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An Insider’s Look at the Rising Cost of Quality Early Child Care

Posted on: December 5th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Do you know the average cost of care for children enrolled in an early childhood education center? 

  • For infant care, the average annual rate is $14,000.
  • For toddlers, it’s $13,500.
  • And for preschoolers, the number is $11,700.

And these costs vary widely from state to state. 

In Mississippi, it costs $5,400 per year for a four-year-old. . .  and almost $17,000 in Massachusetts. [Source: US News]

According to the Child Care Aware of America report, “Demanding Change: Repairing our Child Care System,” in every part of the country families are paying a higher percentage of their household income for child care than for housing, transportation, food, health care, or college tuition. 

However, in the childcare sector, price does not equal cost. If providers charged families the true cost of care, what their actual expenses are, particularly if they factor in paying their teachers a living wage comparable to those of Kindergarten teachers, most families would not be able to afford it. 

The true cost of offering high-quality child care would be even more out of reach for families.  The difference between the true cost and the fees actually charged was seen in every state.  

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends the price of child care be no more than 7% of household income.  

Most families currently pay significantly more than that. 

And if providers charged the true cost, it would be even higher. 

However, the US government only spends about 0.2% of its GDP on child care, roughly $200 per year for most families, while other countries spend on average, 0.7% of their GDP. [Source: The New York Times]

The lack of assistance in the US makes childcare incredibly difficult to afford.

In some countries care is free beginning at birth, while many have free preschool or tax credits to assist families in paying for care. 

Childcare prices typically rise with inflation. However, while programs need to raise fees to keep up, they’re reluctant to do so because they know families can’t afford to pay more.

Let’s take a closer look at early childhood education.

Why is Quality Early Childhood Education So Expensive?

Quality child care is expensive because of the low teacher-to-child ratios. 

For infant care, one teacher can care for up to four children.  And with no other (or limited) sources of revenue helping to cover the costs, the entire cost is supported by the family.

Birth through Kindergarten is the most expensive education cost, because of these low teacher-to-child ratios, and it’s the ONLY time when there are no public funding options for families at all economic levels.  

The exception is low-income families who receive support and public funds through Child Care Works, Head Start, or Pre-K Counts, 

People often compare the cost of infant care to college tuition — the average annual cost of tuition at a Pennsylvania public college is $13,416 [Source: College Tuition Compare].

While the cost of infant care is high, four infant shoulder the burden of the entire cost for the staff salaries, benefits, and all operating costs. In comparison, no college professor only teaches four students per year.  

And colleges have additional sources of revenue from things like alumni giving, endowments, athletics, research grants, and public dollars.

Could you imagine if your child care had the revenue from selling branded items in the same way Penn State does?

It’s absurd that we expect families to shoulder the full true cost of care—particularly when we know they struggle to pay the charged price.  

And even more so when you factor in that the return on investment for high-quality early childhood education is far greater than the return on investment from K-12 and higher education.

Why Is Early Childhood Education Worth It?

When we invest in our children from the youngest ages, prenatally, we can have a significant impact on their future. 

Research proves, over and over again, high-quality early childhood education has the following effects:

  • A child’s future educational attainment
  • Improves their physical health and well-being
  • A reduction in incidences of chronic disease
  • Increased resilience and protective factors that lessen the impacts of toxic stress
  • And it promotes healthy, solid relationships between caring adults and children

Quality early childhood education also saves taxpayer dollars in the traditional Kindergarten-to- Grade 12 systems, juvenile delinquency, special education, truancy, and incarceration.  

It’s always better to invest in a young child now rather than spend money trying to remediate problems later. 

It’s also worth it because according to the Ready Nation report, the economic impacts of insufficient child care on working families cost Pennsylvania $2.5 Billion annually. Productivity problems related to childcare struggles (missing work, being distracted while at work) cost employers $600 million annually.  

If we asked Pennsylvania employers to invest $600 million in high-quality early childhood education–it would be a “net zero break-even proposition” that would result in improved performance in their current workforce and improved outcomes for their future workforce.

How CCC Impacts Early Childhood Education in Central Pennsylvania

CCC is responsible for the programs that help low-income working families pay for child care. More specifically, the Child Care Works (CCW) and Keystone STARS programs.  

CCC also administers both the Resource & Referral program to help families in our region find child care and the Statewide HelpLine.  

In this capacity, we determine eligibility for CCW, help families determine their personal needs for child care, and provide lists of programs that meet their specific criteria. 

We also work with area businesses to provide resource and referral services for their employees, lunch & learn sessions on child development, Kindergarten transition and readiness, and summer programs—to name just a few topics.

The Keystone STARS team provides one on one support for providers as well as assessing their program against the state standards to determine their STAR level. It includes coaching, mentoring, training, and support to help providers improve their quality. 

A STAR 1, is the entry point—for all Department of Human Services Certified programs. STAR 4 is the highest level of quality.  

CCC also administers grants and engages with business and community leaders to provide funds for early childhood education programs. In the past year, CCC’s efforts resulted in over $1 million in additional funds.

And how does that funding cycle work? 

CCC received a five-year grant from the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to oversee the CCW and Keystone STARS program. 

For funds that support CCW and assist working families in paying for child care, it’s a multi-step process. Each step has its own federal and state regulation and policies. 

First, a family submits an application that includes verification of their family size, employment by their employer, and pay stubs.  Once determined to be eligible by our staff, then they select a childcare program (if they don’t already have one). The schedule that their child can attend is based upon the parent’s work schedule. 

The childcare program takes attendance daily and parents are required to sign their child in and out each day.  The program submits their attendance records, used as the basis for the invoice, to CCC no later than the fifth of the month after the month they attend. So, on December 5, 2022, they will submit the attendance records for November 2022. CCC staff reviews the invoice, checking the days attended against their approved schedule. Payments are made directly to the child care provider.

Families are also assessed a copay, based on their income, which they pay directly to their childcare provider. 

Families’ eligibility is redetermined every year, and they must submit current documentation of their income and any changes to their family size.

The funds come from both the federal and state budgets.  

What Do Parents Need to Know About Early Childhood Education? 

Parents want the best for their children. And they know first-hand that quality early childhood care is essential. 

A child’s brain and socio-emotional skills are rapidly developing in the first five years. There is no other stage of life when their brain will be developing so quickly. And research proves that what happens in the first five years matters—it greatly impacts the rest of a person’s life.  

By enrolling your child in a high-quality program, you are helping to ensure that your child will be successful in K-12 and life. So ask your child’s provider if they participate with Keystone STARS or have plans to explore the program.

We encourage parents to base their child care decisions not just on the cost of care, or the location of the care, but on the quality of the care.  

Just like many adults make housing decisions based upon which school district their child would attend, it’s important that parents and guardians pay attention to the quality of the childcare programs in the area.

If you are struggling or would like more information, please reach out or visit our website.

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director. 

To learn more, visit

Additional Reading

The Uncertain Future of Early Childhood Education

Bankrate: Average Cost of Childcare

American Progress: True Cost High-Quality Childcare Across US

World Population Review: Child Care Costs By State

US News: States with Highest and Lowest Cost of Daycare

Childcare Aware: Demanding Change Repairing Our Child Care System

New York Times: How Other Nations Pay for Child Care. The U.S. Is an Outlier

College Tuition Compare: 2022 Tuition Comparison Between Pennsylvania Colleges

CCC. The Uncertain Future of Early Childhood Education

Posted on: October 25th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

And a Breakdown of the Unsustainable Financial Model

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

The future of early childhood education (ECE) is bleak without significant revisions to how we fund and support our youngest children and their families. 

It’s evident that the childcare sector is a crucial, yet underfunded part of the American economy. 

It funds jobs and pays the bills for millions of Americans. One in every 110 U.S. workers – and one in every 55 working women – makes a living in some part of the early childhood education sector. 

