York County Early Learning Investment Commission ECE Educator Awards 2023 Report

Posted on: November 15th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

Click MORE ON THIS STORY for the full report.

ELIC Report 2023

2022 Annual Report

Posted on: May 19th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

As reflected in our annual report, 2022 was a year of tremendous growth, accomplishments, and transition for Community Connections for Children. We are proud of the work we do, in collaboration with many in the communities we serve, to ensure that every child and family succeeds. We thank you for your support and look forward to our continued partnership.

A Brand New Name: Community Connections for Children

Posted on: March 15th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

Child Care Consultants Announced Rebrand

Written By: Shelley Candy and Christy S. Renjilian

Have you heard the news?! Child Care Consultants (CCC) is now Community Connections for Children. 

After 35 years in the non-profit field, CCC has evolved to provide expanded resources and programs for the families in their community. 

Rest assured, Community Connections for Children is still the same beloved nonprofit, providing high-quality early learning and educational solutions in Central Pennsylvania — solutions like financial aid, quality child care, provider education, and community partnerships. 

With such a comprehensive list of services, the name Child Care Consultants no longer encapsulated all of the work that our organization does. Enter a new name — Community Connections for Children — new logo, fresh look, and new branding campaign. 

CCC actively works in 13 counties across Pennsylvania. We are in the business of connecting communities, school districts, early childhood education providers, nonprofits, and businesses together to support children and families. 

Community Connections for Children and the new logo reflect our mission, vision, and values of ensuring that every child has the resources they need to be successful in school and that families are able to remain in the workforce. 

We know that early childhood education and child care are the foundation of our local economies and educational systems. 

Our efforts to ensure that children and families have the best possible start impact the trajectory of each individual — and our collective whole. We strive for educational and life success. 

And CCC is thrilled to start this new chapter. 

A New Name For Increased Clarity and Understanding

In the past five years, the team and board of directors discovered the name Child Care Consultants did not accurately reflect all of the wonderful work our team does each day. 

And as we continue to grow and evolve, we needed more clarity and understanding about our mission and vision for the services we provide. In our most recent strategic plan, a name change was prioritized. And we’ve been laying the groundwork over the last few years to make it happen. 

With our new name — Community Connections for Children — you’ll instantly know our purpose: to develop connections for children and families that will support, grow, and see them thrive.

If you’re in a similar space, considering a complete rebrand or a refresh of your mission, vision, or brand, here’s a look behind the scenes to highlight the steps we took to launch our new brand image.

How We Approached the Rebranding Process

The first step in our rebrand process happened years ago, during our last strategic planning meeting. In talking with our staff, board, and client community, the need for a refreshed brand was highlighted time and time again. And in doing so, we were able to gain the support of the staff, board of directors, and stakeholders.

Next, funds were allocated to work with a consultant, a public relations firm here in our community. And we went through a public process to select our consultant — LUMI — and to implement a marketing strategy to develop and announce our new name and fresh look.

When it was determined earlier this year that we were moving forward with a major rebrand, we formed a small committee — a task force — of staff and board members to lead the transformation. 

The task force dedicated countless hours to the process and was very deliberate and thoughtful as they considered various names and logos. It was critical to have a broad group working on the project to ensure diversity of thoughts. 

Rebranding was an exciting, energizing process that helped us to better articulate our mission, vision, and values and plan for our future.

In addition to the task force, here are some of the critical tasks the staff completed during the process:

  • Created a request for proposal (RFP) and selected LUMI as our partner. They have been very patient, easy to work with, and provided a lot of assistance.
  • Gathered feedback about the logo and brand color palette and styles.
  • Reviewed and held brainstorming sessions to discuss name options.
  • Compiled the thoughts on the brand and name suggestions for further discussion.
  • Reviewed our mission, vision, and values. Reflected on what we do and why, our role in the community, and the message we want to share and convey.
  • Aligned our efforts with our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) vision, policy statement, and values.
  • Involved the Leadership Team, Marketing Committee, and Board in selecting the final name and logo.

And now, we’re working on marketing collateral, like business cards, letterhead, brochures, digital signatures, and social media content. As well as the legal and financial changes that come when a nonprofit changes its name.

Additional steps include LUMI creating a branding guide, the announcement of our name change, and working with those we serve to assist them in knowing and utilizing the new name.

It’s been an amazing opportunity to connect our brand with those who already are familiar with us and with the community at large. It also helps us increase and strengthen our outreach efforts and build relationships with the communities we serve.   

The Biggest Struggles We Faced in the Rebrand

The hardest part of the process has been selecting a new name for the organization. 

