News

April 29, 2019

Pittsburgh Families Invited to Receive Free Children’s Books

On April 27, 2019, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced that a new program will offer free monthly books to Pittsburgh children from birth to age five. The program is currently accepting applications from parents and guardians.

About the Program

The free book program – in conjunction with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the Benter Foundation, and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania – will mail all eligible children an age-appropriate book every month up until their fifth birthday. Participating children will receive their first book through the U.S. Postal Services six to eight weeks after the registration form has been received.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the program preschoolers must:

  • Be a resident of the City of Pittsburgh
  • Have a parent or guardian fill out an official registration form
  • Notify the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania of any address changes

Registration

To register your child(ren), email Tiffini Simoneaux at tiffini.simoneaux@pittsburghpa.gov. Soon after, the City of Pittsburgh will mail you a hard copy of the registration form to complete and return.

An online application form will be coming soon! See their website.

Questions

For any questions, please contact Tiffini Simoneaux via email (tiffini.simoneaux@pittsburghpa.gov) or phone (412.255.2505).

News

April 26, 2019

Harnessing the ‘Power of Play’ to Build Equitable Cities

When planners and community stakeholders are hashing out asset inventories and needs assessments to figure out the state of neighborhood amenities, a few things are sure to almost always make the list: more access to green space, safer crosswalks, more parking in business districts, gateways, and wayfinding signage. When planners design communities to be safer, healthier, more sustainable, and more walkable, how often do those efforts make a community more playful?

The Power of Play

Play is powerful. In the sphere of early childhood education, experts recognize the unparalleled importance of play in learning and development. In business, play is seen as a gateway to greater creativity, collaboration, and breakthrough innovation. In society, communities that play together stay together.

Isn’t it time we embraced playfulness as a quality worth designing into our urban spaces? Perhaps the trouble is that the word itself seems just too playful to be taken seriously. We need more words for play.

More Words for Play

The Finnish language has no shortage of words for play. For Finns, playing a game is different from playing a sport, which is different from playing music. There are distinct Finnish words for children’s play and the play that adults engage in. There’s even a Finnish word that means both “work” and “play.” This rich vocabulary shows that in Finland, play is a valued part of life that isn’t confined just to kids’ stuff.

 

Where else would we see play show up in our plans, if only we had the words for it?

 

What would we call the kind of play that brings strangers together?

 

What would we call playing around with ideas and possibilities?

 

It’s questions like these that motivated a coalition of public and private sector partners to start the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative and organize a citywide movement to expand the presence of play in every community. As a mid-size, post-industrial city in the midst of dramatic changes spurred in large part by new development, we see a mandate to build greater public demand for play as an integral part of the city’s future.

Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative

Locally in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative is working to make play a part of the urban infrastructure.

Since 2013, members of the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative have been working together to find and remove the barriers holding communities back from experiencing the social benefits of play. These efforts have brought together leaders and representatives from the city’s parks and museums, human services and municipal agencies, arts and sustainability nonprofits, and community development groups. Along the way, we’ve encountered distinct manifestations of play that we really wish had their own name.

Learn more about the work of The Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative and read the full article from the urban planning magazine Planetizen.

(shared via Planetizen)

News

PWSA Adopting Polices That Support Families

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) board will approve two policies that support caregivers.

 

Paid Safe Leave Policy

On Friday, April 26, 2019 the PWSA board will vote on a paid safe leave policy. The measure allows employees who have been victimized by domestic abuse to take days off from work. The PWSA joins Mayor Peduto who signed an Executive Order on safe leave for City of Pittsburgh employees last year.

“The cost of domestic violence for employers is the loss of productivity. Employees plagued by violence at home are often distracted and sometimes ill at work. This policy will allow employees in these situations to try and take steps to improve the situation without fearing the loss of their job,” a board statement says.

