September 15, 2021

DHS Enforces Mask Mandates in Child Care

The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has issued clarification about the minimum necessary documentation that must be maintained by a child care provider to demonstrate a masking exemption and the enforcement actions that the Department of Human Services will take for noncompliant licensed child care providers.

Comply with Masking Mandate

Since September 7, 2021, all staff and children in K-12 schools and licensed child care facilities have been required to wear face coverings under an order issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Child care providers striving for compliance can work closely with certification representatives for strategies and resources to maintain full compliance.

Failure to implement measures for staff and children to follow the order subjects a child care provider to the following child care licensing enforcement actions:

  • Initial citations for non-compliance.

  • Failure to return a license inspection summary with an acceptable Plan of Correction (POC) within ten (10) calendar days after notification of noncompliance may result in the DHS denying, refusing to renew or revoking your certificate of compliance.

  • A downgrade to a Provisional Certificate of Compliance as a result of noncompliance to the order will result in the inability to apply for, or receive, a Child Care Stabilization Grant.

  • Continued non-compliance may result in continued enforcement action up to and including issuance of an Emergency Removal Order. Citations will not be issued to providers where there are temporary instances when staff and children are not wearing their face mask but there is intent to comply with the order.

Process for Exemptions to the Face Covering Order

Any child care facility simply permitting a parent’s/caretaker’s sign-off without medical documentation that the child has a medical or mental health condition or disability that precludes the wearing of a face covering is not in compliance with the order.

Under the order, child care facilities must require all individuals, two years of age and older, to wear face coverings unless the individual has an exemption. While there are exceptions, a parent’s/caretaker’s opposition to the order is not one of them.

Before an individual is exempt from the face covering requirements, all alternatives to a face covering, including a face shield, are to be exhausted.

Parents/caretakers indicating their child is exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition must have individualized documentation from the child’s physician. Form letters and parental/caretaker notes are not sufficient for documentation of compliance.

Parents/caretakers and staff must submit appropriate documentation that is signed by a medical professional to the child care provider by September 21, 2021.

More Information

For more information, read the full masking order and OCDEL’s Announcement C-21-08: Compliance with Acting Secretary of Health’s Face Covering Order. For more news, visit our news page.


June 28, 2021

Early Learning Pennsylvania Response to 2021-22 State Budget

The principal partners of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, believes the Commonwealth’s economic recovery hinges on helping working families by prioritizing greater state investments in high-quality pre-k, child care and evidence-based home visiting. ELPA operates four issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, Childhood Begins at Home, and Thriving PA. Reaction statements from three of these campaigns regarding the FY 2021-22 state budget follow:


“Pre-K for PA applauds the $25 million in new state funding for Pre-K Counts and $5 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance as part of the 2021-22 PA State Budget. This funding continues the commonwealth’s tradition of expanding access to high-quality pre-k – providing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to more than 3,200 additional young learners. 

“Research shows that high-quality pre-k benefits children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the commonwealth’s investment in pre-k pays dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through the Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access—an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains. Even with this budget increase, more than 100,000 eligible three- and four-year-olds still lack access to high-quality pre-k.”

Child Care

“The General Assembly and the Wolf Administration unfortunately missed the opportunity to prioritize families who are struggling to return to work. Ignoring recommendations developed with input from over 1,000 child care providers and parents, Pennsylvania’s elected leadership has fallen significantly short on ensuring American Rescue Plan child care funds are used to help families find and afford high-quality child care and to stabilize the industry.

“Given that 70% of Pennsylvania children under the age of five had all adults in their household in the labor force prior to the pandemic, high-quality child care is an essential workforce support. That workforce must be able to return to work for Pennsylvania to recover from the pandemic’s economic devastation.  

“We now call on the Wolf Administration to prioritize and implement our recommendations for Pennsylvania’s $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan child care funding. With nearly 700 child care programs permanently closed and over 350 temporarily closed, families are struggling to find child care. Those child care providers that have managed to stay open are still incurring additional pandemic-related costs while operating significantly under capacity and are struggling to attract and retain teachers.

“Not only is there less child care capacity in the system, only 42% of certified child care capacity currently meets high-quality standards. And only 39% of infants and toddlers that receive subsidized care attend programs that have met high-quality standards. High-quality care and education mean safer, healthier children and are critical to maximizing the period of a child’s most rapid brain growth. 