And for those working in every other industry, finding and paying for quality child care is a two-fold problem. There is a shortage of child care spots and families are struggling to keep up with rising prices. 

In Pennsylvania, 57 percent of all residents live in a child care desert, defined as an area where there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots. [Source: American Progress] Typically, availability is especially limited for families who have infants and toddlers, work evening and night shifts, or live in rural areas. [Source: New America]

These problems then ripple in the workforce. The 2018-2019 National Survey of Children’s Health reported that the parents of two million children under the age of 5 “had to quit a job, not take a job, or greatly change their job because of problems with child care.”

Staffing Crisis

The staffing crisis in ECE, while it has always been a challenge, has become much worse. 

We want qualified teachers teaching our youngest minds, but ECE teachers often make half as much as K-12 teachers, even with the same level of college degree or experience.

This results in a constant drain of ECE staff, who upon earning their teaching certificate leave for the K-12 system, mostly for purely financial reasons. And this turnover rate directly contributes to lower-quality care. Currently, only 39 percent of all child care in Pennsylvania meets high-quality standards. [Source: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children]

And you really can’t blame them. Nearly half of all child care teachers qualify for and utilize public assistance programs such as TANF, SNAP and CHIP because their wages aren’t sufficient to pay their bills. 

Approximately 95% of the child care workforce are women and over one-third are women of color, both groups who are historically underpaid and undervalued.

Since its inception, the ECE industry’s financial model has been unsustainable and supported by poverty-level wages for the staff. The funds were insufficient before COVID, and the COVID crisis has made the situation more dire. 

Even with the influx of CARES and ARPA funds, many facilities could not solve the underlying problems. While these infusions of funds have helped keep the doors open and provided much-needed stipends to try and retain teachers, it is not a permanent solution.

There needs to be a real change in how ECE staff are paid and appreciated if we want to solve this child care crisis. 

The Financial Model

The average family, with at least one child under the age of five, needs to devote about 13% of their income to pay for child care. This is a number that is unattainable for most families.

But according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), child care is considered affordable if it costs families no more than 7 percent of their income.

Poor families who might not have access to federally funded programs and instead independently pay for care spent approximately 30 percent of their income on child care—considerably more than the national average. Moreover, 95 percent of low-income working families would need to spend more than the federal affordability benchmark of 7 percent on licensed child care. [Source: American Progress]

Now you may be thinking, what about public support services? Unfortunately, less than 20% of children who qualify for public assistance for child care receive services due to a lack of funding and availability.

Currently, there is no public funding for ECE except for low-income families. 

In PA, Early Head Start, Head Start, and Pre-K Counts are free for families making less than approximately $28,000 for a family of four. Child Care Works assists low-income, working families in paying for child care that make less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. 

If families make more than these upper limits or don’t meet other eligibility criteria, even if just by making $5 too much per year, they are ineligible.

Everyone has heard stories or perhaps lived it themselves, of families—at incomes that make them ineligible for assistance—struggling to pay for child care. 

Families often do a “cost-benefit analysis” to determine if it makes financial sense for them to work. In many cases, what they would pay in child care, particularly if they have multiple children, is greater than their salary. 

Therefore, It makes financial sense for someone to stay home. But this means that they also lose other perks of working like benefits, retirement, health insurance, etc. It also means that their child won’t receive the benefits of attending a high-quality ECE program.

The Workforce Impact

COVID has shown us, particularly in the business community, that without child care, our ability to recruit and retain workers is impacted.

A PA study, completed in 2019 long before COVID, showed a $2.5 billion impact on the PA economy each year due to workers’ inability to find and enroll their children in quality ECE programs. And throughout the COVID pandemic, it’s only gotten worse. 

A recent report titled Growing Tomorrow’s Economy Means Investing in Child Care Today put the number at $600 million lost by Pennsylvania employers annually due to child care challenges faced by their workforce. It indicated one-third of parents report having to reduce their work hours or turn down further education or training because of child care needs. Almost one-quarter turned down job offers or went from full-time to part-time work. One-in-six reported rejecting a promotion or quitting a job due to insufficient child care.

According to the Child Care Aware of America report, Demanding Change: Repairing our Child Care System, “The pandemic illuminated how indispensable child care is for the well-being and economic security of our children, families, and communities, while simultaneously revealing the system’s many shortcomings”.

This makes the necessity of high-quality child care a “no-brainer.” 

And it’s not just a loss in the workforce. We also see the impacts in dollars spent on social services throughout the lifespan. 

Study after study after study, by economists, military leaders, and researchers, shows that for every dollar we invest in high-quality ECE, we can save between $7 and $13 dollars in costs associated with special education, truancy, juvenile delinquency, addiction issues, incarceration, health costs, and on and on. 

We know this data to be accurate and true. Decades of researchers have proven it.

Moving Forward

All of this information leaves us with so many questions. 

Why is it we don’t want to act on what we know? 

Why would we instead continue to pay $13 from our “collective public pot of funds” than $1? 

If you ask people if they want to pay $1 for a gallon of gas or $13 for a gallon of gas, no one answers $13. And yet by not investing in high-quality ECE, we continue to pay that $13.

Why is it that during the first few years with the lowest staff-to-child ratio, we don’t help all families with the costs associated with education? 

The current model has decided that it’s okay to pay degreed, certified teachers, on average, $11 per hour. And even at that disrespectfully low wage, families still can’t afford the cost of care. Why is that what we want for our children and our fellow workers? 

Often one sees the comparison between the average cost of infant care ($11,500) and tuition at a public college ($14,500). 

While the intent is to point out the high cost of infant care, (which is true) the comparison is quite flawed. 

An infant teacher can only care for four children which equates to $46,000 TOTAL in funds supporting that teacher’s salary, benefits, and the operating and supply costs for that classroom.

You will never see a college professor, however, who only has four students. According to Penn State’s 2021-2022 Common Data Set, the average class size is approximately 30 students. Most professors teach six classes per year. So that’s 180 students supporting one professor. Or $2,610,000 supporting that teacher’s salary and benefits and operating costs. 

And then you add in public funding, alumni giving, endowments, and revenue from the athletic programs. That’s $46,000 supporting the infant teacher and well over $2.5 million supporting that college professor. 

When you look at the stark difference in the numbers supporting those scenarios, you can see why it’s a skewed comparison. Child care programs are not able to pay their workers well, and when teacher after teacher leaves, they have to shut down their program. 

Families struggle to pay $11,500 per year, just like many families struggle to figure out how to pay for college tuition. But there are so many scholarships, work-study programs, and other grants that can help with college fees. The lack of outside assistance in ECE continues the ripple effect on the workforce and economy. 

If we don’t come together, as concerned citizens, families, community and business leaders, and elected officials to overhaul the ECE system, it is possible that the whole ECE system may collapse. 

And it will bring down our local economies with it. In my 30-plus years of working in the field, I have never seen a staffing crisis this bad. The number of programs closing is on the rise and the morale seems to be at an all-time low. 

It’s not hyperbole to think the field is at a breaking point.

While this can all sound scary, there are steps that we can take to effect real change. We can turn this around for our children. We must. 

So stay tuned, my next blog will cover exactly what those steps are. 

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director. 
To learn more, visit

Connections for Children and Families in Central Pennsylvania

Posted on: October 18th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

The Hidden Gems in Our Region: These Programs Make a Difference

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Did you know that 27% of Pennsylvanians who work struggle to survive from one paycheck to the next? 

This group is referred to as ALICE—an acronym that means Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed

They make more than the federal poverty guidelines and as a result, don’t qualify for support services. 

But they don’t make enough to make ends meet and provide for the basic essentials. 

Community Connections for Children works with many organizations to support these families. 

One of the leading agencies Community Connections for Children refers families to is their local Community Action Agency. We partner with these programs throughout our region, creating connections to support children and families. 