Parental Leave Policy

The PWSA board will also vote on a paid parental leave policy. This policy permits new mothers and fathers to take six weeks of paid leave after the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.

“We’re grateful to the City of Pittsburgh for leading the way and our Board of Directors for adopting these progressive employment policies. The changes will help protect the well-being of our employees, help retain talent and attract the best and the brightest to join our team,” said PWSA Executive Director Robert A. Weimar.

Both policies were adopted by Mayor William Peduto and Pittsburgh City Council. Learn more about both PWSA policies by visiting the City of Pittsburgh press release page.

News

April 22, 2019

Foundations Urged to Unite to Reinforce Early Learning

In a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Gregg Behr and Kristen Burns, both Executives of the Grable Foundation, discuss the topic of early childhood programs and explore the increasing general awareness of the important role of early learning experiences.

Overview

Data has repeatedly shown that “kids who participate in high-quality programs develop a greater capacity for cognitive and social-emotional skills like collaboration, communication, and perseverance — skills that improve school attendance, grades, and more.”

However, with the current levels of early childhood funding, only “two-thirds of American four-year-olds are enrolled in early learning programs…with less than a quarter of those programs being considered high-quality.” Because of this, advocates are calling for grantmakers and foundations to step up, as many have, to reinforce the positive impact of early childhood programs.

Toxic Stress and Trauma

In the article, Behr and Burns discuss the negative impacts of sustained exposure to toxic stress and trauma. Because of this, disadvantaged kids may be taking the brunt of the impact with greater risks for developmental delays linked to problems such as “poor academic achievement, substance abuse, and diabetes.” However, studies show that even if a young child is exposed to toxic stress and trauma, many of the negative impacts may be reduced if the child has access to a positive, safe, and supportive early learning experience. By advocating for increased investments in early childhood, foundations are advocating to support the healthy development and success of our nation’s children.

Current Funding

Behr and Burns state that “among the 91 grantmakers surveyed, one-third reported funding [efforts related to early childhood programs]. Of those, well over half anticipated increased support in the next two years.” However, despite wide and growing support for the cause, early childhood spending gets just four percent of foundation dollars. Because of this, advocates are calling on grantmakers and foundations to unite in an effort to support the benefits of early childhood programs. While philanthropy cannot take the place of adequate government funding, any supportive effort today “may lead to better public policy tomorrow.”

Learn More

To read the full article, including clear examples highlighted in the Grantmakers for Education report, visit the website.

Gregg Behr is executive director of the Grable Foundation and chairman of Grantmakers for Education. Kristen Burns is associate director of Grable.

News

April 18, 2019

Interview with Family Check-Up Staff

Using a family-centered and collaborative approach, The Family Check-Up (FCU) model aims to promote child and family well being by providing parents with new skills and tools to strengthen family relationships.

The program includes an initial interview followed by an assessment of the family’s strengths and needs. Using motivating strategies, tailored goals are then developed to meet the unique needs of each family. A final feedback session provides insight on possible follow-up services and an opportunity to continue building parenting skills through Everyday Parenting Curriculum.

For more than 20 years, research has shown positive outcomes in early childhood and adolescence for children whose families participated in FCU. The FCU has helped parents improve their skills and confidence. Benefits of this include a reduction in family stress, conflict, and challenging behaviors displayed by pre-schoolers, school-aged children, and teens. The FCU has also been found to lower family stress and conflict.

To schedule an appointment, contact:

  • Adriana Chung | 412.727.6649

Parents and caregivers can also visit Adriana in her office. She is at the Homewood-Brushton Family Support Center every day of the week except for Tuesdays. Note that she may be in a session at the Center or out on a home visit, but if you are willing to wait, she is always happy to schedule appointments in person and answer any of your questions.

 

Interview

We interviewed Adriana Chung, Family Coach at the Center, to learn more about her experience working Family Check-Up.

 

How did you become interested in working with families?

