July 29, 2019

New Services Available on Pennsylvania’s PD Registry

In July, Pennsylvania’s PD Registry received new enhancements that will help support early childhood professionals.

New Services Available

Through the PD Registry website, early childhood professionals can now apply for or access:

Early Childhood Career Pathway

The Early Childhood Education Career Pathway is a tool to support the ECE profession in entering the field prepared for success while growing the existing professional’s capacity to advance in their intended field. This tool is now available on PD Registry. To learn more, visit the Pennsylvania Key website.


The Career Lattice will still be used for Keystone STARS designation and Education and Retention Awards (ERA) until further notice. Additionally, early childhood educators that currently meet the expectation of particular career lattice level will be honored at that level by being grandfathered into the Career Pathway level that is equivalent if verified within the determined timeline.

Many individuals have already uploaded transcripts before the new enhancements went live on July 1. You will still need to complete your profile to be placed on the career pathway. If transcripts were already uploaded, this step will not be needed again. To view tip sheets on completing the profile and uploading transcripts, please view them at the PA Keys website.

More Information

For more information on these enhancements, watch the recorded webinar, visit the FAQ document, and view tipsheets and more on the PD Registry.

Questions? Call 1.800.284.6031 or email

*Information provided by The Pennsylvania Key


July 28, 2019

Response: Pennsylvania Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget

Recently, the state finalized the budget for fiscal year 2019-20, running now through June 30, 2020.


Alongside monumental increased investments for pre-k and home visiting, child care line items expanded, but only due to increases in funds from the federal government that are appropriated (or allowed to be spent) in the new state budget. Meanwhile, state child care dollars were cut by $36 million and replaced with federal funds.

While Trying Together is excited by the growth of pre-k and home visiting, this budget was a missed opportunity to support greater access to and affordability of high-quality child care. It is critical that our state policymakers know that the early childhood community is paying attention to their actions.

Detailed Budget Overview

Governor Wolf’s enacted budget includes the following:

Child Care
    • $6 million cut from the Child Care Services line item (replaced by federal funds).
    • $30 million cut from the Child Care Assistance line item (replaced by federal funds).
    • $27 million of federal dollars allocated to serve 970 additional infants and toddlers eligible for Child Care Works in high-quality programs; raise tiered reimbursement rates for STAR 2, 3, and 4 providers caring for infants and toddlers; and support apprenticeships for infant and toddler teachers.
    • $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts. This funding will also provide a rate increase of 2.95%, meaning approximately $250 more per child served over the prior rate.
    • $5 million increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program to serve more children.
Evidence-Based Home Visiting
    • $5 million increase for evidence-based home visiting programs to serve an additional 800 eligible families.

Why It’s Important

Today, only one-third of children on child care subsidy are accessing high-quality STAR 3 or 4 care. On average, families wait 88 days to access subsidies they need to join or remain in the workforce, with 4,300 children on the subsidy waiting list. However, child care subsidy reimbursements do not cover the cost of quality care. With this, child care staff are often paid low wages, with 50 percent of child care staff receiving public assistance.

We are pleased to see a waiting list initiative to serve more infants and 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 initiatives we and partners advocated for and strongly align with our Start Strong PA campaign goals.

Trying Together appreciates Governor Wolf’s continued commitment to early care and education programs in the commonwealth. With this, we recognize that countless families still lack access to high-quality early learning programs that they can afford. Trying Together will be doubling down on our advocacy for greater state and federal funding for child care.

Take Action

To support the work of early childhood and caregivers of young children, we participate in multiple campaigns, including Pre-K for PAStart Strong PA, and Childhood Begins at Home. However, the success of these advocacy efforts is only possible when the early childhood community is visible and heard by our elected officials.

Visit our Take Action page and take action on the campaigns that matter to you. By doing so, you can thank lawmakers for greater investments in pre-k and home visiting and let them know that you expect to see them restore and grow investments in high-quality child care.

To stay up-to-date on how to advocate for these issues, sign-up to receive public policy updates.

See the full budget history here.


July 25, 2019

Changes Made to Rising STARS Tuition Assistance Program

For Fiscal Year 2019-20, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning’s Rising STARS Tuition Assistance (RSTA) program has undergone several important changes. Administered by The Pennsylvania Key, RSTA helps cover a portion of tuition costs for early childhood professionals.