In fact, many of the families we serve also receive services from their local Community Action Agency—services like Head Start/Early Head Start, Rental Assistance, Utility Assistance, or WIC. They also offer job training programs and assistance in becoming self-sufficient.

If you or someone you know is looking for support for her child or family, here is a list of programs making a difference every day. 

The Pennsylvania Statewide HelpLine

One team member with over 17 years of experience at Community Connections for Children answered over 6,900 calls this past year made to the Pennsylvania Statewide HelpLine. Yes, almost 7,000 phone calls.

Calls come in from persons located in all 67 counties looking for assistance in finding child care, concerned about their child’s development, other needs related to housing, food assistance, and even looking to become Department of Human Services Certified home-based family providers.

If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to the Child Care Works Helpline at 1-877-4PA-KIDS (1-877-472-5437). We will provide information about finding or paying for child care, and other concerns you may have. 

You can also reach out to Pennsylvania’s CONNECT Helpline at 1-800-692-7288 for information about your child’s development and connecting to Early Intervention services in Pennsylvania.

In addition to the State HelpLine, CCC provides resources and referral services to the residents

of the 13 counties we serve. Three team members completed approximately 4,000 referrals to local agencies. The most requested services this past fiscal year were:

1. Head Start/Early Head Start

2. Pre-K Counts

3. Information about the Keystone STARS program (high-quality child care and after-school


4. Rental Assistance Services

5. Energy Assistance (Li-Heap)



8. Child Development Information

All of these agencies work with individuals and families from a strength-based perspective—building on the strengths and resources they do have to help them achieve their

goals. It’s not a handout, but instead a partnership and a hand-up.

Our partners are:

  • Adams County, South Central Community Action Agency, or 717-334-7634
  • Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry Counties, Tri County Community Action, 717-232-9757
  • Lancaster County, Community Action Partnership, 717-299-7301
  • Lebanon County, Community Action Partnership, or 717-273-9328
  • York County, Community Progress Council (CPC) can be reached at or 717-846-4600

Community Connections for Children also works closely with our County Assistance Offices (CAO) for

families receiving TANF, LIHEAP, and SNAP. 

Additional Community Services and Programs

Many of the families we serve are in need of one of these programs that help them cover the cost of utilities, food, and other basic needs. Community Connections for Children partners with the CAO offices to provide Child Care Works (CCW) funds to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) families to assist them in paying for child care. Families must be the requirements of the program to be eligible.

To find the contact information for your County Assistance Office, visit: 

There are some other community partners we work closely with. These include but are not

limited to nonprofits, school districts, United Ways, foundations, Chambers of Commerce, and

local business leaders. 

Some of the key partners that provide services to our families include:

New Hope Ministries

New Hope Ministries serves people in times of need by supporting their efforts toward stability. Services include food banks and stability and workforce development programs.


Lehman Center- Children’s Aid Society

The Lehman Center offers emergency respite care for children from newborn through six years of age in a 24-hour crisis nursery, child-centered creative art therapy, family advocate services, and parental education and support groups.


Connections Early Intervention and Supports

Connections Early Intervention and Supports provide children and families with therapeutic programs and experiences that allow them to reach their maximum potential and abilities. 


Cornerstone Youth Home

Cornerstone Youth Home is a community-driven solution serving students, ages 6 through 18, experiencing homelessness and transience. They provide long-term, stable housing to the children while working with their families to resolve issues surrounding education, employment, health, and housing.


The ‘Why Behind’ Community Services

Community Services is an umbrella term for the programs offered here at Community Connections for Children, Inc.—the services that support (and fuel!) the entire community. 

Each program ensures that all families and children have what they need to be successful in school and life. These programs connect families to needed services, provide supportive and nurturing relationships to promote family well-being and make our communities a better place.

And they are responsive to individual questions and needs. 

Community services are much-needed, and they meet each family where they are…

  • They help families find childcare and provide information on how to select the best care possible for their child. 
  • They provide connections between families experiencing food insecurity, homelessness, or domestic violence with the agencies that assist with those needs.
  • They help families who may be facing challenges related to a difficult pregnancy, concerns about how their child is developing, or a need for some support in improving their communication and parenting skills. 
  • And they even help employers find and retain workers, an in-demand service during the past two years. 

An example of Community Service at Community Connections for Children, Inc. is the partnership with the START program to support individuals who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. Core to our mission is support like this, providing access to needed services and making our communities better.

Community services are for all people. Anyone—family or child care provider—that lives in the Community Connections for Children, Inc. service area can connect with and utilize the programs, regardless of income. We serve Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, and York counties.

Contact Community Connections for Children today to connect to the programs, services, and agencies listed:

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more, visit

The Staffing Crisis in Education, and The Impact Here in Pennsylvania

Posted on: September 22nd, 2022 by Kristen Miller

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Did you know that by 2025, Pennsylvania will need thousands of new teachers? Thousands?

And a glimpse at the collegiate level shows fewer college students are entering the track to becoming an educator.

In fact, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the number of certificates for new teachers issued in Pennsylvania has dropped by roughly two-thirds over the past decade.

Add to that the compounding crisis we’re seeing, with experienced educators leaving the profession — a staffing shortage that’s compounded due to COVID and teacher dissatisfaction.

There are great things happening in classrooms, but there’s also stress and tension on a macro scale — at the state and national level, with these extreme teacher shortages, systemic failures, and community and political unrest that targets educators.

So what does this mean? And how can we address the crisis before it’s too late?

The Impact on the K-12 System

The traditional K-12 system is facing a staffing crisis. That’s a fact. Especially specialty areas in the middle and high schools. With urban schools nearly twice as likely as rural and suburban schools to have teachers working in their first or second year in the profession, they are struggling in a unique way.

The crisis has been brewing on the horizon for a long time and is coming to a head. 

Most teachers view their job as a calling, a passion, educating children and helping them grow into their full potential. And they desperately want the system to work better. 

Experts differ on the causes of the crisis. Aging baby boomer teachers already planning to retire, experienced teachers who are exhausted by the low pay, long hours, violence, disrespect, and animosity leaving the field, and college students, many who would like to be teachers, choosing not to — or leaving the field in their first couple of years.

The political and cultural environment is greatly impacting the educational system, too. 

As a society, we are wrestling with the issues of who sets and controls curriculum, how we teach challenging topics, how we measure student success, and what is the link between teacher effectiveness and student outcomes. 

Layered throughout all these issues is the role of parental choice and family engagement. 

We tend to want the education system to solve all children’s and families’ problems but struggle to provide the necessary resources, particularly regarding mental health, basic needs, wellness, and housing support.

And the crisis extends beyond full-time teachers. We’re losing our substitute teachers as well.

So why are we losing so many excellent educators? And how is it impacting the early childhood education sector? Let’s take a look.

The Impact on the Early Childhood Education Industry

For a long time, the early childhood education (ECE) industry has been the “Cinderella” (before the ball) of the education family. Looked down upon, woefully under-resourced, and disrespected. 

Research tells us a child’s brain development happens at the fastest rate during the first five years, and what happens during this time has a powerful and lasting impact on their ability to be successful in school and life.

And yet, ECE teachers are paid on average less than half as much as a K-12 teacher even when they have the exact same Teaching Certification. 

Most people don’t know that Early Learning standards align with the K-12 system here in Pennsylvania: teachers, even those for infants and toddlers, write lesson plans that meet the objectives and requirements of the standards. 

Teachers also conduct assessments and screenings to ensure our youngest children are developing and make referrals for those that need extra support. Just like their colleagues in the K-12 system do.

And yet, we discount and devalue the critical foundational role ECE educators have in the life of a child. 

A trend for decades is that ECE teachers upon earning a teaching certificate — often times on scholarship from the ECE industry — would leave the field for a higher paying position in the K-12 field. 

And now, with the staffing crisis in the K-12 system and some states reducing (or eliminating) their hiring requirements, even more, ECE teachers are transitioning to the school system.

