November 2, 2023

Apply for the 2024 Early Childhood Education Advocacy Fellowship

Trying Together invites early care and education providers, families, and other caregivers of young children to apply for the 2024 Early Childhood Education (ECE) Advocacy Fellowship to become a catalyst for change as an early childhood advocate.

During the 12-month program, ECE Advocacy Fellows will:

  • strengthen advocacy skills;
  • develop leadership skills that drive positive change;
  • gain expertise in utilizing research-based communication strategies; and
  • receive a stipend for their time.

Who Should Apply:

  • Families and caregivers of young children 
  • Relative Care Providers
  • Family Child Care Home
  • Group Child Care Home
  • Child Care Center administrators and teachers
    • Head Start teachers
    • Pre-k teachers
    • PK-4 teachers and principals
  • Home Visitors
  • School-age Child care providers
  • Trainers
  • Professors in higher education
  • Child care resource and referral professionals.

Fellowship Details

The program involves monthly in-person meetings, as well as dedicated small group and individual work time between these meetings. At each workshop, an informed early childhood, public policy, or community leader will facilitate, drawing on information from regional or national experts to share the latest news, research, and strategies to improve early childhood public policy. Workshops will include opportunities for networking, professional growth, and community development.

Fellows will receive a stipend for their dedicated time. Trying Together offers the fellowship program at no cost to the participant and will provide lunch and snacks at each session. Travel stipends will be provided on a case-by-case basis.

Application Details

Apply online by December 22, 2023. Chosen participants will be notified in early January 2024. For more information or to ask questions, contact Hailee B. Roye at or 412.213.8870.


June 26, 2023

Trying Together Shares Advocacy Tools for Families and Child Care Providers

Trying Together has created two new advocacy tools to aid families and child care providers in their efforts to impact state budget negotiations and persuade state legislators to directly invest in the workforce behind the workforce by raising child care wages.

Trying Together Advocacy Tools

Simple, everyday advocacy efforts often start with quick, common interactions between providers, educators, families, and legislators. Calling your state representative or emailing with waitlisted families are great ways to communicate challenges facing the child care industry and advocate for change. Phone and email scripts can assist on these occasions.

For Providers & Families:

Phone Scripts for Calls to State Representatives & Legislators

For Providers:

Email Response to Waitlisted Families

Take Action with PennAEYC

Tell your legislators how important child care is to you and take action in seconds. The Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC) has constructed a tool that allows you to send an email to your legislators stressing the importance of child care with a single click.

Take action now. 

Additional Advocacy Tools

The Pre-K for PA and Start Strong PA campaigns, of which Trying Together is a partner, have also compiled advocacy tools for family and provider use. Some of these include:

Learn More

To learn more, visit the Trying Together “Take Action” page.


June 21, 2023

Application Period for Early Intervention Leadership Development Program Now Open

Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania is now accepting applications for their 2023-2024 Competence and Confidence Partners in Policymaking Early Intervention (C2P2 EI) Cohort.

All applicants must submit their applications by 5 p.m. on Friday, August 11, though the program will begin at the end of September 2023 and run through May 2024.

About C2Pc EI

C2P2 EI is a free leadership development opportunity for families of children who are currently receiving early intervention infant, toddler, or preschool services. It supports successful applicants in attending four, two-day, in-person sessions, and four virtual sessions (eight sessions total) which give them knowledge and skills to advocate for EI.

Throughout the sessions, participants will:

  • learn about the infant/toddler and preschool early intervention system.
  • connect with other families.
  • build skills to advocate for their family and others.

Consequently, applicants must commit to participating in all eight sessions.

The in-person sessions will be held at the DoubleTree Conference Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. However, expenses, including lodging costs, mileage, and childcare reimbursement, will be provided to participants.


Eligible applicants must:

  • have a child between birth to age five who is currently receiving Pennsylvania infant/toddler or preschool EI services.
  • have a desire to explicitly advocate for themselves and others.
  • commit to participation in all eight sessions.


Interested individuals should apply using the online C2P2 EI 2023-2024 Application Form.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, August 11. Accordingly, Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania will notify applicants of their acceptance by September 1.

Learn More

This program is funded by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and Bureau of Early Intervention and Family Supports, with support from Temple Institute on Disabilities.

To learn more, view the flyer or visit the Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children website.

Please direct any questions to Sarah Holland at


June 19, 2023

Child Care Providers and Advocates Ask for Legislative Support in New Video Series

Trying Together spoke with child care providers and advocates at the 2023 Annual Celebration Dinner on Thursday, April 27 and recently released a video series of the conversations they captured.

