September 14, 2020

Hello Baby: A New Website for Parents in Allegheny County

For many new parents, particularly those with limited resources and support, welcoming a child to the family can be both a joy and a challenge. That’s why the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) created Hello Baby, a voluntary program for any Allegheny County family with a newborn or young child.

What is Hello Baby?

Hello Baby is a voluntary program for parents of new babies that is designed to strengthen families; improve children’s outcomes; and maximize child and family well-being, safety, and security.

Every new mother in Allegheny County will receive information about Hello Baby and may receive an initial visit from a nurse to talk about the program in more detail. Information will be available at primary birthing hospitals, obstetrician/gynecologist offices, and pediatric practices, and will be mailed to new mothers as a postcard.

Hello Baby will reach families with moderate to high levels of need through the existing network of Family Centers. However, any family can request services from a Family Center through the Hello Baby website, 2.1.1 warmline, or texting service. All services are voluntary.

Featured Information

The Hello Baby website was created for parents to quickly and easily find local resources and information on the following topics:

To learn more and view the full range of services, visit the Hello Baby website.

More Information

Hello Baby is a collaborative effort among family-focused organizations in Allegheny County including Allegheny County DHS, Health Department, Healthy Start, Family Centers, NurturePA, and the United Way of Southwestern PA. For more information, visit the DHS website or view answers to frequently asked questions.


September 4, 2020

Early Childhood League Launch & Expansion of Recess Advocacy Team

On September 1, 2020, Trying Together and the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative were awarded grants through The Grable Foundation and Remake Learning’s Tomorrow campaign. Through this funding, both entities will work to address early childhood needs in Pennsylvania.


Trying Together is a leading advocate for high-quality early care and education in Pennsylvania and a co-founder of the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative and Recess Advocacy Team. With funds from the Tomorrow grant, Trying Together will launch an Early Childhood League and the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative will expand the Recess Advocacy Team to engage additional youth, families, organizations, and communities as advocates to address early learning constraints in the region.

“Through the Tomorrow grants, we will be able to work with community members that we may not have previously to learn about their early learning priorities for children so we may support them in mobilizing to take action,” said Cara Ciminillo, Executive Director at Trying Together.

Trying Together

Tomorrow Campaign Project: Early Childhood League

The Early Childhood League will partner with Trying Together, its advocacy partners, and each other to transform early childhood education conditions in the region. Members of the League will include selected parents and other caregivers of young children; community organizations; and a large institution that is to be determined.

The League will achieve improvements in local early learning environments by receiving training, similar to the Early Childhood Advocacy Fellowship, from Trying Together and other experts. Training topics will include:

    • communications techniques;
    • community organizing strategies;
    • early childhood education principles; and
    • public policy processes.

With ongoing programmatic support from Trying Together and the Tomorrow grant, the League will acquire the agency to develop and implement an advocacy plan that further advances the efforts of existing statewide early childhood policy campaigns such as Start Strong PA (child care), Pre-K for PA (pre-k), and Childhood Begins at Home (home visiting).

More information and application details will be available soon. Please continue to monitor the Trying Together website, Facebook, and Twitter page for future updates.

Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative

Tomorrow Campaign Project: Recess Advocacy Team

The Recess Advocacy Team’s mission is to educate and advocate for the importance of recess; engage with children, families, and educators on recess experiences; establish a resource for recess-related advocacy, policy, and best practices; and engage stakeholders in recess advocacy efforts.

By partnering with a regional school district, the Recess Advocacy Team will utilize this funding to support efforts to conduct a needs assessment survey and develop a toolkit for children, parents, and educators who want to serve as recess champions. As a part of the toolkit, funding will also support professional development and training related to advocacy and topics such as:

    • creatively using school space for physical activity;
    • indoor recess ideas; and
    • volunteer recess supervision.

While this partnership will focus on one district, the Team’s outcomes and products will be scalable and designed to be replicated with other school districts to best meet their needs. Additional details will be available soon.

For information on how to join and more, visit the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative website.

About the Tomorrow Campaign

A $1.4 million dollar investment in organizations throughout the region, the Tomorrow campaign is an effort to #RemakeTomorrow, one where every learner is prepared to “create the future of learning” when everyone combines timeless ideas and new ways to learn.

Last spring, the Tomorrow campaign asked 17 nonprofit organizations to boldly imagine what smart risks they might take if they had research and development (R&D) funding – not for covering current activities, but for pursuing experimental ideas, testing new concepts, and finding powerful ways to move their field toward the future of learning.

“Each of these projects represents the imagination and resourcefulness not only of the 17 grantees, but also of the many partner organizations who will join them in their efforts,” says Kristen Burns, Associate Director of The Grable Foundation. “We hope these grants will provide a spark that will help move the entire field of learning forward in our region.”

More Information

For more information, read the full press release.