Originally, I wanted to work with children, so I started as a child therapist. But through my work with young children with developmental delays and behavioral/emotional challenges, I realized that I couldn’t do the work without building relationships with their caregivers. So I would have sessions with the children alone, complementary sessions with parents alone, and then joint sessions with both of them together as well.

How long have you been here at the Center, and what was your first impression?

I’ve been working at the Center since August 2018, so about seven months now. The Center was very impressive in a lot of ways, but what stood out to me most was the culture here. It’s very family-like, not just the physical space but even the relationships among staff members, and between staff members and the families. There is a sense of genuine care and compassion for one another.

What can families expect when coming to their first Family Check-Up (FCU)?

Parents may find that FCU sessions are different from standard parenting and family management programs. There is a bidirectional relationship, even in the very first session, which is called “Getting to Know You.” The goal is not just for me to get to know the family but for them to get to know me and the FCU as well. We ask questions about one another. Everything starts with building a trusting relationship. We have different conversations about family values, traditions, and beliefs, and we focus on the strengths of the family in that initial meeting and what is going well for them, but through that we are still able to address parent’s questions or concerns.

How have the families impacted you?

They have impacted me in a lot of different ways, but mostly they are teaching me about resilience, which looks different in every family and exists on both individual and family levels. They are also showing me a huge sense of connectedness. I’ve noticed families look out for one another and for each other’s children. I think it may be the culture of the community, so I’m learning about Homewood values as well.

What do you find most satisfying about your interactions with families? What is most challenging?

I was encouraged to find that most families have already begun thinking about making changes in their personal lives and the way they approach parenting. This makes my work so much easier – we begin a step ahead of the game because they are already motivated to talk about those things. Also, the parents genuinely want the best for their children. I’ve seen this in every single parent I have met and am working with. I can feel it.

Most challenging to my work here has been being the new person. There is an established culture at Family Support. Most of the families have been participating here for longer than I have. They’ve known each other and the staff for longer as well. Because I’m new, and I’m from a different state and city, I have to take time to build trust.

What are some common goals that you see often in parents who come to you for services?

That really varies actually. Some parents want to be able to understand and communicate with their child better. Others want to improve the parent-child relationship and instill openness and honesty. Also, some come to improve their relationship with their partner, improve their co-parenting skills so they can resolve differences around parenting more effectively, which they know affects their well-being. Finally, some parents desire to improve their own well-being because they know that it impacts that of their child. At the end of the day, all of them are really concerned about the child’s well-being and don’t want to jeopardize it, so their goal is to address whatever is getting in the way of their parenting and their child’s well-being.

What’s the biggest misconception that parents have about therapy?

Many parents have this idea that therapy or counseling is only for people who have diagnoses or have been severely traumatized and aren’t able to function on a daily basis. I think that stigma may keep some people away. Confidentiality can be another issue at a Center like this where the relationship is very family-like. I want everyone to know that everything is strictly confidential unless I fear that someone’s safety is at risk.

How is working with a parent different from working with other individuals?

The biggest difference is that whatever we’re talking about is going to impact the child. The same thing goes for any goals being set; they will impact the child and the parent-child relationship, even in the case of a parent who feels depressed or wants support in managing their stress. I use a parenting framework, so it’s not just about how the parent themselves can cope with that stress, but we may also explore how that level of stress impacts the way the parent responds to their children, so I bring that perspective into every appointment.

What has been your biggest success in this role?

Well, I can’t say that I made this happen by myself, but I feel that the number of families that have participated in the FCU is a success. The Family Development Specialists have helped me a lot. They are like gatekeepers to the Center, and they are great at facilitating my ability to build relationships with the families since they have built theirs already. More than half of the families enrolled at the Center have had at least one session with me, and that makes us all feel good. We collaborate well, and we are a great team.

