News

April 28, 2022

April Recalls on Children’s Products

Parents and caregivers should be aware of several child-related product recalls.

About

Here is a list of March recalls collected from the major federal agencies: the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

More Information

For recall details, visit the links above or review the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration websites.

News

April 26, 2022

New PA Standards & Competencies Effective July 1

Pennsylvania is adopting a new set of professional standards and competencies for early childhood educators. The Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators (PA PSCECE) will replace the current PA Core Knowledge Competencies (CKC), effective July 1.

About the PA PSCECE

The PA PSCECE will list the general knowledge and skills educators need to know and demonstrate. However, they are not the specific standards and competencies needed for individual professions and occupations within the early childhood field.

The PA PSCECE will include seven areas, six of which were adopted directly from the national Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators. The seventh standard is Pennsylvania-specific. These areas include:

  • Child Development and Learning in Context;
  • Family–Teacher Partnerships and Community Connections;
  • Child Observation, Documentation, and Assessment;
  • Developmentally, Culturally, and Linguistically Appropriate Teaching Practices;
  • Knowledge, Application, and Integration of Academic Content in the Early Childhood Curriculum;
  • Professionalism as an Early Childhood Educator; and
  • Health and Safety, which includes Nutrition and Mental Health.

Transition

In order for early learning providers to familiarize themselves with the PA PSECEC and changes coming with it, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) encourages staff to take the PA Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators course in the PD Registry. This course explores the new set of PA PSCECE while helping learners:

  • Understand why a new set of standards for early childhood educators is being implemented and how they were developed
  • Understand the main aspects and components of the PA Professional Standards
  • Understand the key shifts found throughout the PA Professional Standards

Take the course.

More Information

For details, read OCDEL’s full announcement or direct any questions to the PD Registry Team at registry@pakeys.org.

News

April 25, 2022

Trying Together Hosts Westmoreland County Child Care and Business Roundtable

On April 22, Trying Together — in partnership with Start Strong PA —hosted a conversation with the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce, early learning programs, local businesses, and elected officials about the status of child care in the region and the impact on the Westmoreland business community and economy. 

About

Participants at the Westmoreland County Child Care and Business Roundtable, which was held at the Live! Casino Pittsburgh, discussed the challenges facing employers and employees with child care needs, and they brainstormed solutions about how child care providers, business leaders, and elected officials can work together to support young children and working families.

In attendance were:

  • Officials: PA Sen. Kim Ward, Rep. George Dunbar, Rep. Eric Davanzo, staff from Rep. Carrie DelRosso’s office, and staff from Rep. Eric Nelson’s office.
  • Businesses: Representatives from the Live! Casino Pittsburgh, Excela Health, and the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce.
  • Child Care: Representatives from Beacon Children’s Learning Center, Greensburg YMCA, Westmoreland Community Action, and JB’s Bright Beginnings.

Trying Together presented data from Start Strong PA’s March child care staffing survey and two new Start Strong PA reports that highlight what non-traditional child care looks like to support employees working overnight, evening, and weekend shifts — like those at the casino and the health care industry. 

More Information

To learn more about non-traditional child care and how it can support families, read the Getting Back to Business: The Employer’s Case for Non-Traditional Hour Child Care and Overview of Non-Traditional Hour Child Care Policy Brief reports.

News

April 22, 2022

SNAP Emergency Allotment Approved Through August 2022

Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients will continue to get an extra monthly emergency payment through August 2022.

(This article was updated on April 22, 2022 to reflect a new extension date)

About

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SNAP recipients have been receiving extra monthly emergency allotments since April 2020.

In April 2022, the Biden administration extended the federal emergency declaration due to the pandemic for an additional 90 days; therefore, the SNAP emergency allotment payments will continue through August – due to an automatic extra month provided by the program rules.

Benefits

The extra payment will bring households that are only eligible for a partial benefit up to the maximum benefit amount for their household size. Households that are already eligible for the maximum benefit amount will receive an extra $95 per month. Households that are close to the maximum (less than $95 away) will be guaranteed emergency allotments of $95 per household.

Household Size/Maximum Benefit

  • 1/$250
  • 2/$430
  • 3/$658
  • 4/$835
  • 5/$992
  • 6/$1,190
  • 7/$1,316
  • 8/$1,504
  • Each additional member/$188

Questions?

Allegheny County residents who have questions about their SNAP benefits, want to check eligibility, or need help applying, can reach out to Just Harvest for assistance. Call 412-431-8960 (option 3) and leave a name, contact information, and the best time to reach out Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or fill out the form on the Just Harvest website.

