December 21, 2023

December Recalls on Children’s Products

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

Learn More

Here is a list of December 2023 recalls collected from the following 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.

More Resources

To read more recall reports


December 14, 2023

Keystone STARS Continuous Quality Improvement Awards

The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Bureau of Early Learning Policy and Professional Development, has announced the Keystone STARS Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Awards, a one-time financial award for eligible child care programs with a Department of Human Services (DHS) regular Certificate of Compliance (CoC) and designated as a Keystone STAR 2, 3, or 4. The Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRCs) will handle award fund distribution on OCDEL’s behalf.


Beginning on December 18, 2023, eligible programs will receive a Keystone STARS CQI Award Eligibility and Acceptance Letter from their ELRC. The letter will include the maximum award amount a child care provider is eligible for and contact information for their ELRC.

Providers who believe they are eligible for the award but have not received a letter by January 15, 2024, should immediately contact the ELRC.


To be eligible for a Keystone STARS CQI Award, a provider must meet all the following requirements both as of November 30, 2023, and at the time of the award payment:

  1. The provider holds a regular DHS Certificate of Compliance.
  2. The provider is designated as a Keystone STAR 2, 3, or 4 program and is not in a Keystone STARS Suspension status.
    • NOTE: OCDEL is providing a policy exception for STAR 1 programs who were actively working to move up in designation. To be granted the policy exception, a STAR 1 program must have had an open designation case in the PD Registry system as of November 30, 2023. In addition, these programs must be successful in moving up to a STAR 2, 3, or 4 designations as evidenced by a completed designation case in the PD Registry System on or before January 12, 2024.
  3. If applicable, the provider must have completed the reporting requirements for the following grants:
    • ARPA Stabilization Grant
    • Workforce Support Grant 1.0
    • Workforce Support Grant 2.0
  4. The provider does not owe liens/liabilities to the commonwealth and/or federal government, including tax liabilities.

Allowable Expenses

Eligible programs can use the Keystone STARS CQI Award funds for eligible expenses incurred from July 1, 2023, to May 8, 2024 in the following categories:

  • Staff Qualifications and Professional Development
  • Early Childhood Education Program
  • Partnerships with Families and Communities
  • Leadership and Management
  • Accreditation Costs (toward an OCDEL-approved Alternate Pathway)

After spending funds on eligible expenses, the child care provider will be responsible for submitting a Keystone STARS CQI Award Final Expense Report to their ELRC to detail how they spent award funds.

More Information

For additional details, including eligibility requirements, policy exceptions, award amounts, allowable and ineligible expenses, award process and timelines, and FAQs, please see the Announcement ELRC 23 #05 Keystone STARS Continuous Quality Improvement Award.


December 13, 2023

Nominations Open: Pennsylvania’s Early Childhood Education Recognition

The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) is seeking nominations to recognize early childhood professionals for their accomplishments.

Learn More

Individuals can nominate people in the early childhood education field who have made accomplishments in the following areas:

  • Academic (accomplishment recognition can include directors, classroom staff, and support staff in an early learning program)
  • Years of Service (completed years are recognized in increments of 10, 15, 20 and 25+ years only)
  • Retirement

These recognitions are applicable to all staffing positions within an early learning program, including, but not limited to:

  • Directors
  • Classroom staff (teachers, aides, etc.)
  • Support staff (receptionists, janitors, kitchen staff, etc.)

Submissions can be nominations (submitted by someone else), or self-submitted (submitted by the individual to be recognized) and will be collected on an on-going basis.

Eligible submissions will receive a letter of recognition from OCDEL Deputy Secretary Shante’ Brown. Submit a nomination.


T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Pennsylvania Scholarship Annual Report Available

The Pennsylvania Child Care Association (PACCA) has released its T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Pennsylvania Scholarship annual report for fiscal year 2022-2023.


In FY 22-23, PACCA provided T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Pennsylvania Scholarships to 985 early learning professionals employed in 580 child care programs across the Commonwealth, according to the report.

Scholars earned 13-15 credits last year, with an average GPA of 3.26 (associate degree) and 3.63 (bachelor’s degree). Both associate and bachelor’s degree scholars increased their salaries by 15%. Sponsoring employers experienced a 95% retention rate of their scholars.