News

PA Pre-K Counts Announces Request for Applications

Pennsylvania’s fiscal year (FY) 2019-20 proposed budget continues to build on the governor’s commitment to high-quality early learning services and includes more than $1.1 billion in state and nearly $850 million in federal support for Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) programs. This proposal represents the further steps toward achieving the goal of universal access to high-quality pre-k programs.

With new investments in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts ($40 million) and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program ($10 million), the state will be able to increase the number of children served in high-quality pre-k. Due to this proposed funding, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is seeking applicants for PA Pre-K Counts.

About Pre-K Counts

PA Pre-K Counts provides children with the opportunity to experience a high-quality pre-kindergarten program. The program standards ensure a high return on the investment in the preparation of young children for school and will help to close the achievement gap. Early education through PA Pre-K Counts can open the doors of opportunity for every child to do well in school, the workforce, and life.

About the Request for Applications (RFA)

PDE is issuing this RFA to support providers in preparing to serve children and to be ready for September enrollment. The department recognizes that providers need to conduct outreach to families; recruit, hire and train staff; and do all of the planning necessary to successfully implement the program pending approval of proposed funding.

Information on the application process can be accessed at PKC How to Apply.

Eligible Applicants

Pennsylvania continues to be committed to a mixed delivery system. As such, eligible applicants include existing PA Pre-K Counts grantees and new applicants from five eligible entity categories:

  1. School districts;
  2. PDE Licensed nursery schools;
  3. Head Start grantees;
  4. Child care centers and group child care homes designated at Keystone STAR 3 or 4; and
  5. A third party entity applying for Pennsylvania Pre‐K Counts funding to administer the lead agency responsibilities for entities that are eligible to provide the classroom services under the categories listed above.

PDE encourages all eligible entities to assess community need and apply for funding to support eligible children in their communities. There is no limit to the number of slots that may be requested through this application process.

Eligibility Criteria

Age (three and four-year-old children) and family income (at or below 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines) are the primary eligibility criteria for participation in PA Pre-K Counts. Additional priorities for enrollment should be developed at the local level and may include:

  • teen parents,
  • migrant or seasonal students,
  • children of a family experiencing homelessness,
  • children involved in the child welfare system,
  • siblings of children already enrolled in the program,
  • English language learners,
  • children of an incarcerated parent, or
  • children receiving early intervention or behavioral health supports.

Required Documentation

Applicants must have the following in place to complete an application: a Letter of Intent, a vendor number (SAP #), an administrative unit number (AUN), a master provider index number (MPI), and a federal ID number or tax ID number.

PA Pre-K Counts Statute, Regulations, and Guidance

Any applicant should thoroughly review PA Pre-K Counts Statute, Regulations, and Guidance prior to submission of a letter of intent to apply to ensure an understanding of the program requirements and expectations of compliance if an application is successful. The application review process will include evaluation of the extent to which the applicant demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the PA Pre-K Counts Statute and Regulations.

Required Letter of Intent

Because of the need to establish access to eGrants procurement system, eligible organizations must submit a completed Letter of Intent to apply for funds. The template posted at PKC How to Apply must be used. The Letter of Intent represents intent to apply for PA Pre-K Counts funding and includes the legal name of the eligible agency that will apply, the AUN associated with the applying legal entity, preliminary information about requested funding, program model, provider type, and area to be served. Except for the legal entity and AUN, information submitted in the Letter of Intent may be modified in the final eGrants application.

Programs interested in applying must submit a fully completed Letter of Intent by 3 pm on May 8, 2019 to RA-PAPreKCounts@pa.gov. Programs that do not submit a timely Letter of Intent will not be able to apply in the eGrants system. Late submissions will not be accepted. Those agencies submitting a fully complete Letter of Intent by the due date will be notified when the PA Pre-K Counts application is open in eGrants.

Administrative Unit Number (AUN Number)

PA Pre-K Counts applicants will need to supply a valid AUN number within the Letter of Intent. A Letter of Intent without a valid AUN that matches the legal name of the applying entity will not be accepted. To verify your AUN number or to check to see if you have one assigned to your agency, visit EDNA. If you are an Intermediate Unit, select Search for Intermediate Units. If you are not an Intermediate Unit, select Advanced Search, and search for your agency.