Details about the SNAP Emergency Allotment are available on the Just Harvest website.

News

April 21, 2022

Technology Access Award for Child Care Providers

Department of Human Services (DHS) certified child care centers can now apply for funding to purchase technology items such as laptops, wireless routers, tablets, and more to expand centers’ technological capacity and enrich the educational experience providers offer to young children and families.

About the Child Care Technology Access Awards

The Child Care Technology Access Awards are one-time grants available through federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act (CRRSA) funding. The award amount ranges from $2,500 to $5,500 and is based on the eligible DHS certified child care program’s provider type and licensed capacity. This funding opportunity will be awarded in the form of a voucher eligible recipients will use to order approved materials from the Kaplan Learning Company.

The following is a list of technology tools that eligible DHS certified child care programs can order through the award:

  • Accounting software
  • Headsets and Headphones
  • Laptop Computers
  • Office software
  • Portable Scanners
  • Printer/Scanners
  • Smaller items including printer ink and batteries
  • Tablets
  • Walkie-talkies
  • Web Cams
  • Wi-fi Access Point
  • Wi-fi Extenders
  • Wireless Routers

Eligibility

All eligible DHS certified child care providers, regardless of Keystone STAR Level, can apply. To be eligible, programs must meet the following requirements at the time of application submission and final approval:

  • be open and available to provide child care or temporarily closed no more than 14 consecutive business days due to COVID-19 exposure;
  • be in good standing with the Bureau of Certification Services and have a regular or provisional Certificate of Compliance (CoC);
  • have a Certificate of Compliance that is not in a Revocation or Refuse to Renew status with the Bureau of Certification Services; and,
  • not be under investigation by the Office of State Inspector General (OSIG) for fraud or previously convicted of fraud.

Apply

DHS certified child care programs who want to apply will be required to designate an authorized representative to complete and electronically sign an online Attestation Form.

Kaplan Learning Center began sending emails to eligible DHS certified child care programs on April 20, 2022. DHS certified child care programs who believe they are eligible but have not received an email from info@kaplanco.com, should first check their spam/junk email inboxes to make sure the email did not get sent there. Programs that didn’t receive an email should contact Kaplan at 1-800-334-2014. To inquire about eligibility status, email OCDEL at RA-ocdelsubchildcare@pa.gov.

More Information

For additional information about the Award, please see the Announcement ELRC 22-02 Child Care Technology Access Award.

News

Ultimate Play Day Coming May 15

In partnership with CitiParks and Trying Together, the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative will be hosting its Ultimate Play Day on Sunday, May 15, 2022, from 1- 4 p.m.

About Ultimate Play Day

The big event will take place at Liberty Green Park, located at 100 Larimer Ave Pittsburgh, PA 15206. This Remake Learning Days event includes fun for all ages – including games, activities, art projects, and live entertainment – and the opportunity to explore the possibilities of play in partnership with other organizations around Pittsburgh.

There’s no need to pre-register for this free event. Upon arrival, attendees should visit the registration table to pick up some Ultimate Play Day swag while supplies last. There also will be a water station set up in the park for attendees to fill up their water bottles.

Sign Up to Volunteer or Facilitate an Activity

Those who are interested can volunteer or even provide a playful activity. To sign up, visit the Volunteer Sign Up Sheet and the Playful Vendor Form.

More Information

For questions or concerns about the event, please feel free to reach out to Adam James at playfulpgh@tryingtogether.org. For more information, visit the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative website.

News

April 20, 2022

2022-23 Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Request for Applications

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) will use a competitive Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts (PA PKC) Request for Applications (RFA) process to award expansion funds beginning in fiscal year 2022-23.

Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed 2022-23 state budget includes an additional $60 million for PA PKC. With this expansion funding, the state will be able to increase the current cost per child and increase the number of children served in high-quality pre-kindergarten.

About

OCDEL will use a competitive application process to disperse available state expansion funding to select eligible grantees beginning in FY 2022-23. The RFA is released in advance to give providers time to conduct outreach to families; recruit, hire and train staff; and plan for implementing the program pending grant approval.

The ceiling or limit on the potential number of slots that may be awarded to any applicant will depend upon a county’s unmet need percentages and the amount of funding available. Funding is contingent upon approval by the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Grants are funded via state dollars; therefore, carryover funds are not permitted. All grant dollars identified in this FY 2022-23 application must be encumbered or spent by June 30, 2023.