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Pennsylvania Scholarship Program offers early learning professionals a debt-free higher education, supporting them while they work to become stronger teachers and earn thriving wages. By building a more educated early childhood workforce, T.E.A.C.H. raises the quality of care and education that scholars provide to children in their classrooms—setting the next generation on a path for future learning and success.

To read the full report about the impact of T.E.A.C.H. on the early childhood workforce and early learning programs, visit PACCA’s website.


December 11, 2023

Proposed Legislation Aims to Help Child Care Providers Serve Nutritious Meals

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced new legislation addressing child care providers’ financial pressures by increasing meal reimbursements for those participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).


The Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act would increase reimbursement amounts for child care providers and lessen the financial strain to ensure that all children are being offered nutritious meals.

This bill will increase the reimbursement rate so that a family child care provider serving seven children could receive an additional $475 a month or $5,700 a year in reimbursements and a Head Start program or child care center serving 100 children could receive an additional $600 a month of $7,200 a year in reimbursements.

To increase reimbursement rates, the Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act would modify the CACFP by initially increasing reimbursement rates for all eligible meals and snacks by 10 cents, after which the reimbursement rate will be tied to inflation. The bill would also eliminate the two-tiered reimbursement rate system for family child care providers in which reimbursement rates vary depending on the level of local poverty and reimburse family child care providers for meals served to their own children.

Read More

To read more on the proposed new bill, please read “Casey Introduces Legislation to Help Child Care Providers Serve Nutritious Meals.”


Information for this post was taken directly from the new release “Casey Introduces Legislation to Help Child Care Providers Serve Nutritious Meals.” Some text may have been added, paraphrased, or adapted for readability and comprehension.

Related Resources


December 8, 2023

2023 Food Resources

Organizations around the Greater Pittsburgh area are providing food distributions and pantry resources to serve those needing assistance through December 2023.

(This article was updated on December 8, 2023 to reflect the latest distribution events and schedules).


Food Distribution Events

Walk-In Food Distribution at The Hub

The Homewood Early Learning Hub & Family Center, 7219 Kelly Street, Pittsburgh, PA. 15208 | 12 – 5 p.m.

Visit The Homewood Early Learning Hub & Family Center every Monday from 12 – 5 p.m. to receive free food items, including sandwiches, fruit, baked goods, and more!

Participants may pick up a variety of perishable food items on a first come, first served basis, while supplies last. This food distribution is walk-in only. Food items are provided by 412 Food Rescue.

Visit Trying Together’s events webpage to view The Homewood Early Learning Hub & Family Center food distribution schedule.

For more information, call The Homewood Early Learning Hub & Family Center at 412.545.5039.

Veterans Leadership Program Pittsburgh Military Share Food Distribution

2934 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15201 | 12 p.m. – until supplies are gone.

All veterans in need of food are welcome.

For more information, email

Community Human Services (CHS) Food Pantry Distribution

370 Lawn Street, Pittsburgh, Pa, 15213

Food consists of bread, pastries, bottled water, dairy items which include butter, cheese, milk, and eggs, household goods such as paper towels, pet food (cats/dogs), fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, canned goods, pasta, and meat options which include pork, turkey, fish, and beef.

There are no income eligibility requirements to access this pantry. Walk up distribution only. No delivery. The only requirement to access the pantry is to complete a brief demographic intake form which can be completed on the day. Intake forms do not ask for ID or immigration status. 

Any questions can go directly to the head of the pantry at or 412.246.1639.

Islamic Center of Pittsburgh Food Distribution

4100 Bigelow Boulevard, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213 | Saturday, 12/16 | 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The food pantry is open for walk-ins every third Saturday of each month.

Please register for a box from the food pantry prior to arrival. The registration form opens on the last week of each month and closes on the first week of the new month.

For more information, email or text us at 412.206.1993.

Baldwin Community UMC Lord’s Pantry

5001 Baptist Road, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15236 | Friday, 12/15 (a week earlier due to Christmas)| 12 – 2:30 p.m.

This is a drive through food distribution held on the fourth Thursday of the month in the church circle. Please do not arrive before 9:30 a.m. to get in line.

