January 31, 2023

Teach Plus to Host Virtual Focus Groups on ECE Recruitment and Retention

Teach Plus Pennsylvania wants to learn about compensation for Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers, and strategies for recruitment and retention of high-quality educators in the state’s early learning environments.

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Virtual focus groups of current early childhood caregivers and educators in Pennsylvania will be held throughout February (outside of school hours) to inform an upcoming report and advocacy efforts. The first 100 participants will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

Sign Up

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January Recalls on Children’s Products

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

Learn More

Here is a list of January 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.


January 30, 2023

2023-2024 Kindergarten Registration Information

Information is now available about Kindergarten registration in Southwest PA school districts for the 2023-2024 school year.

Kindergarten Registration and Transition

If your child is five, it’s time to register them for kindergarten.

View details about Kindergarten registration in the Pittsburgh Region and surrounding counties in the following documents:

For more information about helping your child make the move to Kindergarten, view the Kindergarten Transition: A Guide for Families and Top 10 Kindergarten Readiness Checklist resources.

About Hi5!

Hi5! is a kindergarten readiness and registration campaign coordinated by The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, and Trying Together.

Early and on-time registration allows schools and districts to plan for classroom materials, resources, and staff as they prepare to welcome a new group of students. It also enables families to establish relationships with teachers and administrators that are so important for easing the stress and anxiety of children (and their families) as they begin elementary school.

For more information about the Hi5! project, transition teams, and activities, please email, or view the Hi5! overview (PDF) and the Kindergarten Transition Whitepaper (PDF).


New Positive Racial Identity Development Resource Available

Trying Together has released a new resource about positive racial identity development through its Parenting Together Pathway video series.


In the new video, “Parenting for Positive Racial Identity Development,” Dr. Denisha Jones provides an overview for families about racial identity development, why it matters, and how caregivers can support positive racial identity development in young children of color and young white children.

Dr. Jones is the Executive Director of Defending the Early Years, a non-profit organization working for a just, equitable, and quality early childhood education for every young child. An education justice advocate and activist, Dr. Jones is a former kindergarten teacher and preschool director who spent the past 19 years in teacher education.

The Parenting Together Pathway is a video-based learning series to provide high-quality information on early childhood development to parents and caregivers in Allegheny County and surrounding areas. Launched in April 2021, the Parenting Together Pathway provides families the opportunity to learn more about: brain development; play; interactions and relationships; technology; child care; advocacy; early intervention; and safety to better support their children’s healthy growth.


Please visit the Trying Together website to view all video content for the Parenting Together Pathway.


January 26, 2023

Western Allegheny Community Library Eliminates Library Fines

Western Allegheny Community Library (WACL) in Oakdale is no longer charging late fees on borrowed library materials. It joins 30 other Allegheny County libraries, which previously made the move to a fine-free model.

This model retains due dates and continues to require the return of materials, but removes barriers to library services.

Learn More

With the transition to the fine-free model, materials owned by, checked out from, or returned to the Western Allegheny Community Library no longer accrue late fees. This includes WACL materials returned to and checked out from different Pittsburgh libraries. Additionally, existing late fines for all WACL account holders have been eliminated, though replacement charges for lost, damaged, or never returned items remain in effect. Books overdue by more than 60 days are considered lost and accrue a lost fee. More details are available on the Western Allegheny Community Library website.

WACL primarily serves North Fayette, Findlay and Oakdale, but fine-free libraries can be found throughout the Pittsburgh region. All 19 branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh are also fine free.





January 23, 2023

PPC Annual Health Care Report Released

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) has released its annual health care report, “State of Children’s Health.”

The 2022 report shows a slight improvement in the child uninsured rate, increasing from 4.4% to 4.6% during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This increase is a result of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s continuous coverage provision that prevents states from disenrolling children and families from Medicaid during the public health emergency.


PPC analyzed the most recent Census data to determine the role of Medicaid and other public health insurance programs in providing children and families with comprehensive health coverage and uninterrupted care during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Summary of Findings

State Findings

  • Pennsylvania has the eighth highest number of uninsured children in the nation. Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate remains lower than
    the national average of 5.4%. However, all neighboring states, other than Ohio, have better rates than Pennsylvania.
  • The rate of Pennsylvania children without health insurance decreased slightly between 2019 and 2021, from 4.6% to 4.4%. An important reason for these slight gains is the disenrollment freeze in Medicaid that has been in place during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • The uninsured rates improved in 38 counties and worsened in 29 counties over the last two years. The counties with the most significant improvement in lowering uninsured rates were Carbon, Dauphin, Monroe, Westmoreland, and Wyoming. The counties with significantly worse rates than two years ago were Erie, Clinton, Fayette, Franklin, and Somerset.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicaid enrollment increased by 20%. More than 1.4 million Pennsylvania children currently have Medicaid for their health insurance.
  • Publicly funded or supported healthcare options account for providing health insurance to 47% of children in Pennsylvania, up from 46% last year. About two-thirds of children in Pennsylvania live in families that qualify for free or reduced public health insurance or financial assistance through Pennie™.