Eligibility

Pennsylvania continues to be committed to a mixed delivery system. As such, eligible applicants include existing Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts grantees and new applicants from these 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 STAR 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.

How to Apply

Because of the need to establish access to eGrants procurement system, applicants 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 the applicant’s intent to apply for Pennsylvania 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.

Eligible applicants must provide assurance that they operate in full compliance with Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Statute, Regulations, and Guidance and should thoroughly review that document prior to submitting a Letter of Intent. The application review process will include evaluation of the extent to which the applicant demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Statute and Regulations.

Programs interested in applying must submit a fully completed Letter of Intent by 3 p.m. on May 11, 2022, to RA-PAPreKCounts@pa.gov. Programs that do not submit the Letter of Intent will not be able to access or submit a funding application. Late submissions will not be accepted. Agencies submitting a fully complete Letter of Intent by the due date will be notified when the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts application is open in eGrants.

Details

For more details, read Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Request for Applications (RFA) Guidance and see the PA Keys website.

News

April 19, 2022

Updated Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning Regulations and Requirements

Due to updated guidance on the federal requirements for Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), changes have been made to Department of Human Services (DHS) Pennsylvania Statewide Child Care Emergency Plan.

About

The plan identifies and communicates the processes and supports for child care providers in the event an individual, local, regional, or statewide emergency or disaster occurs. It outlines recommendations for planning preparedness, response, and recovery from a disaster, and the role the office will play in providing supports. Details are available at Announcement C-22-04 Updated Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning Regulations and Requirements for Child Care Facilities.

News

April 18, 2022

Healthy Minds for Educators

All Pennsylvania early childhood education (ECE) professionals will have two years of free access to the Healthy Minds app, Healthy Minds @Work.

About Healthy Minds

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has invested in providing access to the Healthy Minds app to all ECE professionals in an effort to support them as they learn to cope with their personal trauma from the COVID-19 pandemic while also supporting the children and families they serve.

The Healthy Minds @Work program offers tools to help individuals train their minds to be more calm and focused, develop healthier relationships with colleagues, gain perspective in workplace interactions, and bring more meaning to work. With a combination of podcast-style lessons and both seated and active meditations, users learn what the science says about the brain and practice skills based on these insights.

According to an OCDEL announcement, users of the Healthy Minds @Work Program report burnout symptoms reduced by 25% and 70% reported a clinically significant decrease in depression, anxiety, and stress.

Access can be found on the Pennsylvania Key website where you will:

  1. Search for your Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) Region,

  2. Click on the link to get to to the login page for Healthy Minds.

  3. Download the app on your smart phone device and get started.

Community of Practice for Child Care Providers

The ELRC Region 5 will be hosting virtual Healthy Minds Communities of Practice sessions every Monday at 1:30 p.m. from May 9, 2022 through October 2022 for all child care providers. These are short sessions (15-minutes) where you can engage in a mindful practice together and talk about successes and challenges in practicing. Learn more about the Healthy Minds CoPs.

News

April 14, 2022

March 2022 Child Care Staffing Survey Results

A survey conducted by partners of the Start Strong PA Campaign quantifies Pennsylvania’s current child care  staffing crisis — caused by low wages.

Survey Results

The survey — conducted between March 8, 2022 and April 3, 2022 — details the current child care staffing crisis in 1,163 Pennsylvania child care programs across 63 counties and its effects on working families’ ability to access care.

According to the survey:

  • Nearly 32,500 children currently sit on waiting lists.
  • More than 30,000 additional children could be served at respondents’ sites if they were fully staffed.
  • 91% of respondents reported staffing shortages.
  • Programs need to fill nearly 7,000 open child care positions.
  • 48% of respondents have closed at least one classroom.

In September 2021, Start Strong PA released a similar survey showing that Pennsylvania’s child care centers were experiencing a staffing shortage resulting in more than 25,000 children sitting on waiting lists. In just six months, the waiting list numbers have increased by nearly 10,000 children with 169 fewer providers reporting.

The following fact sheets are available with statewide and county results:

Petition

Advocates are calling on the General Assembly and the Wolf Administration to “Raise Child Care” by allocating $115 million in sustainable state and/or federal funds as part of the final state budget to provide a $2 per hour wage supplement for child care teachers and staff.

Start Strong PA is asking for your signature in support the investment to child care providers.

More Information

To learn more about the survey and petition, visit the Start Strong PA website.