For more information or to help with the distribution, contact Susan Eyrolles at 412.882.9300, ext. 229 or email

Veterans Leadership Program Johnstown Military Share Food Distribution

727 Goucher Street, Johnstown, Pa. 15905 | Friday, 12/22 | 12 p.m. – until supplies are gone.

All veterans in need of food are welcome.

For more information, email

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Distribution Schedules

Allegheny County Drive-Up Distribution Schedule

Allegheny Valley
JC Penney at the Galleria, 590 Pittsburgh Mills Boulevard, Tarentum, PA. 15084

  • Tuesday, 12/12 | 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

Founders Hall Middle School, 1960 Eden Park Boulevard, McKeesport, PA. 15132

  • Saturday, 12/16 | 10 – 11:30 a.m.

West End
Ascension Church, 114 Berry Street, Pittsburgh, PA. 15205

  • Tuesday, 12/19 | 4:30 – 6 p.m.

Wilkinsburg (This distribution will have pre-packed boxes)
225 Penn Avenue (Intersection of Penn Avenue and North Trenton), Pittsburgh, PA. 15221

  • Saturday, 12/02 | 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Allegheny County Walk-In Distribution Schedule

Oakland/Schenley Plaza
4100 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15260

Southside (This distribution will have pre-packed boxes)
Southside Market House, 12th and Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA. 15203

  • Wednesday, 12/20 | 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Faison K-5, 7430 Tioga Street, Pittsburgh, PA. 15208

  • Saturday, 12/09 | 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Pittsburgh King PreK-8, 50 Montgomery Place, Pittsburgh, PA. 15212

  • Saturday, 12/09 | 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Additional Resources

Local Resources

Find food distributions and access based on zip code or region by visiting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Find Food online tool.

For other resources, visit the Resource Beyond Food webpage.

If you are a senior, or know a senior, that needs food assistance, visit the Senior Boxes webpage to learn more. Share this flyer with your networks.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Market is an onsite pantry where eligible neighbors can shop for grocery items at no cost.

Hours: Monday through Friday

  • 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • 1 – 4p.m.

*Please arrive no later than 15 minutes prior to closing.

Find more information and the 2023 distribution calendar.


Register for UnConference: Mental Health in Early Childhood Education

Registration is now open for Trying Together’s UnConference: Mental Health in Early Childhood Education. The event will be held on Monday, February 19, 2024, at the Carnegie Science Center.


From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., participants will attend expert-led sessions that focus on a variety of ways to build relationships with children in order to help them grow emotionally and developmentally; creating an awareness of the “invisible” elements at play in our relationships and at work; reflective practice; and using mindfulness as a tool for taking an inventory of our needs and strengthening self-care practices.

Sessions include:

  • Keynote – Atoms, Stories, and The Universe | Dr. Susan W. Parker and Dr. Jennifer H. Tepe
  • Baby Steps: Cultivating the Power of Relationships in Our Work | Erin Troup, LPC, NCC, CT, IMH-E IV® from Sprout Center for Emotional Growth and Development 
  • Beyond Self Care: The Role of Awareness in Educator Mental Health | Jennifer Austad, LCSW, ECMHS and Sarah Grubb, M.Ed., SEP from System 1-2-3
  • Mental Hygiene | Danielle Thum, MS, RYT, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Family Care Connection Centers
  • A Practice To Promote Mental Well Being And Increase Professional Satisfaction | Diana Schwab, M.Ed., LCSW, and Allison Robinson, ELRC Region 5
  • Mindfulness for Self Care | Shannon Jenkins, Awaken PGH

Tickets for the UnConference cost $25. Free parking will be available for participants at the Carnegie Science Center. Space is limited. Register by February 5, 2024.

For details and registration information, please visit the UnConference: Mental Health in Early Childhood Education webpage.



December 6, 2023

Trying Together Spring CDA Program Available

Looking to receive a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential? Trying Together is offering a CDA program at no cost to eligible early childhood professionals in Pennsylvania.

CDA Credential is the most widely recognized credential in the early childhood field and is a key stepping stone on the path to career advancement. The credential enables professionals to work in Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms, in addition to early learning programs across the United States, and provides opportunities for increased pay.

Trying Together’s CDA Programs

Trying Together is offering its Spring CDA program beginning January 23, 2024.

Participants can matriculate CDA program coursework into 9-12 college credits at Carlow University, CCAC, or Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC).