Additional issues facing the ECE system are ongoing debates, among some elected officials, regarding the role of regulations and how to set standards to determine quality. Just like the K-12 system, some people are focused on fewer regulations and more or less parental choice and control. 

As a nation, we continue to wrestle with issues such as parental leave and publicly funded pre-kindergarten. In Pennsylvania, Kindergarten isn’t even mandatory — a child doesn’t have to enroll in school until age 8 — typically the age of a third grader.

Community Connections for Children (CCC) serves as the resource and referral agency for several counties in South-Central Pennsylvania, and we know first-hand how difficult it is for families to find care. 

ECE programs are operating at reduced enrollment because they can’t find staff. And in the world of early childhood education, with strict teacher-to-child ratios required, a reduced number of teachers means children can’t be served.

And if it is not addressed, this crisis will impact our local economy in the years ahead. 

The children who are impacted by a lack of ECE programs, who are educated in classrooms with teachers without education, certification, and experience will be less prepared to become effective, skilled members of the workforce.

Making a Difference in South-Central Pennsylvania

An example of positive growth and change here locally is The York County Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC) led by Peter Brubaker and Tony Campisi. They instituted an Early Childhood Educator Award in early 2022. 

The commission raised over $500,000 in both public and private funds to provide a stipend to educators employed at STAR 2, 3, or 4 sites. 

The award amount was based on the recipient’s educational level. Their purpose? To retain educators to improve outcomes for children. 

CCC approved the applications and administers the program.

And it’s important to note that there has been an increase in joint professional development sessions between ECE and K-12 staff to align curriculum, support and engage families, and link community services to schools. This has improved connections between these two branches of the educational system which in turn has improved relationships with families.

How Our Community Can Work Together to Curb These Staffing Trends

First things first, we can all pause and reflect. And ask hard questions, questions like, ‘How are our actions showing the respect we have for teachers as professionals?’

To curb the staffing trends, we need to lower the temperature of the current environment. Teachers are not adversaries. Rather they are highly trained, certified professionals with a passion for serving children and families. 

Their calling is to ensure every child reaches their full potential. And if we as a community can breathe and remember this, and show respect even when disagreeing, it would go a long way in helping teachers rekindle their joy in teaching.

We also need to recognize that it is not the educational system’s role to solve all of society’s problems.

Let’s hold ourselves, our communities, elected officials, and other private and public institutions accountable for their role in developing children and supporting families.

Remember, educators — serving children of all ages — deserve to be seen as the experts they are. 

And of course, teachers deserve compensation at a level commensurate with other credentialed professions. And the elimination of the pay disparities between ECE and K-12 teachers.

The most labor-intensive time period of education is the first five years when low teacher/child ratios reflect this challenge. And yet, this is the one period of time in which there is no public support. Unless a family is determined by some governing agency to be impoverished based upon specific income guidelines. 

We all know infant care is expensive, but most people forget that there are ONLY four children supporting ALL the costs associated with that teacher — salary and benefits — as well as all the operating costs. 

The failed funding model of parents covering the full cost of care requires it to be subsidized by the low wages of the ECE teachers. And the system, which is always under great financial stress, is at the breaking point. There are many models of shared public/private funding. 

Our community, business leaders, and elected officials must come together to radically alter the way we fund ECE for all families. 

In summary, let’s value educators as skilled professionals worthy of respect and fair compensation.

And encourage our best and brightest (and certainly those with a passion) to go into teaching.

“Our teachers are role models, cheerleaders, champions for our students. Teaching is the profession that unlocks the workforce for all other professions, so we must find ways to encourage more individuals to answer the call and answer the classroom.”

— Eric Hagarty, Acting Secretary of Education for Pennsylvania 

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They are the backbone of the economy, serving childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more and to donate, visit

Additional Reading:

Wolf administration unveils three-year plan to reverse teacher shortage

The most recent efforts to combat teacher shortages don’t address the real problems 

Nationwide teacher shortage impacts Pennsylvania, local schools 

A Look at What Kindergarten Readiness Really Is

Posted on: September 19th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

I have a saying posted in my office—one that I have moved all over the country to serve as a reminder of the goal of my life’s work. 

It says: “Children do not drop out in high school. They drop out in kindergarten and wait ten years to make it official.”

And decades of research from educators, economists, social scientists, and policy analysts studying a wide array of indicators and outcomes have proven this to be true. 

The trajectory of a child’s life is grounded in what happens during the first five years—long before that first day of kindergarten.

Kindergarten readiness is more than inviting children and their families to practice riding the bus before the first day of school, being introduced to their teachers, and popsicles on the playground to meet their classmates. 

It’s not something that can wait until the child is four or until the week prior to starting kindergarten. It’s not just attending a program at the library, an early childhood education, or an educational nonprofit. And it’s not even just about the child.

These are all important pieces that have the great intention of educating and empowering children.

But here’s the truth. . . kindergarten readiness is a philosophy, based on research and neuroscience that understands the profound role the first five years of life have on the next 90+ years. 

And it’s a deep seeded commitment to ensure those first five years are the best possible for ALL children and their families.

Let’s look at the changes in education over time — particularly the earliest elementary years.

A More Modern Approach to Kindergarten Readiness 

Decades of research confirm that young children need continuity of high-quality

experiences throughout early childhood in order to realize their potential. Continuity

here refers both to the alignment of care and learning as children grow older and to the

coordination of programs and services at each stage of development. 

Experiences should build on previous ones as children increase their knowledge and skills, and programs and services should be coordinated in order to have the largest impact [National Research Council, 2015; Reynolds & Temple, 2019; Tout, Halle, Dailly, Albertson-Junkans, & Moodie, 201].

And how do children learn best? Through play and relationships with caring adults. 

Children don’t need fancy toys, worksheets, or flashcards. Young children need active play with a wide variety of materials like boxes and blocks, puzzles, manipulatives, and the outdoors. 

They need to be read to and talked with.  

One of the experts on Kindergarten Readiness, Pianta, in his book, Successful Kindergarten Transition: Your Guide to Connecting, Children, Families, and Schools, identified four types of connections that support the transition to kindergarten:

  1. Child-School Connections

There are two goals of this connection: (a) to increase children’s familiarity with the kindergarten setting, including the classroom, school environment, and their new teachers; and (b) to increase the teachers’ familiarity with individual children.

  1. Family-School Connections

The goal of this connection is to increase family collaboration and engagement with the school during the transition process. 

  1. School-School Connections

The goal of this connection is to support the transition between Head Start, pre-K, and preschools with kindergarten classrooms.

  1. Community-School Connections

The goal of this connection is to support continuity in the transition process by using resources within the community. These resources may include community organizations, houses of worship, physicians’ offices, cultural organizations, and more. 

Essentially, a more holistic approach is desired to effect change. 

We’ve come to understand that effective transitions result in gains in Kindergarten, things like reduced stress at the beginning of the school year, improved academic growth in kindergarten, and increased family involvement.

Why Business Owners, Legislators, and the General Public Should Care About Kindergarten Readiness 

It is important to our society — and our culture — to nurture, care for, and evolve our youth. Our youth is our future — skilled workers, tradespeople, doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents, entrepreneurs, leaders in faith, and community advocates.

A child’s exposure to early literacy — sounds, books, back-and-forth conversations — can predict whether or not they will be reading on grade level by third grade. And if you’re not reading on grade level you are more likely to require special education support, drop out of school, be under or unemployed, or be in the correctional system. 

Adverse experiences in the early years impacts the brain and the neuro connections that are formed. This in turn can lead to difficulties learning and interacting with peers and adults. Children struggling in school, whether it’s early education or kindergarten, often result in suspensions or expulsions.

Research by the Foundation for Child Development shows that per capita more children are expelled in childcare settings than in K-12.

These disruptions in a child’s learning result in workplace challenges for his or her parents — increased absenteeism, distractedness, turnover etc. It’s a ripple effect. 