Fiscal Year 2019-20 Changes

The following changes have been implemented for FY 2019-20:

    • “Grandfathered” applicants seeking an AA, BA, or PreK-4 Teacher Certification will continue to receive 95% of tuition costs with a maximum benefit of $6,000 per individual. These applicants will need to transition to T.E.A.C.H. or another financial aid resource by Fiscal Year 2020-2021.
    • For new applicants for approved CDA or Credential Coursework, individuals will receive 95% of tuition costs and fees net of other funding sources for approved credential or CDA coursework up to eighteen (18) credits.
    • Additionally, new applicants for approved CDA or Credential Coursework can submit a request form (including receipt) for reimbursement for books after purchase.

More Information

To learn more about the RSTA program, visit the Pennsylvania Key website.

For questions, call 1.800.284.6031 or email

*Information provided by the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning


House Committee Holds Hearing On Childhood Trauma

On July 11, Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, convened a hearing entitled “Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Childhood Trauma: A Pervasive Public Health Issue that Needs Greater Federal Attention.


Convening to hear directly from trauma survivors, public health experts, and government officials, the hearing examined the long-term consequences of childhood trauma and the insufficiency of the federal response to this urgent public health issue. The Committee on Oversight and Reform provided the following background information:

    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente conducted a landmark study that found adults who had suffered “adverse childhood experiences” were at much higher risk for leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and suicide.
    • Extensive research demonstrates that exposure to community violence, homelessness, unsafe neighborhoods, bullying, racial and ethnic discrimination, income insecurity, natural disasters, intergenerational trauma, or historical trauma also increases the likelihood of negative health outcomes.

Key Takeaways

The hearing included the following key takeaways:

    • Childhood trauma is a pervasive public health issue with long-term negative effects that cost the United Stated billions of dollars.
    • Congress recently passed legislation that recognizes the severe consequences of childhood trauma, but current programs and initiatives are insufficient to address this public health issue.
    • Some states and localities are implementing promising programs to help prevent and treat childhood trauma that can inform federal solutions, but they are facing resource constraints that limit their ability to do so.
    • The United States needs a comprehensive federal approach that recognizes the severe impact of childhood trauma and prioritizes prevention and treatment.

*Information provided by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform


July 24, 2019

Tips for Managing Air Travel with Young Children

Vacations may seem like fun getaways for families, but with them comes an often dreaded necessity: air travel. While flying with young children can be challenging, Macaroni Kid Centreville‘s Jourdan Card highlighted 10 tips to help you travel like a pro.

To read Card’s full article, visit the Macaroni Kid Centreville website.

Tip 1: Don’t Overpack Your Carry-On

    • It’s tempting to fill your carry-on to the brim, including any and every item your child might want along the way. But lugging around a heavy bag is exhausting, especially when you have a young child or children to look after. Jourdan Card’s rule of thumb is always one extra outfit per kid and an extra shirt for the adults caring for them. Calculating the total travel time, she also prepares one diaper per hour. If your child uses a pacifier, packing several could be useful. You’ll need extra just in case the first one drops on the floor. Caregivers should also prepare snacks, bottles/formula, and any needed medicines or comfort items.

Tip 2: Conquer Security Like A Boss

    • Going through security is already a long process, so families are encouraged to prepare ahead of time to avoid additional delays. Card recommends wearing as little extra clothing as possible, because scarves, hats, belts, and other loose items will all have to come off. She recommends simple clothing such as well-fitting pants, a shirt, and tennis shoes. In addition to this, she recommends pulling out any mobile devices, food, and liquids before getting in line so they’re ready to go instead of trying to get them out of the bag last minute. To make this easier, you can put the items in clear, ziplock backs so security can check them quickly as well.

Tip 3: Keep Your Hands Available

    • Card recommends babywearing through security, that way you can gate-check your stroller for free. If your stroller is small enough to fit on the conveyer belt, it has to go through, so make sure you know how to fold it quickly ahead of time. If the stroller is too big, it will have to go through the metal detector and receive a manual screening.

Tip 4: Potty Break

    • Allow for extra time to get through security and go to the bathroom before your flight. It’s not the easiest process to change a young child in an airplane bathroom, so this is highly recommended!

Tip 5: The Muli-Bag System

    • During her family trips, Card usually carries a decent-sized backpack to store everyone’s items. But in addition to that, she packs some reusable grocery bags. Placing each child’s stuff in their own grocery bag, Card allows her children to keep their things separate on the plane, that way the children have easy access to their items and feel control over their items.

Tip 6: Bring Your Children’s Favorites

    • In her example, Card mentions that her toddler loved milk. But she learned the hard way that milk isn’t always available on planes. Because of this, she recommends buying some of your child’s favorites in the shops after you go through security. It’ll keep your child calm on the ride.