February 4, 2019

Pittsburgh Launching New Book Gifting Program

With support from The Benter Foundation, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration plans to launch a free book program for children from birth to age five. Tomorrow, Pittsburgh City Council will introduce legislation to accept $250,000 from the foundation, introducing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to the city. Since starting in 1995, this program has sent more than 113 million books for free, to children in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The Role That Access Plays

Studies of the Imagination Library have discovered:

  • Parents believed their children were more interested in reading when receiving the books every month
  • Parents read aloud to their children more often
  • Children were excited when books arrived in their name
  • Positive views of the program transcended demographics and longer participation provided better outcomes

The City’s Role

The Imagination Library covers overhead costs, databases, monthly mailings, and a book selection committee. The City of Pittsburgh, as an affiliate of the Imagination Library, would cover the ongoing costs for mailing each book every month, as well as enrollment and promotional activities.

Once funding is approved, outreach and communication plans will be launched, as well as engaging with local organizations that work with young children and families.

Quotes from the Partnership

Tiffini Simoneaux, manager of the City’s Office of Early Childhood in Mayor Peduto’s Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment:

“Research shows that early literary experiences, including access to books in the home, are fundamental ingredients for academic success. This program will enable young children throughout the city to build a home library of up to 60 books.”

Bill Benter, president of The Benter Foundation:

“We’re pleased to partner with the City of Pittsburgh and other community allies to help children develop a lifelong love of reading. Having your own books at home unlocks a new world of learning and language that can help Pittsburgh’s children thrive.”

*Information provided by the City of Pittsburgh


January 29, 2019

Start Strong PA Hosts Statewide Campaign Launch in Harrisburg

On January 29, Start Strong PA hosted their official statewide campaign launch event at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg.

What is Start Strong PA?

Guided by evidence-based research, the Start Strong PA campaign was launched to help ensure that every Pennsylvania infant and toddler starts off strong. By advocating for increased access to and affordability of high-quality child care programs, the campaign aims to support healthy childhood development, working families, and the Pennsylvania economy.

Speaking on behalf of the campaign, Jodi Askins, Executive Director of PennAEYC, stated:

“Infant-toddler brains make over a million neural connections every second – forming brain architecture for life. At no other time in a human’s life will the brain develop at this remarkable speed or with such intricacy. This is the foundation upon which all later learning, behavior, and health depend. That’s why we need Pennsylvanians to join us and help our infants and toddlers ‘start strong’!”

At the Launch

With approximately 75 early childhood advocates in attendance, including state legislators, professionals, and families with children in child care, the launch began with a complimentary coffee bar (made possible by Little Amps Coffee Roasters), pictures of legislators’ young children, and conversations on the important role that high-quality child care plays in the lives of our infants and toddlers.

A press conference was held later in the afternoon, featuring representatives from partner organizations, state legislators, administration, parents, and high-quality child care programs. Various early childhood education and care topics were highlighted, including issues of access, affordability, low wages, and a need for more high-quality early childhood staff.

Parent Lauren Bethea spoke about her experiences waiting for care for her daughter Lorraine:

“The weight of the world was on my shoulders until my child got into a high-quality program. Every young child like Lorraine deserves this opportunity. Waiting for space in a program until your child is 2, 3, or even older before enrollment is not an option for so many families.”

Deputy Secretary Suzann Morris spoke to her role as a mother and to her leadership role over current initiatives of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, sharing that work is underway to make early childhood programs more efficient such as program coordination in regional Early Learning Resource Centers.

Watch the full press conference here.

Quotes from Pennsylvania Legislators

At the press conference, state legislators spoke out on the following topics:

Senator Pat Browne, Co-Chair, Early Childhood Education Caucus

“This is the type of results-based thinking that’s necessary to maximize where the state spends its limited amount of discretionary revenue. These early learning programs have a proven track record of helping prevent at-risk young people from falling behind or dropping out of school. Looking long-term, young people who receive early learning assistance are more likely to become productive members of our community. By prioritizing spending on these vital programs it will save the Commonwealth long-term costs.”

Senator Jay Costa

“Paying [early childhood professionals] some of the lowest wages in the service industry is simply unacceptable and needs to change.”

Representative Mark Longietti, Co-Chair, Early Childhood Education Caucus

“Programs provide a safe and secure environment and teachers help children learn the “executive function” and self-regulation skills that are necessary for life success – from being able to pay attention, plan, and prioritize to recognizing, naming and controlling their emotions.”

Representative Lynda Schlegel Culver

“The state has a waiting list of over 4,300 kids for a subsidy and an average waiting time of 88 days as of November. And only one-third of children receiving subsidized care were in Keystone STAR 3 or 4 programs.”

How You Can Support

Help us inform and engage Pennsylvania policymakers on the changes necessary to increase access, affordability, and quality in infant/toddler child care programs and sign-on your support here or download, complete, and email this sign-on form to

For updates on the campaign, follow Start Strong PA on Facebook and Twitter.


For questions or to schedule an interview with campaign launch speakers or Start Strong PA partner organizations, please contact Lissa Geiger Shulman at 717.802.1881 or