In this series of 10 videos, providers detail the current staffing crisis and its effect on families. They call on state legislators to support the workforce behind the workforce and raise wages for child care and early learning professionals.

Excerpts From Videos: What Did Providers Say?

Videos in the series are between approximately 30 seconds and 1:30 seconds long. However, if you’re looking for quick quips, check out the excerpts below.

  • “A huge resource that we need is more high quality teachers.” – Laura Saxon, Carnegie Science Center
  • “We desperately need more staff and we need better wages to retain good staff to take care of our children.” – Tressie Lesnoski, University of Pittsburgh Child Development Center
  • “Without early learning facilities, parents cannot go to work.” – Gwendolyn Marcus, Project Destiny Early Learning Centers
  • “We cannot compete with the wages being offered…. In order for us to be able to compete, we’d have to raise tuition to an astronomical price that would make our child care not affordable to most of our families.” – Denise Burke, Westminster Early Childhood Education Program
  • “…We need to keep our teachers. And in order to keep our teachers, we need to be able to pay them well.” – Lori Feldman, Westminster Early Childhood Education Program
  • “We need more support from our lawmakers and our policymakers so that we can keep the children in programs…and still pay ourselves a livable wage.” – Brandi Allen, Brandi’s Care with Love, LLC
  • “Every family and every child deserves access to a high quality program, and, in order to provide that, we need to provide our child care professionals with a living wage.” – Casey Mindlin, STEM Coding Lab
  • “As a working parent, I am grateful for my children’s early learning program because it gives us a chance to create a better opportunity for our families while we are being ensured that our children are being loved, taught, and cared for while we are working.” – Nachell Henderson, YWCA Homewood-Brushton
  • “I’ve been doing this business for over 30 years, and I’ve seen a definite decline in the staff that we’re able to retain because of pricing.” Joy Simmons, Joy Simmons Family Childcare
  • “The staffing crisis has really affected us and has made it really hard to keep classrooms open…which really puts a burden on the parents, because then they don’t have child care.” – Mary Merryman, Presbyterian Day School

Access the Videos

To hear more from child care providers and advocates, access the videos below.

Laura – We Need Educators

Watch on Vimeo.

Tressie – Raise ECE Wages

Watch on Vimeo.

Gwen – Support ECE: Backbone of the Community

Watch on Vimeo.

Denise – We Need Funds for Higher Wages

Watch on Vimeo.

Lori – Help Us Retain Teachers

Watch on Vimeo.

Brandi – We Need Support From Lawmakers

Watch on Vimeo.

Casey – Give Child Care Professionals a Livable Wage

Watch on Vimeo.

Nachell – Show Gratitude for Child Care Providers

Watch on Vimeo.

Joy – Help Solve the Staffing Crisis

Watch on Vimeo.

Mary – Help Us Keep Classrooms Open

Watch on Vimeo.

Learn More

To learn more, visit the “Advocacy” tab on the Trying Together website or visit any of the following webpages:


May 8, 2023

Child Care Providers Invited to Participate in ‘Imagine a Day Without Child Care’

Throughout the month of May, the Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA Provider Advisory Board (PAB) is inviting Pennsylvania child care providers to participate in Imagine a Day Without Child Care. 

Presented in conjunction with the national Day Without Childcare movement on May 8, Imagine a Day Without Child Care offers advocacy activities for providers to engage their teachers, staff, and families in their early learning programs.

About PAB and Imagine a Day Without Child Care

Since 2022, the Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA Provider Advisory Board has aimed to elevate the influence of early care and education providers by strengthening the policy-to-practice feedback loop, and growing the network of providers willing to mobilize and advocate on behalf of the early childhood field.

Inspired by the Day Without Child Care movement, PAB introduced Imagine a Day Without Child Care to enable child care providers unable to close on May 8 to advocate for their programs and encourage families to raise awareness around the workforce crisis, as they care for children. 

This year, Imagine a Day Without Child Care will address the following themes:

  • Families on the waiting list aren’t forgotten, and we’re trying everything to get you in our doors. 
  • What will higher wages mean for our early childhood educators?
  • How can we give our families and staff an outlet and opportunity to share their stories?
  • Connecting the workforce crisis to those who are affected by it — but might not otherwise realize it — such as business owners.

Participate in Imagine a Day Without Child Care

To support provider participation in Imagine a Day Without Child Care, PAB developed a toolkit with posters, stickers, social media posts, and an action alert for families—both currently enrolled and on waitlists.

Access the toolkit on the Start Strong PA website and join PAB in Imagine A Day Without Child Care.