 “Start Strong PA’s recommendations for American Rescue Plan child care funding will stabilize, strengthen and ultimately secure the child care industry. This industry is critical to the success of our economic recovery.”

Evidence-Based Home Visiting

“On behalf of the pregnant women, children, and families who would benefit the most from evidence-based home visiting – especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic – Childhood Begins at Home is dismayed that there is no increase in the state budget for these voluntary services backed by decades of research.

“Without funding increases to reach more Pennsylvania families, the unmet need remains at a staggering 95%. The Community-Based Family Centers line will be level-funded, and the Nurse-Family Partnership line will receive a minimal increase to restore the line to its prior level due to a slight reduction resulting from the state using enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding last year.

“Throughout budget negotiations, policymakers emphasized the infusion of federal stimulus dollars to inform state spending decisions. Of the total amount of one-time state funds Pennsylvania received from the American Rescue Plan ($7.3 billion), home visiting gets less than .02% (or a paltry $1.3 million) through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. This funding has yet to be distributed to programs that received no aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is limited in its use and timeframe to spend these dollars.

“Only pennies on the dollar for evidence-based home visiting are coming in federally. It adds insult to injury that policymakers in the legislative and administrative branches did not step up and recognize constituents would benefit from the same services that have been a lifeline for so many during the last 15 months.  

“While states’ use of the ARP funds is flexible, the federal stimulus funding for evidence-based home visiting would not even reach one family in each of Pennsylvania’s 253 legislative districts.

“From birth to age five, brain growth is rapid, learning is happening, and our coalition of advocates is committed to ensuring that families can access it in high-quality, developmentally appropriate settings. In Pennsylvania, funding has not been prioritized to ensure the resources are there to offer these irreplaceable opportunities, creating deep inequity among children and their families at a very early age. We, and our tens of thousands of supporters, will continue to urge lawmakers to invest in early learning boldly – it is an urgent necessity.”

About Early Learning Pennsylvania Initiatives

Pre-K for PA launched in 2014 with the vision that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. Learn more on the Pre-K for PA website.

 Start Strong PA launched in 2019 to support healthy child development, working families, and the economy by increasing access to and affordability of high-quality child care programs for young children. Learn more on the Start Strong PA website

Childhood Begins At Home is a statewide campaign to help policymakers and the public understand the value of evidence-based home visiting and support public investments in the programs.  Learn more on the Childhood Begins at Home website


May 5, 2021

Teaching Policy Fellowship Opportunity

Are you a teacher in Pennsylvania who is interested in learning more about education policy? Sign up for the Teach Plus  Teaching Policy Fellowship.


In summer 2021, Teach Plus will launch a Teaching Policy Fellowship in Pennsylvania. This highly selective leadership opportunity is for 30 outstanding teachers looking to deepen their knowledge of education policy and amplify the voices of teacher leaders in Pennsylvania. Policy fellows, who will receive a $1,500 stipend for their commitment, will expand their influence without leaving the classroom and elevate teacher voice on important student equity issues. Early childhood educators are particularly encouraged to apply!

Fellows will attend two in-person training sessions (dependent on COVID-19 restrictions), monthly virtual meetings, and smaller, issues-focused working groups.


Teach Plus seeks a cohort of teachers who reflect the cultural, linguistic, and geographic diversity of our state.  Applicants must:

  • Be a current teacher of record (PK-12) in a PA public or charter school or early childhood education setting with at least two full years of teaching experience by June 2021.
  • Have a track record of success teaching students in Pennsylvania.
  • Be ready to dedicate time and energy to learning about policy and advocating on behalf of changes that impact your students — while continuing to teach full time.
  • Have a passion for sharing the diverse perspectives and experiences of students and teachers with policy makers.


To learn more about the fellowship or to apply, visit the Teach Plus website. Educators can also be nominated for the opportunity.

Teach Plus will host an information session about the fellowship on May 10, 2021 at 5 p.m. Register.

Fellowship applications are due May 17, 2021.

Interested? Email Laura Boyce at ​



March 25, 2021

Homewood Father Funds His Son’s Future

Through the Homewood Early Learning Hub & Family Center, families participated in Fund My Future – a program in which all families in Pennsylvania save for college and other post-secondary goals. This program provides sessions for caregivers related to financial goals and open savings accounts for their children. Fund My Future offers monthly prizes as an incentive for participating in this program.