Applicants that are not already licensed by PDE and therefore do not have an AUN number should contact Brian Bell (bribell@pa.gov, 717.346.0038) or James Redd (jaredd@pa.gov) at OCDEL.

Vendor Number (SAP #)

The supplied vendor number MUST align with the legal name and address provided in the application. A vendor number and account can be set up by registering at Vendor Number Registration selecting the Non-Procurement Registration Form. All agencies applying for PA Pre-K Counts grants must be pre-registered. The Central Vendor Management Unit is a storage database. The Comptroller uses this account to store direct deposit information.

If you have any questions about vendor numbers, please contact Brian Bell (bribell@pa.gov, 717.346.0038) or James Redd (jaredd@pa.gov) at OCDEL.

Master Provider Index (MPI #)

The supplied MPI number MUST align with the legal name and address provided in the application. All PA Pre-K Counts applicants will need an MPI number if the application is successful. The number is requested as part of the application process to ensure timely contracting for approved applications. MPI numbers are used by the PA Department of Human Services to identify legal entities and service locations that participate in any of its programs. As such, they are used in PELICAN as a common identifier for all OCDEL programs, including child care licensing, Early Intervention, PA Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, and Keystone STARS.

Legal entities are assigned a unique nine-digit MPI number. In addition, service locations are assigned a unique 13-digit MPI number, which is created by adding a four-digit extension to the nine-digit MPI of the legal entity. Legal entities and service providers currently participating in any of these programs should have an MPI number.

Applicants that are not currently participating in any of these programs should contact the Early Learning Network (ELN) Help Desk at 877.491.3818 and provide their Federal Tax ID to determine their MPI numbers. MPI numbers will not be provided without a Federal Tax ID number.

Tax ID Number or Federal ID Number

This is the number that an agency uses on its federal W-9 form. Applicants for PA Pre-K Counts funds should consult with the person who handles tax, legal, or accounting matters for the agency to determine the federal ID number. Use the number that aligns with the legal name and address provided in this application. The correct number must be provided when requested in order to process an application. Failure to do so will result in significant delays in funding approved applicants for FY 2019-20. This number is often referred to as the “FEIN number” by OCDEL staff.

Pre-application recorded webinar

An asynchronous pre-application webinar will be posted at PKC How to Apply after April 23, 2019 to assist interested applicants in the completion of the application. The webinar will include information on the application process and program requirements.

Questions & More Information

All questions regarding this competitive RFA process should be directed to Project Officer Deborah Wise only, by sending an email to RA-PAPreKCounts@pa.gov.

In order to provide consistent messaging and an equitable application process, ONLY questions sent to RA-PAPreKCounts@pa.gov, will be addressed. Questions and responses not already covered in either Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Statute, Regulations, and Guidance, or within the Application Guidance document, will be included in an on-going Frequently Asked Questions document posted at PKC How to Apply.

News

April 15, 2019

Sign-On to Support Families Impacted by Postpartum Depression

Understanding the Need

Postpartum depression can strike any new mother. Research shows that approximately 15 percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. In Pennsylvania, this means about 21,000 infants and moms are affected each year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that when a mother suffers from postpartum depression, both mothers and babies experience negative effects, including:

  • adverse effects on the baby’s brain and development,
  • increased danger of child abuse and neglect, and
  • increased medical care costs.

Will you sign-on to support Pennsylvania’s mothers and infants?

What is #StrongMomStrongBaby?

#StrongMomStrongBaby is a statewide effort to amend the existing early intervention law (Act 212 of 1990) to add postpartum depression as an at-risk condition allowing infants to undergo assessments, parents to receive assistance in bonding with their babies, and if needed, Early Intervention services to ensure moms and babies have the best start together.