It’s essential that political leaders and the business community at large see high-quality child care and kindergarten readiness as multigenerational issues impacting both the current and future workforce.

How Community Connections for Children, Inc. Impacts Kindergarten Readiness

Community Connections for Children is honored to partner with David Jacobson to bring First 10 to the

communities we serve. 

Currently, eight communities are focused on families — aged 0 through 10 (third grade) — to make certain that all children get off to the best possible start. 

CCC has invested and secured through a variety of individuals and foundations approximately $400,000 in the past two years to support this important work. 

These efforts and those of the local First 10 teams have resulted in:

  • Play and Learn groups to support our youngest families
  • Joint professional development sessions between Early Childhood Educators and Kindergarten through 12th Grade Teachers
  • Increased access to and connection with community resources to support families
  • Linking developmentally appropriate curricula, particularly in the areas of early literacy, to support children’s learning
  • Assisting the K-12 system to understand the critical work of the ECE system and how play is the work and learning of the early years.

We understand that “the first decade of a child’s life provides the foundation for later learning, growth, and development. Too many children, however, face a number of obstacles from a very young age, particularly those who struggle with the effects of poverty and ongoing opportunity

Gaps.” [David Jacobson, All Children Learn and Thrive].

It’s why we are committed to working collaboratively with child care providers, parents, government, businesses and community leaders to assure that all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care. 

We believe that the children of today are critical to our future and recognize that parents, as diverse individuals, have the right and responsibility to make choices for their children’s future.

And we know our students enjoy learning and simply want to be heard. 

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more, visit

Have You Experienced a Toxic Workplace?

Posted on: August 16th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a New Job

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

If you’re like me, you have experienced a toxic work environment at some point in your career.

Maybe it was a terrible boss or clique of colleagues that made you feel left out. Maybe someone in leadership played favorites or took credit for your work. Or maybe it was low morale across the board that started to affect your own happiness.

In a recent Work and Well-Being survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), three in five workers said work-related stress caused them to have a lack of interest, motivation, and energy at work. And 36% of those surveyed had cognitive weariness, 32% emotional exhaustion, and 44% physical fatigue—almost a 40% jump from 2019.

To top it off, a record 4.5 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in November 2021. In a recent survey of 3,000 workers conducted by GoodHire, 82% reported they would consider quitting their job because of a bad manager.

Leadership is a key factor. And these startling statistics are a real-life snapshot of the American work culture.

So often we don’t know how unhealthy it is until it’s too late—having already accepted the position and settled into the day-to-day.

What can you do when you’re considering a shift in your career? And how can you set yourself up for success when it comes to finding an open, welcoming, and uplifting work culture?

Here are six questions you can ask yourself to help you determine if you’d like to move forward with the hiring process, keep looking for another option or stay with your current team.

Ask These Questions to Determine If An Organization is Unhealthy

At your very first opportunity—directly following your first interview with the organization, whether in person or virtual—take a few moments to reflect. 

Set aside 15-minutes in your schedule. Because each interaction with the company or recruiter is an opportunity to learn more about the culture and environment.

How do you feel? 

You can tell a lot about a workplace by the feel and tone of the interview. 

Were those who participated engaged, open, and interested in getting to know you? Or was it an inquisition—full of ‘gotcha’ questions? 

Take note of a scripted or forced tone as you make your decision. Or did it feel like a casual conversation, where you and those interviewing you were asking and answering questions?

And consider who participated in the interview process. Potential coworkers—and not just supervisors—being involved is a good sign that the organization practices shared leadership and values the personal relationships between coworkers. It shows they want to ensure that the people you may be working alongside think you’ll be a good fit and have (or can learn) the necessary skills to do the job.

And pay special attention to your feelings. Were you welcomed with warm and friendly vibes? Or did you feel underlying tension, perhaps noticing a rude tone or dismissive signals? All things to reflect upon after each conversation you have during the hiring process.

“Being a bystander to incivility has long-term negative consequences because bad behavior is contagious. In a series of experiments published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers found that the more people saw and were subject to rudeness at work, the more likely they were to become rude and hostile themselves.” [Huffpost]

What sounds did you hear? 

This may be harder to determine given hybrid or remote work schedules, but what do you hear in the building? Or during your virtual interview? Listen closely for background noise—it can hint at the general demeanor of the work culture.

And keep in mind, a tour of the building can be valuable in understanding workplace culture. The earlier in the process you can have one, the better. If you’re going to be working in a hybrid or ‘in-person’ capacity, it’s very important to see the physical space where you will be spending your working hours. 

Is it clean? And what about good lighting and air quality? Can you imagine yourself there?  

Obviously, while touring the space no one should be yelling at another person. But was it really quiet? What happened when someone (especially the Executive Director) entered a space? Did people scurry like mice and stop talking? Did you sense concern or even fear? 

In general, were coworkers supportive of each other? Did they converse regularly, even with someone new around? And how were they interacting with those they serve? 

You can gain a lot of valuable insights by paying attention to what you hear while on location or even through Zoom. 

What seemingly little habits did you notice?

All of us have our quirks. And sometimes those quirks can make work challenging for others. 

Did the person interviewing you come across as rigid, admitting they ‘freak out’ about the rubber bands, paperclips, or color of pen or paper used? Did they do so in such an intense way that team members were afraid of using the wrong item and getting yelled at? 

It can be really hard to assess these things during an interview, but perhaps ask them if they have any pet peeves or what their team might describe as their pet peeves. 

I have seen this over and over and over. It’s inappropriate, fear-based, and controlling behavior. And it’s a tell-tale sign of a toxic workplace environment.

I’ve seen managers with decades of experience feel anxious when making a decision. The results are unhealthy and can prevent productive work from happening.

So reflect on the quirks of the people you meet in the hiring process. And if someone laughs or shrugs off what you find to be an unhealthy characteristic, consider it your sign to move on.

And for those of us in positions of leadership—if your quirks are impacting others, take proactive steps to grow beyond them. The workplace’s health and the stress level of your team members are of the utmost importance. 

How were differences of opinion handled?

Innovation and creativity—critical components to the health, vitality, and growth of an organization—flourish in an environment where people are empowered to share ideas. Especially ideas that are different from the ones of their supervisors. 

So during the early hiring stage, notice if the leader surrounds herself with team members who know more about their specialty than she does. And if she gives them the support and tools they need to do the job, and then steps out of their way and trusts them to get it done. 

Ask about the process for team members to share their ideas, opinions, and concerns. Ask for a specific example of when they as a leader changed their mind about a process, policy, or project based upon the input of their team.

A few things to consider… did you feel part of the interview process? Or were you just a number in a lineup? Was the interviewer quiet, engaged, and deeply listening to you? 

Reflect on the health of the organization’s communication and openness, how your opinion was received, and if you feel you’re a fit for the mission or focus of the organization.

What about work-life balance?

We’ve all worked at places that talk a good game about work-life balance, but in reality, if you took time off you were seen as a ‘slacker’ who wasn’t committed to the organization or your career. 

And those places can be quite unhealthy. So pay special attention to time off and the attitude around it. But how do you figure out what that is?

Ask the interviewer about their last vacation—what they did, where they went, and if they actively worked during it or unplugged completely. And what their favorite benefit or perk of work there is, too.

At Community Connections for Children (CCC), we have 13 paid holidays, two floating holidays (employees’ choice of when to take), and 15 days of Paid Time Off (PTO) in the first year that can be used for any purpose. 

So, take notice of the benefits package—is it clear, favorable, and employee-minded? Are there any perks that reinforce the work-life balance you’re pursuing?

A few of those perks may look like PTO Coupons for additional time off as an appreciation and additional paid school visitation time for employees to participate in school activities for children aged birth through college. Or even a rotating schedule to allow for long weekends. All things we do here at CCC.

What and how was information shared?

