New report stresses urgent need for high quality infant toddler child care

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Today, across Pennsylvania, Start Strong PA released a new report demonstrating the benefits and need for high quality infant toddler child care. According to the Pennsylvania KIDS COUNT Data Center, Pennsylvania is home to 1,270,433 families with children and 418,455 of the children are under three years old.

“Infant and toddler brains make millions of neural connections every second – At no other time in a human’s life will the brain develop at this remarkable speed. Every second matters because each second that passes is one we cannot get back,” said Cara Ciminillo, Executive Director, Trying Together.

Research shows that high-quality child care makes the difference and Pennsylvania serves as a model for other states in how we rate quality in our child care settings. Keystone STARS, Pennsylvania’s quality rating system, uses research-based standards focused on: staff qualifications, curriculum, environment, family and community partnerships, and business practices.

With 69% of families having both parents working and with 70% of all mothers in the labor force, high-quality child care settings can have a positive, lasting impact on brain growth for thousands of children birth to age three. Unfortunately, only 43% of child care capacity in the state currently meets high-quality standards as determined by Keystone STARS. This means many families across our Commonwealth do not have a high-quality child care option for the care and education

of their child.

Infant and toddler care not only plays a significant role in giving children a strong foundation but it also offers a support system for hardworking families and develops a strong community and economy. Parents, employers, and taxpayers benefit from an affordable and accessible child care system.

“Through our wide-ranging workforce development initiative, we have found that a big barrier to work for a large population of individuals is access to affordable child care. Addressing this issue is a key component to: fixing the Commonwealth’s jobs skills gap; helping individuals enter and stay in the workforce; breaking the cycle of poverty; and better preparing and educating the next generation,” said Gene Barr, PA Chamber President and CEO and a member of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission.

As we begin another budget season, with the current ’19-’20 budget having cut $36 million of state funds from child care, Start Strong PA partners want to remind both Pennsylvania and federal policymakers that they have the power to increase funding so more children can access high-quality child care. State funding should eliminate the waitlist and ensure all eligible children and families can access a subsidy in order to work or attend school. Pennsylvania’s share of additional federal funds should address rates, educator compensation, and training and degree opportunities for professionals in the field.

“High-quality infant and toddler care must be made a priority today and everyday: Pennsylvania’s children, families, and workforce depend on it. Children deserve early learning experiences where they grow, learn, and succeed while families productively work and our economy booms.” Diane Barber, Executive Director, PA Child Care Association.

NOTE TO WORKING PRESS: To learn more, listen to a 12-minute recorded question and answer session with the principals of Start Strong PA at this link (audio begins at 00:00:24 seconds in). Start Strong PA principals on the call (in order of participation) include:

  • Kristen Rotz, President, United Way of PA
  • Kari King, Executive Director, PA Partnerships for Children
  • Cara Ciminillo, Executive Director, Trying Together
  • Jen DeBell, Interim Executive Director, PA Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Bruce Clash, Assistant Director, ReadyNation Pennsylvania
  • Diane Barber, Executive Director, PA Child Care Association
  • Carol Austin, Executive Director, First Up
  • Donna Cooper, Executive Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Any questions or requests for interviews should be directed to Maria Pisano at Trying Together or 412-421-3734.

Start Strong PA is an initiative of Early Learning PA. Through a statewide collaboration of partners, Start Strong PA aims 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 at

news release

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