Learn More

May 8, and throughout the month of May, Strong Strong PA and Pre-K for PA encourage child care providers to use their voices to advocate for increased funding in the state budget to address higher wages for early childhood educators. Please tag Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA when posting, so these organizations can elevate provider posts and ensure elected officials hear this collective message.

To learn more, visit the Start Strong PA website.


April 25, 2023

Advocacy Organizations Release Report on Rural Early Care and Education

Trying Together, in partnership with Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA, recently released a report on the current state of early child care and education in Pennsylvania’s rural counties.

Entitled, “A Snapshot of the Rural Early Care and Education Landscape: Examining data from 13 counties in Pennsylvania,” the report shows that families in rural Pennsylvania communities have limited access to quality care, despite having a higher proportion of parents in the workforce, and a greater prevalence of long and nontraditional hours and commutes.

About Rural Counties and the Rural Early Care and Education Report

Authors of the report considered counties in which the number of people per square mile amounted to less than 291 (the statewide average), rural. Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 72% met this definition, and just over 162,000 children under five live in them.

This report highlights data in the following rural counties: Armstrong, Butler, Centre, Clarion, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, and Washington. It also includes data from Lancaster, Westmoreland, and York counties. These counties aren’t classified as rural based on the population, but include pockets of rural communities facing similar challenges.

Report Findings

Rural families and child care providers have some of the greatest challenges in accessing and providing child care in Pennsylvania. This is due to the unique realities of rural areas, including fewer high-quality options, distance and travel, limited transportation, higher teacher turnover, fewer qualified individuals living in the region, and lower family incomes.


Working Families Child Care Needs

  • Nearly every rural county in PA shows a majority of all available parents in the labor force.
  • Seven of the counties reviewed have a higher proportion of working parents than does the state.
    • Over 80% of parents in Butler County are in the workforce, as are three quarters of parents in Indiana and Somerset counties.
  • In rural areas, options for evening, overnight, or weekend hours are scarce, with one parent describing them as non-existent.

Child Care Provider Capacity

  • The number of Child Care Works (CCW) subsidy-eligible children who need child care exceeds the licensed capacity in every county reviewed, with the exception of Centre.
    • Families are eligible for the CCW subsidy if their incomes are at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($60,000 for a family of four).
  • Most rural child care programs are not operating at full capacity because they don’t have enough staffing.
  • Statewide home-based providers make up about 30% of licensed programs, yet home-based providers comprise a much higher proportion in some of the rural counties analyzed.
    • In Greene County, home-based providers account for over 70% of licensed options, and for over half in Franklin County. Indiana County home-based providers make up 48% of licensed options, and in Armstrong and Somerset counties, home-based providers are 42% of licensed child care.

Public Funding for Child Care and Pre-K

  • The state only serves a quarter of CCW-eligible infants and toddlers. Unfortunately, this figure is even lower in every rural county reviewed. In rural counties, both subsidized and private pay infant and toddler care is difficult to find and afford.
  • Pre-K children are served at much higher rates than infants and toddlers, given that pre-k investments have been more consistent and sustainable.
    • Clarion, Greene, Indiana, and Lawrence counties are serving more than half of their eligible three- and four- year olds.

The Child Care Workforce

  • Pennsylvania is experiencing a dramatic decline in teachers from pre-k to 12th grade, and rural communities have been the most significantly impacted by this decline.
  • No county shows median annual earnings above $26,000, with six counties below $20,000 a year. The median earnings fall well under the cost of living in every county.
  • Providers highlighted the difficulty of training staff, especially with changing requirements and when onboarding new employees.
  • Another challenge that providers raised is the lack of mental and behavioral health and early intervention services.


Early childhood programs can’t continue to operate with their current budgets and expenses. Additionally, middle class families cannot continue to shoulder the brunt of the cost, while child care teachers subsidize the system through their own low wages. Thus, Trying Together, Start Strong PA, and Pre-K for PA recommend the following:

  1. Invest long-term, sustainable funding for early childhood educator wages.
  2. Conduct further research on family child care needs and choices in rural communities.
  3. Support resources and quality for home-based and relative care providers.
  4. Increase infant and toddler contracted slots (grants).
  5. Move to an alternative cost methodology for setting subsidy rates.
  6. Increase early intervention, mental health, and behavioral health resources, and professionals.
  7. Provide more support and resources to help rural providers meet training requirements.

Learn More

To learn more, read the full report.


April 24, 2023

Westmoreland County Chamber Hosts Summit to Address Child Care Crisis

Area lawmakers, child care providers, and members of the business community met at Westmoreland County Community College on Thursday, April 20 to discuss concerns about a historic staffing shortage within the child care sector and its impact on the economy and working families.