The interview process and early stages of hiring are a great time to pay attention to how information is being shared. With you directly and with those around you. 

Did the interview operate on a ‘need to know’ basis? For a nonprofit, did you get the sense that the leadership team and the Board of Directors hold information close to the vest? Was there a lack of transparency? Often, this can lead to mistrust and even fear. 

And think about where you are with things. Do you feel well informed about your next step? 

When you asked a question someone didn’t know the answer to, did they feel put on the spot and react defensively? Or were they open and honest, telling you they’d find the answer to your question… and did they follow through with their commitment? 

And did the company stand by the timeline they committed to? 

If you’ve witnessed any worst-case scenario thinking or team members filling in the blanks for themselves, tread lightly. Often those unhealthy behaviors can lead to rumors and misinformation being shared between coworkers. 

Maybe you’ve seen an open environment, full of ease and information sharing. If you’re feeling an open invitation—for you or others to voice their opinion and to feel a sense of ownership of their work, it’s a good sign.

Signs of a Healthy Work Culture

Now that you’re tuned in to how you’re feeling in the interview process, it’s time to take a step back and assess your own workplace experiences.

You’ve probably worked at a place where the CEO or Executive Director was seen as ‘other’ . . . and maybe even a ‘villain’ — where you only went to their office on your first and last day of employment and when you were in trouble. 

And maybe they barely knew who you were. You may have even thought it was better that way. And felt relief when they walked right past you without saying hello. 

All examples of unhealthy organizations. 

But what does a healthy workplace look like? The answer is different for every individual.

For you, a healthy organization may be one in which the leader knows who you are and feels that it’s important to know something about you. And does. And remembers and asks about it the next time they see you. 

Or one where self-awareness is cherished. And where leaders work to understand and prioritize workplace culture. 

It may be an environment of conversation and a culture of sharing—a nurturing sense of community, with support and connection. One with laughter and joy. 

Once you determine your priorities, your next best step will become clear. And it will align with your core values.

“More than ever, people are on the hunt for meaning and that includes at work, where more and more of our time is spent. To attract and retain top talent, and achieve optimal productivity, companies must build greater meaning into the workplace.”

—Alexi Robichaux, Co-Founder and CEO of BetterUp.

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees for you and your business, saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian is its Executive Director. 

To learn more, visit

Additional Reading

Forbes: Toxic Workplace Culture 10 Times More Likely To Drive Employees Away, Study Shows

Connections to Caregiving-Fall 2022

Posted on: August 9th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

Connections is a training series for newly DHS Certified Family providers or those still journeying
through the certification process. Your business needs Connections! Click below for dates offered in English and Spanish!

How to Boost Board Member Support and Engagement: The Evolution of Community Connections for Children Board of Directors

Posted on: August 2nd, 2022 by Kristen Miller

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

What do you think of when you think of a Board meeting?

Is it a bunch of stuffy people in suits sitting around a long table? Overseers, out of touch with what their business is doing and its impact in the world?

This is exactly the vision that Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) has worked hard to avoid with its Board of Directors. We want a Board that is fully involved in the organization, filled with members who enthusiastically participate in CCC’s mission to ensure all families have access to affordable, high-quality childcare choices that lead to success in school and life in our region.

During my tenure as Executive Director, we’ve focused on building a strong Board and thus a strong backbone and support system for CCC. We evaluated Board Members’ term limits, implemented a Board recruitment strategy, updated the by-laws, and established “classes” for Board members to join each year that define their duties and responsibilities.

These changes spurred the Board Members to become more actively engaged in fundraising and the governance of the organization. And an engaged Board means the entire staff is able to do their job to their full potential—without additional tasks. As a result, we can serve each family and our community well. 

But what exactly does the Board of Directors do? And what steps can you take to strengthen and engage your Board of Directors? Let’s take a look.

What Role Does the Board of Directors Play?

A Board of Directors is essential to any nonprofit. It oversees how funds within the organization are used and what direction the organization is headed in. It’s made up of volunteers who believe in the mission of the organization and have a desire to serve—ones who give their time to support their community. 

Our goal at Community Connections for Children is for our Board and staff to work collaboratively. Every level of staff has access to the Board and vice versa. Free-flowing information allows us all to do our best work in a transparent and open manner.

There is no corporate ladder to climb up or certain procedures that have to be followed. If you need help, you reach out. If you have a great idea, you share it, regardless of what title you hold in the organization. 

CCC strives for a culture of trust and open communication. This culture means that if a Board Member happens to show up in the building, there’s no need to “be on your best behavior” or for a leader to “run interference” and intervene. 

Everyone is always working together for the common good. We’re not fighting to impress one another; we’re on the same team. 

Board Members work with staff members on task forces, such as our Give Local Committee. Working in tandem, our staff and Board fundraise or complete other tasks that are essential to achieving our goals—providing resources and access to childcare to every family in our area.   

Pre-COVID, the Board was also involved in staff parties, retreats, and training. They aren’t just overseers that show up once a month to dictate what’s happening with the organization. They form great connections with the staff. And the staff members do the same. 

A Look at the Board Structure

Community Connections for Children currently has fourteen Board Members, and are working to add new members. If you’re interested, please call (717) 968-8398 or email

Our Board meets virtually every other month, with committees meeting on alternate months. 

The committees are small groups that focus on specific functions. Most of the Board’s work is done at the committee level and promotes active participation.

Our current committees include:

  • Executive Committee- which also serves as the Governance and Nominating  Committee
  • Marketing Committee
  • Personnel Committee 
  • Finance Committee

Currently, the Board of Directors has five officer positions including President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Past-President. 

With this structure, the Board is able to effectively help to lead the work of CCC. The various roles and committees provide support and guidance to the Executive Director and every staff member in the organization. Keeping the Board running efficiently is essential as CCC is one of the region’s largest nonprofits, with a $175 million budget and over 80 team members. 

What Do We Look For in Board Members? 

Community Connections for Children seeks out Board Members who are interested in serving children, families, and our communities. A commitment to our mission is the most important requirement. 

We also want Board members to have a passion for giving back. And we want diverse representation on our board—in all the ways that can be defined.  

Board Members that bring specific strengths—such as marketing, finances, legal, and human resources expertise—add significantly to our depth of knowledge. But we also appreciate the “generalists,” those who have experience and skills in a wide variety of disciplines. 

More than anything, we look for enthusiasm, a willingness to share opinions and ideas, and a drive to help us be the best CCC that we can be.

Proven Ways to Boost Board Member Engagement

In the past decade-plus, we’ve explored various ways to encourage Board Member participation and help new members acclimate to our organization. 

Here are six proven ways for you to try:

  1. Have recruitment procedures and standards.

Board Members should be enthusiastic about your organization’s mission and have enough available time that they can commit to the duties. Starting off on the right foot with the right Board Members is key to high Board engagement. [Wiley Online Library]

  1. Create sub-groups for Board Members.

Well-defined classes or committees that Board Members belong to give both structure and purpose. Each sub-group should have specific functions or responsibilities. This will help your Board Members feel like they aren’t just another face in the crowd. They have purpose and value within the organization. [Sheila M. Bravo, PhD]

  1. Survey Board Members often.

At CCC, we survey our Board regarding their understanding of the organization, experience as Board Members, and ways we can improve. The responses guide our Board development and engagement efforts.

  1. Keep Board meetings focused.

With each discussion, stay on topic and be concise. Make sure everyone shows up prepared and briefed on the topics to be discussed. Be as mindful of your Board Members’ time as possible. 

  1. Emphasize the relationships between Board Members.

Board Members need to work together as a team and that will go much smoother when they know one another well. When a new Board Member joins, assign them a veteran ‘buddy’ to show them the ropes. Encourage Board Members to connect and socialize at the organization’s events. 

  1. Envision a shared future together.

A Board of Directors should be future-minded, leading the organization’s next steps. Emphasize that everyone is working as a team to accomplish these goals. 