Educators in the community based CDA program:

  • participate in distance learning through in-person, online self-paced Schoology, and Zoom sessions
  • complete 135 hours of professional development over six to nine months focused on the practice knowledge and skills needed to get credentialed
  • receive individualized support from experienced instructors
  • review current early childhood health and safety standards, ECE literature and resources, strategies on building positive relationships, strategies for implementing observations and assessments, etc.
  • focus on the completion of CDA Credential Portfolio requirements, preparing for the exam, and completing the application process
  • explore current early childhood theories, research, and best practices
  • have access to laptop lending


Those interested in Trying Together’s CDA Credential Preparation Program should complete the  CDA Credential Program Interest Form. NOTE: This form is for inquiry purposes only and is only available to professionals in Pennsylvania.

After completing the form, a member of the Trying Together staff will contact you to determine your eligibility and identify a CDA pathway that works best for you.


More information about the program and eligibility requirements can be found on Trying Together’s CDA webpage.


The Homewood Early Learning Hub & Family Center Explores Carnegie Science Center and Sportworks

The Homewood Early Learning Hub & Family Center gathered families together for a family field trip to Carnegie Science Center and Highmark Sportsworks on Sunday, November 19. Parents, caregivers, their children, and Hub & Family Center staff explored various exhibits and activities throughout the day at both northside Pittsburgh locations.

From brick building to water activities to exploring a submarine, there was no shortage of excitement at the day long event. The family field trip was a great opportunity for families to spend quality time together while also learning and having fun.

Tickets were provided to families with assistance from local organization and charity Tickets for Kids, and their donors. The generosity of Tickets for Kids made it possible for the Hub & Family Center to offer this memorable experience to our the Homewood community and its families.

Tickets For Kids

Tickets for Kids provides free access for low-income and at-risk kids to attend the arts, cultural, educational, and athletic venues of their community. Through partnerships with youth-serving organizations across the U.S., the organization strives to make trips to museums, concerts, ballgames, science centers, zoos, and more part of every childhood. Through access, Tickets for Kids provides experiences that can spark an interest, ignite a passion, and shape a future without limits.

To learn more, visit the Tickets For Kids Charities website.

Related Resources


December 5, 2023

2023 Holiday Toy Programs

The holidays can be a fun, joyful time for many. However, there are families in need of extra support. Here is a list of resources for those who are experiencing financial hardship and have trouble affording or cannot afford toys this year.

Play it Forward

When: Saturday, December 16 | 12 – 2 p.m.

Location: David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 1000 Ft. Duquesne Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15222

While the sign-up period has closed, the event will welcome walk-ins for any remaining toys. No sign-up is required. Learn more on the Play it Forward site.

Toys for Tots

The date, time, and location will vary. To sign up, visit the Toys for Tots site and follow the directions below:

  1. Select “Request a Toy”

  2. Select “Click Here for the Local Chapter Search Tool”

  3. Select your state, “Pennsylvania”

  4. Select your county.

Locate the most convenient distribution site from the listed options or contact the respective site.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army may be able to offer holiday assistance for toys, meals, or other needs. Contact the nearest Salvation Army community center or visit the Western Pennsylvania Angel Tree page.

  1. Click on the “Holiday Assistance Contact List”

  2. Locate the Salvation Army community center listed for your zip code.

  3. Contact them as soon as possible. Holiday programs are limited and fill up quickly.

St. Vincent de Paul Society of Pittsburgh

For those facing financial difficulties and unable to afford toys, consider contacting the local St. Vincent de Paul conference in their neighborhood. To locate the closest conference, please visit the St. Vincent de Paul site.

General Information

The listed resources are intended for public access. It’s important to note that these organizations operate with volunteers. Considering the limited availability of toys and programs, along with the significant number of families in need, they might only be able to provide one toy per child. These toys could be either new or gently used.

When contacting these organizations, if directed to voicemail, individuals should leave a comprehensive message including their name, contact number, and any additional information requested by the organization. Given the high volume of calls received weekly, it might take several days for volunteers to return calls. Regularly checking voicemail is recommended. For those without voicemail, setting it up before calling is advised. Additionally, individuals with existing voicemails should ensure old messages have been deleted.