in our early childhood system. We call on legislators to use this year’s state budget to foster a better future for all children by providing them a solid educational foundation through access to high-quality child care that their families can afford.”

Budget Details

The 2019-20 proposed budget includes the following expanded investments to early learning:

● Allocation of $101 million in federal child care funds;

Increase in Pre-K Counts investment: $40 million;

Increase in Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program investment: $10 million;

● Increase in state funds for evidence-based home visiting: $5 million.

Start Strong PA is an initiative of Early Learning PA (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians birth to age five (5). ELPA also advocates for expanding publicly funded Home Visiting services via the Childhood Begins at Home Campaign and access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k for income eligible children via the Pre-K for PA Campaign.

What is Start Strong PA?

Start Strong PA is an initiative of Early Learning PA. Through a statewide collaboration of partners, Start Strong PA aims to support healthy child development, working families, and the economy by increasing access to and affordability of high-quality child care programs for young children. Learn more at


Fight Crime: Invest in Kids | First Up | Mission: Readiness | Pennsylvania Association for The Education of Young Children | Pennsylvania Child Care Association | Pennsylvania Head Start Association | Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children | Public Citizens for Children and Youth | The United Way of Pennsylvania | Trying Together



February 4, 2019

Pittsburgh Launching New Book Gifting Program

With support from The Benter Foundation, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration plans to launch a free book program for children from birth to age five. Tomorrow, Pittsburgh City Council will introduce legislation to accept $250,000 from the foundation, introducing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to the city. Since starting in 1995, this program has sent more than 113 million books for free, to children in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The Role That Access Plays

Studies of the Imagination Library have discovered:

  • Parents believed their children were more interested in reading when receiving the books every month
  • Parents read aloud to their children more often
  • Children were excited when books arrived in their name
  • Positive views of the program transcended demographics and longer participation provided better outcomes

The City’s Role

The Imagination Library covers overhead costs, databases, monthly mailings, and a book selection committee. The City of Pittsburgh, as an affiliate of the Imagination Library, would cover the ongoing costs for mailing each book every month, as well as enrollment and promotional activities.

Once funding is approved, outreach and communication plans will be launched, as well as engaging with local organizations that work with young children and families.

Quotes from the Partnership

Tiffini Simoneaux, manager of the City’s Office of Early Childhood in Mayor Peduto’s Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment:

“Research shows that early literary experiences, including access to books in the home, are fundamental ingredients for academic success. This program will enable young children throughout the city to build a home library of up to 60 books.”

Bill Benter, president of The Benter Foundation:

“We’re pleased to partner with the City of Pittsburgh and other community allies to help children develop a lifelong love of reading. Having your own books at home unlocks a new world of learning and language that can help Pittsburgh’s children thrive.”

*Information provided by the City of Pittsburgh


Ask Congress to Increase Federal Child Care Funding

Trying Together and our partners are advocating for greater investments in federal child care funding, and we need your organization to join us.

What is happening?

Your voices helped achieve historic increases in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds in federal fiscal years 2018 and 2019. We need to build off that success and advocate for increased discretionary CCDBG funding in the federal fiscal year 2020 so that we can continue to address unmet needs. Advocates across the country are asking Congress to increase CCDBG funding by $5 billion.

To accomplish this goal, the Budget Control Act caps on non-defense discretionary spending would need to be lifted to provide for such an increase in the Labor/Health and Human Services/Education appropriations bill.

Why does it matter?

The additional funding would help Pennsylvania children and families access and afford high-quality child care and further support child care programs and teachers. Trying Together, along with our partner early care and education advocacy organizations in Pennsylvania, is gathering signatures for a letter to our congressional delegation.

Sign-On Your Support

To support an increase in federal child care funding, sign your organization on to the letter by Wednesday, February 20th!