Engagement is a Core Value at Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Recently, CCC received a three-year Capacity Building Grant from the Donley Foundation. These funds allowed us to support further Board development. We partnered with Leadership York to receive Board training, assistance with Board recruitment, and revision of the By-Laws. 

Community Connections for Children continues to work on the diversity of our Board to best represent our region. We know that listening to unique perspectives provides incredible value to our organization. 

The training that all new Board Members receive enables them to understand CCC’s programs and funding streams, early childhood education issues, and our operations.

However, we know this work is ongoing and that engagement is an active task.  

As we continue to recruit new Board Members and welcome them to our organization—and as we consider expanding our services and implementing new programs—we work hard to actively engage our Board. They are an essential part of the CCC team and mission. 

“A strategic board has a view of looking ahead, an insight to look deeper, and competency to look beyond.”

 — Pearl Zhu

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees for you and your business, saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Heather Spitzlay serves as CCC’s Human Resources Manager and Christy Renjilian is its Executive Director. 

To learn more, visit

Additional Reading

Fostering a Culture of Innovation and Generosity

The Big Impact of Community Services at Community Connections for Children, Inc.

5 Tools to Help You Make an Even Bigger Impact

Posted on: July 26th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

Five Go-To’s for Community Connections for ChildrenCare Consultants, Inc. 

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Have you ever stumbled across a tool or resource that changed the way you work or approach life? The impact that one piece of technology can have on you and your business can be monumental.

Time and energy saved. And money expanded — so often we are better able to serve our community and clients with these increased resources. 

The nonprofit world feels this, too. And some of the challenges facing us as nonprofits have only grown since the pandemic. From budget cuts and stifled resources to ever-changing rules and guidelines, our toughest hurdles have only gotten more difficult to jump over.

And we lean on tools and resources now, more than ever. They help us to expand our workload, retain our exceptional employees, automate repetitive tasks, provide flexibility, improve visibility, and showcase our adaptability.

Just like in the business world.

You may be thinking. . . “Great, but you have no idea about our unique struggles. And how hard it’s been the past two years.”

Well, it may just surprise you how many nonprofits are facing hardships. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, about 30% of nonprofits will cease to exist after ten years.

The failure rate is high. And it’s growing.

And nonprofits’ reach in the United States is massive. Did you know there are 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States? Or that nonprofits employ 10% of the US workforce?

Here in Pennsylvania, nonprofits employ over 15% of the workforce. For every seven people, one works in the nonprofit sector.

And the total nonprofit annual revenue in the United States is $2.62 trillion. [Source: Zippea]

We have to stick together, as an industry. . . and work together with corporate and business partners to grow our impact and live out our mission. Regardless of all of the struggles and hardships of being a nonprofit in 2022. 

“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

— Socrates

Five Tools That Have Completely Changed the Way We Work:

  1. Rocketbook

In 2021, Community Connections for Children purchased a “Rocketbook” for each staff member. 

Rocketbooks are reusable notebooks you use with special pens. You can write, chart, draw, plan, vision, etc. on a page in the book using the companion pen. Then you simply upload the document. It will automatically change your handwriting to text and add it to whatever folder or platform you prefer.  

And when you’re ready to start a new project, you just wipe off the page and begin again.  

It’s easy to customize, too, with shortcuts to various icons so that the app knows where you want the document to be uploaded (or you can indicate it each time).  

The Rocketbooks have multiple benefits—they reduce costs associated with purchasing notebooks, steno pads, etc. for staff. They also enable a staff person to handwrite their notes (many of our team members prefer to do this) but still upload it into their files—Microsoft, OneDrive, Google Docs, etc. 

If using OneDrive and/or Google Docs—the file can be accessed by others. This benefit alone has saved staff a LOT of time and made sharing personal handwritten notes very easy. 

Rocketbooks come with a variety of page types—blank, lined, calendar, planning guides, task charts, ideas, and graph paper. You can even get special pages, such as music staff.  

The Rocketbook Fusion is approximately $35, additional pens cost $12 for a pack of seven of various colors. There are training videos, email updates, and information on their website to help you use your Rocketbook. 

You may find like we did, that some staff has already been using Rocketbooks in their personal lives. They may be able to step up and serve as guides, providing how-to tips and troubleshooting help for other staff.


Community Connections for Children utilizes BOARDnetWORK to manage our Board documents, meeting calendars and communication.  The platform enables you to upload documents, including organization items such as articles of incorporation, IRS determination, audits, and 990s.  

The meeting function allows you to create an agenda and embed the related documents (minutes, reports, action items) into the agenda. It will then create a notebook for the meeting combining all the documents into one.  This cohesion helps board members easily follow along during the meeting. 

The all-in-one notebook function works for each unique committee you have as well as the full Board meetings. There’s no need for Board members to hunt for emails (or for the staff to create them) to find the documents for a meeting.  

The platform sends out meeting announcements and reminders, for both committee and Board meetings. All you have to do is enter their contact information, create your committees, and then it will automatically send the information to those on that committee.  

This has been a huge help in organizing all the committee and Board documents into one searchable, always accessible place. It’s reduced the amount of time our staff spends creating and organizing materials for committee and Board meetings.  

BOARDnetWORK is free if you have Nonprofits Insurance Alliance. The platform is very intuitive and easy to use. There are step-by-step guidelines and support to help you set up your system.  

  1. OneDrive and TEAMS

Like nearly everyone, CCC quickly had to learn how to use TEAMS and Zoom to be able to provide our services virtually to families, providers, and the community. Staff, particularly our STARS department, have become very skilled in the various OneDrive platforms which enable us to share documents, access documents remotely, and communicate with one another. 

We have created a wide variety of TEAMS –by department, by job function, by committee, and throughout the entire organization. We utilize TEAMS not only for meetings, but also to have a quick “chat” or for a virtual group discussion. Staff can enter their questions and coworkers can respond. 

It has decluttered email inboxes and provided an option for those “quick water cooler” type conversations. We also use TEAMs for staying connected and promoting our culture.  We have TEAMS threads to share “kudos and thanks for being awesome” news. We have SharePoint folders for mental health resources and our various committees. 

It saves us time and effort because we don’t have to email people documents (also reducing the number of documents on our server or the cloud).  We can share documents with those outside the day-to-day of our organization, too—the Board, partners, etc., and they can access them and make revisions. 

CCC staff have participated in training for the various aspects of OneDrive, and have then trained others.  

We use OneNote, SharePoint, and other platforms to create and organize files, particularly those where multiple staff need access and enter data. It also increases security when accessing files as you can set up a two-part authentication process. 

OneDrive is free with Microsoft 365.

  1. Healthy Minds App

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) through the PA Key, graciously provided access to the Healthy Minds App to all CCC staff. 

The app has both podcast-style lessons and mediations. It teaches how the brain works and helps you incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily life. Meditations can be done while seated or while active. The lessons and mediations average about 5 to 10 minutes which makes them easily incorporated into a busy hectic life.  The app focuses on four pillars of the science of training the mind—awareness, connection, insight, and purpose. 

It’s an easily accessible tool to begin implementing small mindfulness practices in your day-to-day life—even for those who have no experience in meditation or may be skeptical. 

The tool also has check-in features that create a personalized report to measure your progress.  CCC encouraged our staff to participate (although of course, it’s not mandatory) as we want to give tools that help address the stress and mental health issues that have increased over the past two years. 

I have really enjoyed the app and have participated for the past 180 days (and counting!). The tool has inspired us to implement a “Mindful Monday Morning” practice. A great way to start the week, a “Mindful Monday Morning” is open to all staff and involves meditations and mindfulness activities led by a rotating cast of members of our staff.  

We also are working with OCDEL to support the utilization of the app by early childhood educators and participate in the statewide committee.

The Healthy Minds App is free, although some of the workplace features have a cost.  