Tip 7: Create A Busy Binder

    • Before going on trips, Card puts together a binder full of ziplock bags, each storing a simple activity. When her kids get cranky or bored during the trip, she pulls them out for some needed fun!

Tip 8: Headphones

    • While many airlines have small televisions in the seatbacks, the headphones they provide can often be too big for young children’s ears, which means they’re going to be falling out or off constantly. If you’re going to have access to any digital tech, Card recommends bringing kid-sized headphones so they can watch their favorite shows without disturbing others.

Tip 9: Car Seats On Airplanes

    • Double-check that your car seat is TSA approved, there will be a small sticker on the back or side letting you know. If it is, you’re legally allowed to bring your child’s car seat on the plane. However, if you choose to use a car seat in lieu of a lap-held infant (2 and under), each person must have their own purchased seat.

Tip 10: Proof of ID

    • It’s not guaranteed to happen, but some airline staff may request proof of your child’s age. Card recommends being prepared by carrying a copy of your children’s birth certificates just in case.

*Information collected from Macaroni Kid Centreville


For Student Success, We Need To Remake Learning

As technology continues to be integrated in the daily lives of our region’s youth, the landscape of learning and workforce readiness is evolving. With this, youth are utilizing what some may call “non-traditional” methods to purse knowledge, seek support, and develop their identities. To ensure their long-term fulfillment personally, academically, and in the workforce, we need to “remake learning.”

About Remake Learning

Remake Learning is a network that ignites engaging, relevant, and equitable learning practices in support of young people navigating rapid social and technological change. Established in 2007, the network is an open group of interconnected, creative, and innovative people and organizations in the greater Pittsburgh region.

Their purpose is to spark and share best practices and new ideas, make it easier for neighbors and colleagues to help each other, reduce duplicative efforts in the region, and leverage resources collectively for greater impact. With this, they seek to ensure that learning is engaging, relevant, and equitable to ensure that all youth in our region have access to learning experiences that reinforce their long-term success.

Why It Matters

Just as it’s important to utilize developmentally appropriate strategies with our youth, it’s important to consider that fact that the traditional, repetitive learning structure is, as Remake Learning puts it, “a relic of the bygone factory era: a time when efficiency and repetition were valued above all, with a focus on basic knowledge and skills.”

As the needs of society develop over time, so do the needs and requirements of our youth and the workforce. However, many schools and programs are still relying on the traditional learning structure, making only small adjustments to incorporate a taste of technology. And, as displayed through stagnant or declining test scores across the years, this structure isn’t working.

Establishing Learning Values

In their mission to ensure that learning is engaging, relevant, and equitable, Remake Learning encourages the following learning values:

    • Activate skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration so learners are prepared for an increasingly technology-driven future. Doing so will empower students to identify and solve problems; to fail, try, and learn from mistakes; to express their creativity in authentic ways; and to both struggle and have fun.
    • Challenge learners to question, examine, and dissect social systems; to develop the confidence to address and deconstruct inequalities; and to construct a more just and equitable world.
    • Connect all the places learners live, work, and play, including schools, libraries, museums, parks, clubs, community centers, centers of faith, home, and online.
    • Encourage learners to explore and play and support them to follow their curiosity using varied tools (including, but not limited to, technologies).
    • Establish deep and caring relationships between learners and their families, peers, educators, and mentors.
    • Connect learners to their communities and, in an interconnected world, help learners develop cross-cultural understandings that unlock opportunities to thrive both within and beyond their own communities.

Become A Member

Are you interested in supporting Remake Learning’s mission? Consider signing up to become a part of their network!

Remake Learning members reside in the greater Pittsburgh region, including the counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington, and Westmoreland in Pennsylvania, as well as parts of north-central West Virginia.

*Information provided by Remake Learning


July 23, 2019

Free Leadership Training for Families Receiving EI Services

Are you a parent, caregiver, or family member of a young child who receives Early Intervention services in Pennsylvania? Join the Temple University College of Education for Competence and Confidence: Partners in Policymaking Early Intervention (C2P2 EI 2019-20).


C2P2 EI 2019-20 provides free leadership development training for families of children who receive Infant-Toddler Early Intervention or Preschool Early Intervention Services. The training will provide participants with up-to-date information, leadership development training, resources, and skills. Participants learn about the local, state, and national issues that affect children with disabilities.


To be eligible, applicants should be Pennsylvania family members who:

    • Have a child—infant or school-age—that receives Early Intervention services,
    • Desire to advocate for themselves and others by building leadership skills, and
    • Are willing to commit to all four 2-day trainings.