Mark, a single father of 11-year-old Elijah, completed the Fund My Future Three-Part Saving Series in December 2020. He was a participant of the first cohort hosted by the Homewood Early Learning Hub and Family Center, where he is involved in the weekly program, Fathers Trying Together.

Through Fund My Future, Mark learned about opening a PA529 account for his son, accessing his credit reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, how to receive one-on-one financial counseling, and the importance of saving for his son. In an interview with Fund My Future, he stated that he “will use the information he learned to help his son manage his money so that when he gets older he will have developed the habit of saving and managing money.”

More Information

For more information about The Homewood Early Learning Hub and Family Center and participating in Fathers Trying Together, please visit the Trying Together website.



March 8, 2021

New Pre-k Report Highlights Needs for Pre-K Counts and Head Start Rate Increase

In the last five years, Pennsylvania’s spending on pre-k has increased by $145 million for state-funded, high-quality pre-k programs including Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP).

As the Commonwealth continues to increase public dollars for early childhood education, it is imperative that investments go towards increasing rates for publicly-funded programs to pay providers closer to what high-quality pre-k costs.

Trying Together, in its role as a partner of the Pre-K for PA statewide advocacy campaign, released the report Invest in Quality: A Case for Paying Closer to What High-Quality Pre-K Costs in early March 2021. In this new report the campaign recommends maintaining the rate increase provided to Pre-K Counts and HSSAP in fiscal year 2020-21.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), Pennsylvania ranks 19 out of 28 in per capita investments of pre-k programs. Pre-k rates have not kept pace with inflation. Investing in quality through rate adjustments ensures pre-k programs can maintain high-quality and safe early learning experiences for children and families.

According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the existing problem of the underfunded early childhood infrastructure. Early care and education is a critical piece to economic recovery. Pre-k will not only be essential to supporting the growth of our youngest learners who have missed out on months of learning opportunities, it will also serve as part of the infrastructure for getting families back to work.

In addition to the typical personnel and operations costs, COVID-19 health protocol have presented a new set of costs for the PPE and sanitation materials to ensure the safety of children, staff, and families.

The report maintains that Pennsylvania should allocate $9 million — consistent with the rate increase provided through the federal CARES Act funding — to specifically go toward a rate adjustment for both Pre-K Counts and HSSAP. The following allocations should be directly passed through to providers in order to meet the current needs:

  • A $7 million allocation to provide rate adjustments of Pre-K Counts current
    base rate from $8,750 to $9,025.
  • A $2 million allocation to provide rate adjustments of HSSAP current average
    base rate from $10,500 to $10,805.

Read the full report: Invest in Quality: A Case for Paying Closer to What High-Quality Pre-K Costs


February 17, 2021

Child Care Providers and State Legislators Discuss Policy Changes

Trying Together and child care providers joined Pennsylvania state policymakers on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 to voice their concerns about recent state-level program and policy changes that have widely destabilized the child care sector.  

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, child care subsidy payments in Pennsylvania were modified so reimbursement was based on enrollment versus attendance. At the time, this measure was taken to ensure financial stability as child care providers were encountering complex challenges that exceeded the scope of their normal operations, including mandated closures. In September 2020, at Governor Tom Wolf’s direction, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) restored the original subsidy payment practices from enrollment-based back to attendance-based, which has had a devastating effect since many programs continue to be under-enrolled due to COVID-19.

“At this point we are at 66% of our pre-COVID enrollment. This loss of about 35% equates to more than $1.5 million in tuition. We are feeling it big time,” said Jason Kunzman, Chief Program Officer, Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh. “We believe that the primary driver in not being able to admit more children into our programs is actually the difficulty we’ve experienced in trying to recruit qualified staff. It goes without saying that operating in a COVID environment, everything is harder. What used to take one person to do now takes three people…this has been a real hardship to the entire industry.  

“[We need] more sustainable, longer-lasting changes to the financial model that can make high-quality  care accessible to as many families as possible while allowing providers to pay their educators a livable wage.”

To compound these constraints, OCDEL repurposed the Education & Retention Award (ERA) for STAR 3 and STAR 4 high-quality educators to a Pandemic Relief Award (PRA) in December 2020, providing $600 to 33,000 child care employees across the state with many programs waitlisted due to a lack of funds. 