  1. Wellness Tools, Like Standing Desks and Under-Desk Ellipticals

Ergonomics and wellness are important for the overall health of our team. Prior to COVID, CCC staff were able to request ball chairs, standing desk converts, and/or under-desk ellipticals. Staff was also able to request ergonomic keyboards, computer mice, etc. to ensure a comfortable, safe, and wellness-enhancing work environment.  

And when we transitioned to working at home, staff were able to “sign out” their equipment for their home “office” space. 

We believe in promoting wellness and understand that sitting for eight hours a day does not encourage a healthy body. We also know that people come in all shapes and sizes and need chairs and devices that work for them.  

By accommodating these needs, we enable our team to function at the highest level possible. These items also help reduce back, wrist, and other pains or injuries. It’s a concrete way to show our staff that we value their well-being. 

Costs vary depending on the particular item. Some of our favorite picks are:

A Culture of Wellness and Support

We want every single hour spent working—whether in the office or from home—to be comfortable and productive. 

The work that our team does here at CCC is important. It allows families to be supported in their parenting journeys and early childhood educators to be supported as they shape the next generation. 

And for our staff to continue to do that work, they need support themselves. We need to care for one another. Genuinely seeking out how our colleagues are doing, identifying their needs, and working hard to meet them. 

Burnout is real. And we want to eradicate it. So together, we will continue to focus each day on wellness and taking care of one other. 

“For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.” 

— Millard Fuller

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees for you and your business, saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian is its Executive Director. 

To learn more, visit

Additional Reading

Fostering a Culture of Innovation and Generosity

Human Resources: Our Approach

Posted on: June 17th, 2022 by Kristen Miller

Human Resources: Our Approach

How Community Connections for Children, Inc. Shifted Their HR Culture 

Written By: Heather Spitzlay and Christy S. Renjilian

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase human resources

A sifter of resumes? An enforcer of rules? Or maybe even the termination engineer? The latter is a term made popular by Up In The Air, a movie starring George Clooney. 

I hope these ideas aren’t the ones that pop into your head. But so often, human resources can bring up negative feelings or thoughts. Partly due to the influence of media and culture. And partly due to your past experience—or the strong feelings or wild tales of someone you know.

So what does an effective, people-forward HR approach look like?

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC), like most nonprofits, small businesses, and large corporations, shifted its approach in the past decade—especially in the past two years, given the pandemic and tight labor market.

Why Are Human Resources Essential to Your Culture?

Human Resources is the foundation and core of our organization. 

Our talented, committed, and respected team serves our community each and every day—and without them, we wouldn’t be able to meet and exceed our goals and objectives.

Treating our employees well, really well, is essential to our success. 

And human resources, as a department, ensures that we continue to reflect, recommit (if necessary), and re-evaluate our policies, procedures, culture, and day-to-day interactions. 

They also set the example of how to treat one another and follow it relentlessly.  

By listening to and guiding the team, the human resources team aligns our work with our values.

A Look at the Organizational Structure and Retention

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is one of the region’s largest nonprofits, with a $175 million budget and a total of 81 team members, eight of which are part of the leadership team.  

The departments include Child Care Works, STARS, Community Services, Community Engagement, Finance, and Human Resources. 

You may remember that in July of 2018 CCC expanded its footprint—and doubled the number of staff. Nearly 80% of the team that was working at CCC prior to that expansion are still with us.

And we’ve experienced even more recent growth. In April of 2020, CCC had 75 employees. And now, in mid-2022, we have 81. 

Since the start of the pandemic, only one person has left to accept a position outside of the organization. That’s one person in over two years during what has been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation.’ It’s unheard of and something we are very proud of.

The team here at CCC is both loyal and tenured. Collectively, we have over 300 years of experience. And five team members have been with CCC for over 20 years. We have a strong history of advancement within the organization. 

We’re proud of our retention efforts. And our turnover rate, which averages 2% per year. That number reflects all reasons for separation—like retirement, relocation, leaving the workforce, and medical reasons.

If you’re interested in our mission and working with CCC, we currently have two openings, both in our Finance Department. To learn more, visit

What do you look for in new hires? 

In the past four years, CCC has grown exponentially. And our human resources team has developed an exceptional hiring and onboarding process.

With possible candidates, we look for people who are committed to creating and nurturing our positive work culture. And those who are committed to service and fostering relationships with children, families, child care providers, and communities.

Experience is always weighed heavily, especially in specialized positions. An example is our Keystone STARS department—we look for persons with degrees in education and experience working in child care.

And CCC is committed to an inclusive and diverse workforce. We know that a welcoming, collaborative culture brings out the best in each team member. We strive to attract and retain a diverse range of skills, experience, and perspectives.

A List of Nine Effective Interview Questions

As for the actual hiring process, our approach includes both open dialogue and job-specific questions. The questions we ask to help us discern if the candidate and our organization are a good match.

And because we believe in transparency and sharing best practices so that everyone can succeed, we want to help you either prepare for an upcoming interview or optimize your hiring process.

So, here are nine of our favorite interview questions:

  1. If you were offered this position, what do you think your biggest challenge/learning curve would be in the first month?
  1. If you thought a coworker was doing a task incorrectly or not following the proper procedure, what would you do?
  1. Tell us about a time when you had to work hard to establish a good working relationship with someone. What was challenging about the situation and what did you do to address the issue?
  1. Tell me about a situation when you had to adjust to changes over which you had no control. How did you handle it?
  1. What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make at work? How did you arrive at your decision? What was the result?
  1. What traits do you consider to be critical for your coworkers to possess? 
  1. How do you define service or serving others?
  1. How do you work with others who are different from you? Have different values, life experiences, and cultures? What specific experiences do you have working with diverse communities?
  1. At your retirement party what would you want your coworkers to say was your greatest accomplishment at CCC?

We tailor these questions, as needed, and really strive to understand each candidate’s thought process and scope of talent—and if they align with our culture and desires for the open position.

Work Values at Community Connections for Children, Inc.

The leadership team and human resource professionals at CCC understand our job is to support our staff. We serve them (not the other way around).

And we know our success rests on our entire team being–and feeling—supported, respected, engaged, and valued.

That’s why we practice what we preach. We have a culture of work-life balance. We serve families and our community, but not at the expense of our staff’s families.

One of the most-liked benefits at CCC is the generous paid time off. And our HR staff and entire leadership team encourages staff to use their PTO to promote work-life balance in our company. 

And as a team, we strive to have open communication and believe that a culture of excellence and fun are not mutually exclusive.

A Shift in the Human Resources Approach

“In order to build a rewarding employee experience, you need to understand what matters most to your people.” 

– Julie Bevacqua

In the past five years, CCC has made quite a few changes to our human services efforts.

The first big change was adding a manager to oversee the human resources department. By having an experienced person leading this function, we run more smoothly as an organization and our employees are taken care of even better. 

As many businesses have, we’ve been flexible in the face of the pandemic. And sustained that flexibility, with remote and hybrid schedules that consider people’s work duties and their preference for working remotely or in the office.

We also support the needs of the team’s families and social isolation—providing opportunities for additional connection and support with fun virtual activities, like book clubs, trivia nights, and lunch and learn sessions.

And we’ve increased our wellness support, both physical and mental, by offering the Healthy Minds App and sharing wellness tips each month.

It’s all about reinforcing the team—human resources is a support system, along with its policy function. Both elements are important. Policies are in place for a reason, to protect and uplift the team. And it’s HR’s duty to enforce them ethically.

At the end of the day, our human resources efforts are about being an advocate, ally, and support to our team of employees.

About Community Connections for Children, Inc.

Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees for you and your business, saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Heather Spitzlay serves as CCC’s Human Resources Manager and Christy Renjilian is its Executive Director. 

To learn more, visit

Additional Reading

Fostering a Culture of Innovation and Generosity

The Big Impact of Community Services at Community Connections for Children, Inc.