Training Information

Training Dates

Trainings will be held on Fridays from 1 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    • October 11-12, 2019
    • December 6-7, 2019
    • March 6-7, 2020
    • April 3-4, 2020
Covered Costs
    • Meals included
    • Travel and child care expense reimbursements
    • Overnight lodging (for those traveling 40+ miles)


To apply and for more information, visit the event website.

The application deadline is September 20, 2019.


For questions, contact Cathy Roccia-Meier at 215.204.1772 (voice), 215.204.1805 (TeleTypewriter/TTY), or


July 22, 2019

Family Check-Up Helps Families Build & Grow Together

The day-to-day challenges of raising children aren’t easy, but families don’t have to do it alone. At the Homewood-Brushton Family Support Center, Family Check-Up offers an opportunity for all families to take a seat, talk about their challenges, and move forward with strategies to solve them.

About Family Check-Up

In family support centers across the nation, the Family Check-Up (FCU) model aims to promote child and family well-being by providing parents and caregivers with new skills and tools to strengthen family relationships. The program starts off with an initial interview and an assessment of the family’s strengths and needs, followed by creating tailored goals to meet the unique needs of each family. A final feedback session provides an opportunity to continue building parenting skills through the “Everyday Parenting Curriculum” and information on possible follow-up services.

All services are free and confidential.

Benefits of Participation

For more than 20 years, research has shown that participating in FCU:

    • increases parent and caregiver confidence,
    • reduces family stress and conflict,
    • and reduces challenging behaviors displayed by preschoolers, school-aged children, and teens.

Schedule an Appointment

Interested in signing up? Schedule an appointment by contacting Family Coach, Adriana Chung, at 412.727.6649. See our interview with Adriana to learn more.


July 18, 2019

Eye Contact with Babies Increases Information Coupling

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that shared eye contact increases information coupling between infant and adult brains.


Communication is a fundamental part of life, especially when considering the early learning and development of a newborn child. In conversation, we use different types of social signals, both verbal and non-verbal, to share meaning with others. These signals can include things such as mimicking facial expressions, vocal tone, and eye contact. However, a recent study concluded that eye contact in specific can be a powerful tool to increase information coupling between infants and adults.

Information Coupling

In the study, researchers state that “previous research indicates that when communication is successful, close temporal dependencies arise between adult speakers’ and listeners’ neural activity.” Through these dependencies, an individual that’s communicating with another person can have varying levels of influence on the other person’s neural activity. In short, this coupling acts as a form of “social connectedness,” where the actions, reactions, and expressions of a person impacts how another person’s brain responds.

For adults interacting with young children, using social signals such as direct eye contact can bring the child and adult’s “brains into temporal alignment, creating a joint-networked state that is structured to facilitate information sharing during early communication and learning.” Temporal alignment between adults and infants is important, as it “plays a vital role in supporting early learning across multiple domains of language, cognition, and socioemotional development.”

Infants spend a lot of time looking at the faces of others, interpreting the way their facial features move, where their eyes shift to, and how their voices sound. And as they rely on these social cues to interpret meaning in their daily life, direct gaze is thought to be one of the most important cues for individuals and infants to infer communicative intent. Babies prefer to look at the face people who are looking right at them, with direct gaze even reinforcing the social responses that babies produce and their ability to recognize face-related information.


In conclusion, adults working or living with infants should consider using direct eye contact frequently with their child. Whether an adult is playing with, reading with, bathing, or even singing a nursery rhyme to a child, shared eye contact can act to build strong communication and information sharing between the two.

To learn more about the importance of speaker gaze, read the full report.

Article Citation

Leong, Victoria, et al. “Speaker Gaze Increases Information Coupling between Infant and Adult Brains.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 12 Dec. 2017,


July 16, 2019

Pittsburgh Children Receive First Round of Free Books

In July 2019, Pittsburgh preschoolers received their first round of free books from the City of Pittsburgh’s partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.


The free book program – in conjunction with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the Benter Foundation, and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania – mails all eligible children an age-appropriate book every month up until their fifth birthday. In February, legislation was introduced to Pittsburgh City Council to accept $250,000 from the Benter Foundation to establish the Pittsburgh program.

In early July, the first shipment of books was sent out to 1,402 children who were enrolled in the program at the beginning of June. Another 400 children have been added to the program since then and will receive their first books in coming weeks. All children receive “The Little Engine That Could” as their first book, as it is Dolly Parton’s favorite.


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

Sign Up

To sign up for this program, visit the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library website.

More Information

For instructions, frequently asked questions, and more, visit the City of Pittsburgh’s website.

*Information provided by the City of Pittsburgh