Disproportionality in Coverage

  • Not all children have experienced equal access to health insurance over the last two years. Hispanic or Latino children,
    children who identified as Some Other Race, and children who identified as Two or More Races have worse insurance rates now than in 2019. American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Black, and White children have better rates. The uninsured rate for Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander children remained unchanged.
  • In Pennsylvania, Hispanic or Latino children and children who identified as Some Other Race had a disproportionately higher uninsured rate in 2021 than their rate in the general population. American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Black, and White children were not disproportionately uninsured compared to the general population.
  • Children living in families with lower incomes are more likely to go without health insurance and 6.5% of children living in Pennsylvania who are financially eligible for Medicaid are uninsured.

PPC Recommendations

  • Reaffirm commitment to using a 12-month unwinding period, as recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Immediately expand the 12-month continuous eligibility policy to children ages 4 through 21 in Medicaid when the public health emergency ends.

Learn More

To learn more, read the full report.


January 20, 2023

Nominations Open for Francine Bunch Memorial Award

Celebrate the successes of your Head Start or Early Head Start program by nominating a Head Start parent or staff member for the Francine Bunch Memorial Award.

Learn More

The Francine Bunch Memorial Award is awarded to one parent and one staff person, each with a Pennsylvania Head Start Association (PHSA) member organization, who displays the qualities of the late Francine Bunch, who started as a parent and ultimately became a Parent Involvement Coordinator with the Lancaster Child Development Program’s Head Start . Learn more about Bunch.


This honor may be awarded to one parent and one staff person each year. They must meet the following criteria:

  • The nominee(s) is a parent, staff member or former parent who is affiliated with a dues paying member program of the Association.

  • The nominee(s) is actively involved with their local program and the program clearly benefits from their involvement.

  • The nominee(s) takes initiative in growing her/his professional development while involved in the local program.

  • The nominee(s) is involved in other local community activities.

  • The nominee(s) serves as a positive role model for parents and staff alike.

  • The nominee(s) promotes positive working relationships between parents, staff and friends at the local, state or federal level.


Staff from a PHSA dues paying program may nominate a parent, former parent and/or coworker for the Francine Bunch Award. To nominate a candidate, staff must complete the Francine Bunch Nomination Form in full and attach a narrative that describes how the nominee meets the six criteria above.

Each nomination form and accompanying narrative will be evaluated by the PHSA Scholarships and Awards Committee, and one parent and one staff person will be selected to receive the award. Award winners are recognized with a commemorative plaque during PHSA’s Annual Spring Conference.


The application packet is available at the PHSA website. All applications must be received by 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, 2023.


SNAP Emergency Allotment Ending After February 2023

Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients will receive their last extra monthly emergency payment in February 2023.

(This article was updated on January 20, 2022 to reflect the ending date of the emergency allotment).


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

Right now, SNAP benefits are paid in two payments during the month: regular SNAP benefit is paid in the first half of the month and the extra payment (known as an Emergency Allotment) is paid in the second half of the month.

On December 23, 2022 Congress passed budget legislation that – among many other things – will end SNAP Emergency Allotments after February 2023. This means that starting in March 2023, recipients will only receive one regular SNAP payment.

Additional food assistance resources are available on the PA Department of Human Services website.


This Just Harvest flyer explains more about the change and how to ensure you get as much SNAP as you can now that Emergency Allotments are ending.

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.


January 19, 2023

Learn About Professional Pathways in Early Childhood

More than 40,000 professionals in Pennsylvania work within the early childhood field. What has your career pathway been? 

Trying Together is offering “Professional Pathways in Early Childhood,” where participants can hear from five early care and education professionals whose journeys have spanned the gamut from infant toddler classrooms to the floor of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. In this panel discussion, we will explore numerous professional growth opportunities that currently exist.

Session Details

  • Session Dates:
    • January 25, 2023 | 12 – 1 p.m.
    • February 1, 2023 | 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.