Currently in Pennsylvania, the average wage of a child care professional is $9.71 per hour with 50% of them receiving government benefits.

“Many of my staff are single moms or low-income who qualify for subsidies themselves… They returned to work during a pandemic, they risked their lives and their family’s lives for the greater good of the Pennsylvania economy, and the money was taken from them,” said Tracy O’Connell, Child Care Director, Catholic Youth Association. “To take away the only extra money these hardworking, dedicated teachers earn each year – during the year they deserve it the most – is heartless. There has to be a way to keep the ERA money for what it is designed to do, and that is to retain and reward degreed staff.”

Since the ERA typically awarded more funds than this to its recipients, the loss of the ERA further disincentivizes high-quality educators to remain in the field. Essentially, Pennsylvania doesn’t have the funds to meet the full needs of child care providers due to this change.

Senator Jay Costa, Senate Minority Leader (D-Allegheny), said child care providers are faced with a “catch-22” if the ERA is permanently taken away. 

STARS requires you to have degreed  folks but you don’t have money to retain them because [their money is being taken away],” Senator Costa said. “We shouldn’t tie your hands behind your back to try to have you meet standards that let people know the quality of service that you’re providing because here are criteria you have to meet. Both Democrats and Republicans are committed to working with you on this.” 

The Commonwealth will receive $302 million in federal dollars to support child care via the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds from the most recent COVID-19 relief package.

Senator Lindsey Williams, Education – Minority Chair (D-Allegheny), said it’s important to invest in early childhood education.

It’s heartbreaking that we as a legislature haven’t found a way as of yet to take care of the child care workforce because that’s the only way we get our economy going,” she said. “You have my support to use existing federal dollars, hopefully future federal dollars and whatever state funding we can come up with to actually address these policy issues…so that it’s a big structural change on how we fund child care.” 

Senator Camera Bartolotta, Labor & Industry, Chair (R- Beaver, Greene, Washington) also stressed that the early childhood education workforce is essential to the state’s economic recovery.

“It is vital – it is imperative – that we get folks back to work. When we are opening our economy safely, these parents need their kids to be in a safe, healthy learning environment,” she said. “We’ve got to make sure that all of these institutions stay healthy economically as well as physically. That’s something that we have to prioritize. We are not going to open our economy if parents don’t have a safe place for their kids to go.”

The child care providers, families, and early learning advocates throughout the state like Trying Together look forward to the concerns discussed during yesterday’s call being addressed and resolved.

Read More

Child Care Worker Subsidy Replaced An Award That Providers Say Incentivized Staff Higher Education, 90.5 WESA

Child Care Facilities Call On Pennsylvania Lawmakers For Financial Assistance, KDKA-TV

Child care providers say Pa. policy shifts are causing financial strain, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Child care facilities struggling, PublicSource


February 11, 2021

Pre-K is Working in PA

Early Childhood Education providers are invited to join Pre-K for PA on February 11 for a special webinar that will present results from a new research study on the impacts of the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Program.


During this webinar, Pre-K for PA will present results from a new research study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the impacts of the PA Pre-K Counts Program. Presenters will review data showing the impact on children’s early learning and kindergarten readiness, as well as local variations in how providers implemented the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program and potential areas for improvement.

Featured Presenters

The webinar will feature the following presenters:

    • Elliot Weinbaum, Program Director, William Penn Foundation
    • Ellen S. Peisner-Feinberg, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist & Research Professor, School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Tracey Campanini, Deputy-Secretary, Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning


Online registration is required. To register, complete the online registration form.


February 1, 2021

Base Rates for CCW Reimbursements to Increase March 1

On February 1, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf announced an increase to base rates paid to child care providers participating in Child Care Works (CCW), Pennsylvania’s subsidized child care program.



Effective March 1, 2021, base rates for CCW reimbursements will be increased to the 40th percentile of the market rate for child care in the provider’s region, up from approximately the 25th percentile where most of Pennsylvania’s child care providers currently sit. This change brings Pennsylvania closer to the federal government’s recommendation of reimbursing at the 75th percentile. This increase equates to an additional $28.8 million in federal funding for the 2020-21 fiscal year and $87.2 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

This change will also regionalize rate calculation based on Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) regions rather than calculating rates by county for each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Pennsylvania is currently the only state that does not regionalize rates. Regionalization of rates creates a larger pool to more accurately represent rates across provider types licensed by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning in each region rather than calculating rates by county with limited sample sizes and provider type representation.