To learn more and stay up-to-date, follow the campaign’s Facebook page.

Take Action

Show your support for Pennsylvania’s mothers and infants by adding your name to the #StrongMomStrongBaby petition.

News

April 10, 2019

Child Care Woes: The Push to Expand Access

In a recent article published online by the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), Trying Together Executive Director Cara Ciminillo discussed parent’s “constant hustle” in relation to providing and identifying high-quality care for their young children.

Overview

In the article, staff writer Sara Miller Llana brings in the story of Dana Hunter, a full-time employee and mother living in Pittsburgh. In this, Ms. Hunter describes the challenging balancing act of providing primary care for her young children while managing the workload and time requirements of full-time employment. Trying Together Cara Ciminillo mentions, “It’s a constant hustle. It’s a constant piecing together and juggling of demands and priorities.”

After sharing this story, the article later goes on to explain the growing support for pre-k, calling on evidence that access to early education not only supports the healthy development of young children but also supports caregivers’ return to the workforce. Although political figures are calling for increased access to early care and education, supported by the successful implementation of such programs in other countries, “affordable, quality child care still remains out of reach for many families, with women often shouldering the bulk of domestic management.”

Article

Read the full article to learn more about Pennsylvania’s push to expand access to child care.

News

April 9, 2019

Month of the Young Child: Celebrating Early Childhood

With Trying Together having designated April as the Month of the Young Child (MOYC), Kidsburgh asked Executive Director Cara Ciminillo to explain why access to high-quality early childhood care and education is so vital for our youngest generation.

Overview

In the article, Ciminillo explains why access to early learning and care is critical and moves on to discuss the roles of advocacy, policy, and investments. Identifying connections to Trying Together’s public policy agenda, Ciminillo explains that by successfully advocating for increased investments in early childhood, we’re working to ensure that all young children have access to affordable, high-quality programs; that all early childhood professionals are being compensated appropriately; and that all early childhood programs have access to the support they need to provide high-quality services.

Article

To read the full article, visit Kidsburgh’s website!

News

April 3, 2019

PAsmart Announces Grant Awardees

In February 2019, Governor Tom Wolf announced funding for PAsmart Apprenticeship and Next Generation Industry Partnerships grants which will connect Pennsylvanians with the information needed to succeed in our evolving economy.

About PAsmart

PAsmart is focused on ensuring Pennsylvania students and workers have the skills and abilities to meet the economic needs of the 21st century. This initiative aims to do this by expanding access to STEM education in Pennsylvania schools, embracing the Next Generation Industry Partnership model, and creating the Apprenticeship and Training Office to increase apprenticeship opportunities within a variety of industries.

OCDEL’s Role

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning supports the efforts of PA’s Department of Labor and Industry and is working with them to professionalize the early education field. Efforts include increasing access to a career pathway that results in stackable, portable credentials, and providing relevant, developmentally and culturally appropriate content to support educators working with young children to advance their individual career and education progression.

Organization Grantees

The following organizations will be supported through PAsmart funds:

  • 1100c Training and Upgrading Fund: Will expand their apprenticeship model in Southeastern Pennsylvania
  • Partner4Work: Will establish a regional hub for Early Childhood Education registered apprenticeships in the Pittsburgh Metro Area
  • Keystone University: Will partner with Lackawanna Trail High School, Luzerne County Community College, and Wilkes University to build an Early Childhood Education (ECE) pipeline through a competency-based apprenticeship that leads to an entry-level ECE credential
  • Shippensburg University: Will design curriculum and develop advanced competencies to expand the Philadelphia ECE apprenticeship to four-year programs
  • Arcadia University: Will expand their RA program for ECE
  • First Up and its partners: Will expand upon apprenticeship supports and program to provide career paths in ECE

Learn More

For more information, visit pasmart.gov.

* Information provided by OCDEL’s PA Early Ed Newsletter