The following panelists will speak with participants:

  • Monica Aston is an Early Learning Program Engagement Specialist with Trying Together through the Early Learning Resource Center Region 5. She spent 21 years as a child care teacher and assistant director before joining Trying Together as the Family Engagement Specialist, where she used her experience to identify young children’s developmental milestones, engage with families, and assist them in their search for early learning programs such as Early Head Start, Head Start, and Pre-K Counts. Monica holds her Child Development Associate’s Degree from North Hampton Community College, and is a life-long learner who continues her education through attending workshops, conferences, and trainings. She values her work and her ability to build rapport within the field of early childhood education.
  • Judy Graca has over 30 years invested in the Early Childhood Education field with experiences to include Second and Third Grade Elementary Education Teacher, Family Child Care Provider, Preschool Director, Keystone STARS Quality Coach, Keystone STARS Designator, and her current role as Director Quality Initiative Projects at Trying Together. Judy received a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Special Education from Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota. Judy’s passion is connecting Allegheny County children, families and educators to equitable access in quality early childhood programming and career development.
  • Emily Neff, Director of Public Policy at Trying Together, leads the policy department and advocacy initiatives at Trying Together. She engages with policymakers, educators, and families to advocate for increased access to high-quality early learning experiences. As a former educator, she seeks to connect educational practice to policy to create and advance more equitable systems for children, families, and educators.  Emily started at Trying Together as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs in 2016. She is an alumna of Teachers College, Columbia University (Education Policy, M.A.), and Allegheny College (English, B.A.).
  • Lindsey Ramsey is the Executive Director at Shady Lane School. Lindsey earned an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Studies with a Dual Minor in Education and Psychology from Point Park University. Following her undergraduate work, she received a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and is currently a doctoral student in their School of Public Administration. Through her educational journey, Lindsey grew in the early childhood field by getting hands-on experience as an early childhood educator specializing in infant and toddler care and then by elevating the voice of the early childhood field through advocacy as Trying Together’s Assistant Director of Policy and Practice.
  • Lindsey Vicoria is the Professional Growth Strategist at Trying Together. She supports the Early Childhood Apprenticeship program as well as serving as the Professional Development Coordinator for the Professional Development Organization at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Through her work, Trying Together is able to connect early childhood caregivers with low or no cost educational opportunities in Pennsylvania. Lindsey is a native of Buffalo, NY and attended Alfred University for her Bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology and Duquesne University for her Master’s degree in Child Development.


Space is limited. Registration for the January 25 event closes on January 23. Registration for the February 1 event closes on January 30.

More Information

For questions about the course or credit, contact Allison Hritz at and Paige Kizior at



Thriving PA Releases Report on WIC Participants and Access to Benefits

Thriving PA has released a report on the results of focus group sessions with Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program participants.

Entitled, “WIC Participants Encourage Improvements to Remove Barriers to Access,” the report reveals value in key elements of the WIC program and a need to increase program accessibility.


Thriving PA partnered with eight community-based organizations, including Trying Together, to recruit and facilitate focus group sessions. The results in the report are part of a continuous feedback loop with these organizations and session participants.

Summary of Findings

WIC Program Strengths

  • Participants valued information on nutrition and health education provided at WIC clinics during appointments. Information on the breastfeeding program proved especially important.
  • Participants are hopeful the increased monthly produce benefits (resulting from a congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic) will continue even when the public health emergency ends.
  • Participants considered the ability to use vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets as a significant strength of the program.

Barriers to WIC Program Benefits

  • Participants expressed difficulty getting to WIC offices during clinic hours. They included distance, gas prices, and inability to obtain child care as barriers to attending appointments.
  • Because participants must visit WIC clinics to get their EBT benefits reloaded every three months, they describe in-person requirements are challenging.
  • Participants feel the length of certification is too short and annual recertification is too frequent.
  • Participants shared frustrations with the food options that are eligible for WIC, including sizing and diversity restrictions. Participants identified a need for an updated package that meets current nutritional standards.
  • Participants had trouble determining what items were WIC approved in stores and said item identification and checkout need to be addressed to ensure smoother transactions.
  • Participants expressed a desire for improvement in staff interactions at WIC clinics, as well as improved communication.
  • Participants said they felt deterred by the stigma and shame associated with participation in WIC, especially during the checkout process.

Thriving PA Recommendations

  • Make permanent the flexibilities given to the program during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have allowed WIC agencies to adapt to families’ needs, and modernize current technology to provide the best user experience.
  • Advance the transition to an online system as quickly as is feasible.
  • Create a state-specific mobile app that would allow specific benefit information to be open to participants.
  • Integrate WIC into COMPASS, which will allow eligibility and enrollment processes to be much more straightforward and easy for eligible individuals to access benefits.
  • Explore more modern methods for outreach to capture more eligible WIC participants and educate community-based organizations,
    health care professionals, home visitors, and other service providers about the WIC program.
  • Make significant vendor improvements, including care coordination, support for workforce development, federal food package updates, federal eligibility expansion, and federal relaxation of the physical presence requirement.

Learn More

Read the full report to learn more.