No provider will see their rates decrease with this new structure. The average increase across all regions is $4.59. Every three years, a child care market rate survey is conducted to guide rate setting. The last Market Rate Survey was completed in 2019 and released in 2020.

Why It Matters

“Child care is essential for a functioning economy. Investments in this industry benefit us in two different ways. They support communities and the families that rely on care to join the workforce every day and nurture the growth and development of young minds as they prepare for grade school and later long-term success,” said Gov. Wolf.  “Increasing base reimbursement rates is an investment in the dedicated professionals that do this work every day and for countless parents and children. We all seek to weather the challenges created by the pandemic and the recovery ahead.”

According to the announcement, nearly two-thirds of children enrolled in CCW are in a lower-rated child care provider, and higher quality providers serve fewer CCW families. By providing increased base payments for care for children enrolled in CCW, more child care operators will increase operating margins allowing them to potentially retain more highly qualified staff and engage in enhanced quality activities.

“Child Care Works makes quality, affordable child care accessible for working families across our commonwealth,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “By investing in base rates, we invest in quality across our child care industry – an investment that will help providers grow, develop, and retain staff and continue to improve services and care for our youngest Pennsylvanians.”

What is Child Care Works?

Child Care Works is Pennsylvania’s subsidized child care program that helps low-income families pay their child care tuition and fees. To be eligible, families must earn 200 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines at application and meet work or job training requirements. Eligible families are able to choose to enroll at any participating child care provider, which can be impacted by convenience, transportation, cost, and working hours. Families enrolled in CCW pay a co-pay, and providers that participate in CCW are reimbursed a set base rate per child from the state with the opportunity for add-on funding.

More Information

For more information, read Governor Wolf’s full announcement.


January 21, 2021

Fund My Future Information Session

Attend this online information session to learn about Fund My Future, a savings program that offers chances to win prizes and cash in monthly raffle drawings by depositing small amounts into your child’s savings account.


With the support from the Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Fund My Future is now available to all families in Pennsylvania to save for college and other post-secondary goals. Fund My Future provides a prize pool that makes the saving experience fun. This program is open to Pennsylvania residents who have children or grandchildren between the ages of birth to 18. Your child will benefit from the savings, and you benefit from the fun! Participants will have the chance to win a door prize.


To register, complete the online registration form.

More Information

For questions, please contact Fund My Future at 833.728.3946 or via this online form.


ECE Job Openings: January 21 – 27, 2021

Are you looking to start or transition your career in the early childhood field? You’re in luck! Early learning programs in Pennsylvania are currently looking to fill positions. To view this week’s featured job descriptions, see the list below.



Featured Jobs


Hosanna House Child Development Center (CDC)

Pre-K Counts Certified Lead Teacher

Hosanna House Inc. is seeking a passionate and enthusiastic Pre-K Counts Certified Lead Teacher to join their team. Hosanna House Inc. is a NAEYC Accredited, PDE Private School Licensed, STAR 4 school. Their programs empower children to discover their interest through play, along with a curriculum that will ensure children are school ready and excited about learning. Teachers will be responsible for daily in-person educational instruction following the creative curriculum.

To apply, submit a cover letter and resume via email to



Submit a Job Description

Each week, Trying Together publishes a news post that features employer-submitted job positions from early learning programs across Pennsylvania. Trying Together shares these posts online through our website, social media channels, and newsletter. To make it into next week’s post, please submit the Child Care Provider Job Post Submission Form no later than Tuesday, January 26.

This form is intended for positions in the early childhood field. Job descriptions not related to the early childhood field will not be included. All job descriptions submitted after January 26 will be published in the next week’s news post. Please note that publication dates may vary due to state and federal holidays. For questions, contact Lainey Yockey at



Search Additional Jobs

Are you interested in starting or shifting your career in early childhood care and education? Visit the ECE Hire website or sign up for their weekly newsletter for current job listings and helpful tips on interviewing, resumes, and more. To stay up to date on our featured positions and more, follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.