The Committee was presented with three rounds of names to consider, and there was much debate on the meaning of words, how they would be received, and if they encompassed our mission and vision. We also wanted to ensure the longevity of the name.

Another challenge was developing and designing the new logo. With many creative options from our talented team, it was hard to land on one. And even once it was selected it took time to make adjustments to the style, font, and tagline.

As with so many organizations, it was a struggle to incorporate all that we do into just a few words. Not to mention, navigating the different meanings and values that people bring to specific words. 

We spent a lot of time talking about who are our “clients” and “audiences” (we have many) and their association with us and how the “language” used varies from program to program. Something seemingly as easy as what is the name of the sector we are in – “child care” vs “early childhood education” vs “early learning” became a sticking point.

Be aware of these sticking points as you approach a rebrand, and allow for time, discussion, and dissent. It’s important that your team and leadership embrace your new brand, and it’s important for everyone to be heard and understood.

How the New Brand Elevates Our Impact

Our former name and brand looked and felt a bit dated and much more formal. It was also narrow in scope and left someone new to our organization questioning our mission. Whether it was a potential client looking for assistance with childcare, an early childhood educator in search of training, or a community partner they were often confused.

Some thought we provided childcare — we do not. 

And others interpreted “consultants” as individuals you could hire to help you with a project. 

The name did not incorporate all the various programs and services we provide. The logo also didn’t really tell our story. The fact that it was only vertical also made it challenging to use in all the formats and ways we wanted to.

The new name, Community Connections for Children, and logo feel more relational, representing our approach and mission. It’s more open, and positive, and speaks to the heart of our work, connecting the community — in all the ways that can be defined — to support children. 

It aligns with our mission and tells you exactly who we serve and why. The logo symbolizes familial connections, growth, inclusion, and strength. It connotes a firm foundation for the child and family as well as upward movement and growth.  

We hope you love it as much as we do, and we look forward to serving our community for decades to come.

Community Connections for Children (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, and Shelley Candy is its Community Engagement Manager. Shelley was instrumental in the rebranding process, spearheading CCC’s efforts, managing the task force, and even suggesting the new name.

To learn more and to donate, visit

For more information on the consultant we partnered with, visit

Permission to Figure It Out in 2023

Posted on: February 7th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

Claiming Grace, Truth, and Patience in the New Year

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

New year, new me.

I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before. And as corny as it may sound, the new year really does bring a time to reflect and make changes that will make us happier, more fulfilled people. 

As I’ve reflected on what I want for myself and those around me in 2023, I kept coming back to three words: grace, truth, and patience

What Does Grace Mean To You? 

Grace means extending courtesy, compassion, respect, honor, and approval to someone (or yourself) regardless of whether or not you think they, their behavior, or the situation warrants such emotions. 

Grace is not transactional –it isn’t something a person can earn. It’s a way of being in the world regardless of your particular circumstances, a mindset of acceptance and giving.

One quote that’s always stuck with me about grace is this: 

“Grit determines that life challenges will neither defeat nor define us. Grace gives kindness to ourselves and others even when it’s hard.”  

— Anonymous

Now, if only it was as easy to extend grace to yourself as it is to just talk about it. 

One area I always struggle to give myself grace is public speaking. It’s not an area I feel is my strength, and I am my own worst critic. I can close my eyes and relive the dreadful experiences of my failures at various points over the years. 

But then one time when I was beating myself up about a presentation I thought should have gone better, someone asked me a question that changed my whole way of thinking. 

“Would you treat a colleague this way and say to them what you say to yourself?”

Taking a step back, I realized that the answer was no. Of course, I wouldn’t speak to someone else the way I was talking to myself.

It’s so much easier to have grace for others, but we need to give it to ourselves too. We cannot expect perfection in every moment. 

“Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.” 

— Brené Brown

Professionally, extending grace comes with the territory. An office full of imperfect people is bound to make a few mistakes. 

This reveals another area where grace needs to be the focus for both myself and others.

As a leader, I’ve related to the old adage “every success belongs to your team and every failure is yours.” It’s easy to blame myself for every minor setback or shortcoming in our organization. 

But over the years I’ve learned that beating myself up provides no progress. Instead, I must focus on how the mistake can be corrected and learned from. And how we can create systems and processes in order to not make the same mistake again. 

Reprimand is not necessary for the team member that actually made the mistake. They are likely beating themselves up, just like I would.

Instead, a leader must support and develop that individual through the mistake. And foster a culture where every team member feels confident to take risks, make mistakes, find solutions, and grow from their experience. 

Seeking Truth in Personal and Professional Settings 

Truth means you believe and share the facts about a situation. You are honest and forthcoming both with yourself and others. 