About the Summit

Entitled, “Supporting Our Workforce: Child Care in Westmoreland County,” the event was organized by Start Strong PA and the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with:

It featured several speakers, including Pennsylvania State Representatives George Dunbar and Eric Davanzo, General Manager of Live! Casino Pittsburgh Sean Sullivan, Queens College Economist Dr. Clive Belfield, Executive Director of Trying Together Cara Ciminillo, and CEO of the Greensburg YMCA Suzanne Printz, all of whom detailed new research regarding the impacts of the child care crisis.

Summit Highlights

  • Sullivan noted impact that limited child care options has on the workforce, saying, “When parents don’t have reliable, affordable, and quality child care, their work suffers which has an impact for both the employee and employer.”
  • Belfield, who conducted the research for the recent ReadyNation report which revealed that gaps in the Pennsylvania child care system cost employers and taxpayers about $6.65 billion annually, cited the report. He explained that 60% of parents surveyed reported being late for work, leaving work early, or missing full days of work due to child care problems. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they quit due to child care struggles.
  • Ciminillo referenced a new Start Strong PA study showing the average child care teacher in Pennsylvania earns $12.43 per hour or less than $25,844 per year.Our research shows that 50 percent of early learning educators say they do not plan to or are unsure of whether they will remain in their jobs in the next five years due to low wages,” Ciminillo said. 
  • Printz noted that child care providers can’t just raise teacher wages because families are already struggling to afford the costs of care.
  • Participants referenced the dire impact that low wages are having on the availability of care and a recent Start Strong PA survey that revealed more than 3,600 open staff positions across the state, resulting in more than 1,500 closed classrooms with a combined waitlist of more than 35,000 children.
  • Participants discussed a series of action steps for both policy makers and the private sector to better ensure affordable high-quality child care for Pennsylvania’s working families. Private sector actions included flexible working schedules, child care referrals, tuition assistance programs, dependent care flexible spending accounts, and even on-site care. For policy makers, participants stressed the urgent need for the Commonwealth to help implement and pay for a wage scale for child care teachers that will help providers better compete in the current labor market.

Learn More

To learn more, visit the the Start Strong PA website.


April 7, 2023

Using Social Media to Advocate for Children

Social media can be an effective tool in advocating for what you want. However, it is important to use these platforms appropriately to achieve the desired outcome.

Join the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC) (an affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)) for this virtual session on learning effective ways to use social media to advocate for children and early education.

Session Details

Wednesday, April 12 | 1 – 2 p.m.

Virtual via Zoom


Learn More

To learn more, visit the PennAEYC website.


February 16, 2023

Weathering the Storm: Keeping Immigrants and their Families Covered During the Medicaid Unwinding

The 2020 Families First Coronavirus Response Act created a continuous coverage requirement, ensuring that anybody enrolled in Medicaid would stay enrolled without going through the process of redeterminations. However, on April 1, 2023 the pandemic-era’s continuous coverage requirement will come to an end. States will have 12 months to initiate Medicaid redeterminations for more than 80 million people nationwide.

Although this “unwinding” puts all people enrolled in Medicaid at risk of coverage loss, immigrants and their family members face unique obstacles to remaining covered. These include language barriers, privacy concerns, and fear of immigration-based consequences. Advocates, enrollment professionals, and allies can help.

Join Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) for this webinar to hear from national experts and state advocates about how to keep immigrants and their families covered and learn how to partner with PIF in these efforts.

Session Details

Thursday, February 23 | 12 – 1 p.m.



Learn More

To learn more, visit the Protecting Immigrant Families website.


Cost Estimation – Improving Child Care Subsidy Rate Setting

In Pennsylvania, child care programs operate on razor-thin margins. Additionally, child care teachers and staff get paid low wages. Still, the price of child care remains high and a burden for most families.

Join Start Strong PA at this webinar to learn how cost modeling offers practical and achievable ways to change this reality.

Session Details

Wednesday, February 22 | 12 – 1:30 p.m.



Learn More

Cost modeling is the process that Pennsylvania needs to undertake to estimate the true cost of care for child care programs providing high-quality child care, including appropriate compensation for teachers and staff.

Determining the true cost of care is critical to addressing the underfunding in the child care system.

It is up to all of us to understand the solution, so that we can promote this change.

At this webinar, attendees will hear more about cost modeling from the following presenters:
  • Jeanna Capito, Principal, Prenatal to Five Fiscal Strategies
  • Daisy Lira, Director, Bumble Bee Learning Center, Sunland Park, New Mexico
  • Kelly Hoffman, Vice President of Data and Strategy, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
  • Jen DeBell, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Kimberly Early, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children