Truth is being open in your words and actions. Speaking the truth isn’t always easy in the short term, but it’s better in the long run.

I believe in sharing all information, both good and bad, with all of my team members. 

Some leaders operate from a “need to know” perspective, only telling each employee what they need to know to get their job done. Fostering a culture of secrecy instead of camaraderie. 

I operate from a “why wouldn’t I tell you” perspective. I know I function better, and my decisions are better when I have lots of information, facts, and perspectives to inform me about all the options. 

And I know that every single person that works with me can also do their job better with more information. 

This leads to valuing transparency, even when that’s not the norm. 

There is no place in a thriving workplace for people who are not truthful and open. Falsehoods, withholding information, and whispered secrets create toxic environments, resulting in poor decision-making. And in the long-term, it erodes relationships and culture.

Being honest in work relationships allows the opportunity to address issues promptly and prevent further problems from festering. 

Valuing Time and Having Patience While Waiting 

I don’t know about you, but I am not a patient person. 

Waiting is hard for me. Always has been. And I have little tolerance for people who don’t respect and manage time well—those always tardy folks. 

It’s a struggle and growing edge for me, to extend grace to those who have a different relationship with time than I do.

And waiting is a skill that is necessary not just for personal matters, but professional ones as well. 

For example, CCC has a policy that emails must be responded to within 24 hours. Feeling the urge to be available and responsive, I try to respond to emails more quickly. Especially if the other person is waiting on me to respond in order to move forward with their work. 

But not everyone has the same mindset. Some find it very difficult and distracting to always be checking their inbox. 

They may only check it at certain points throughout the day, responding to all the emails at once. 

This isn’t ideal for me, but if it helps others be more productive, I need to have the patience to wait for a reply. 

I am also learning to have patience not just in the small things like emails, but in the big things—like funders releasing a Request for Proposals, providers taking the steps to improve their quality, or families being ready to move forward towards achieving their goals. 

I have no control over the urgency and timetable of others. All I can do is make sure my team and I are ready to respond in a timely manner with all the support that is needed when those individuals are ready for it.

Taking a pause often helps with an impatient mindset. Before responding to someone, I take a minute and wait. 

To sit with things and allow others to sit. To ponder and reflect. To ask more questions than I give answers. 

Truth be told, some days this is a lot easier than others. Some days I think that there’s too much to do and my quick knee-jerk reaction gets the better of me.

But in every instance where I’ve prioritized a pause, the benefits are always worth that temporary discomfort. 

My Most Important Piece of New Years Advice

Just Be.

We are conditioned to always have a goal, to determine “what’s next” in both our personal and professional life. To be busy, contributing, achieving, and growing. 

These past several months I have worked hard at just being and not pressuring myself to do.

It’s been hard. I come from a long line of doers. You could say it’s in my blood. 

Both of my grandmothers worked outside the home, as did my mom. And they all were very active volunteers in their communities and various organizations. 

I can’t recall a time when I saw them just sitting, just being. And if by some miracle they were sitting after a long day at work or serving others or taking care of their families, they were still doing— knitting, quilting, sewing, making baskets. Always doing.

While I admire these matriarchal figures in my life in many ways, this is one place where I want my life to look different. I want to have value in being, not only value when I am doing.

As a society, we are very focused on what’s next. 

We ask young children what they want to be when they grow up. We ask high schoolers what their plans are for a career and beyond. 

When someone has been in their job for a while, we ask them what promotion or position they’re going after next. We ask young families when the next baby is due or when they’re moving to a bigger house

As if life is only about getting, achieving, doing, always more and more and more.

But there is so much joy and peace to be found in just being. 

Being content with what you have. 

Loving the people already around you. 

And taking time to relax and enjoy life. 

In 2023, I hope you give yourself permission to just be. To sit and do nothing. To look up at the stars and enjoy the beauty of your corner of the world. To reflect on your life and year with grace, gratitude, and joy.

Cheers to you — and to grace, truth, and patience.

About Community Connections for Children

Community Connections for Children (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

A Little Encouragement for Your 2023

Posted on: January 24th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? Or identify a word of the year?

Or maybe you took a look at your life and set goals or priorities.

If you’re anything like me, you struggled with accomplishing all of the above. 

This year I am trying hard to set meaningful, mindful goals and priorities. To focus on what I need and want more of.

If you read my previous blog, you know some of them…

To extend internal grace. And practice patience.

To simply be and not always feel like I have to do.

I made a handful of professional goals, too. Like securing a new five-year Early Learning Resource Grant for CCC. And effectively leading and collaborating with my team, creating and recreating our vision for our work, culture, and goals.

And maybe you’ve heard our big announcement, we’ve rebranded CCC from Child Care Consultants to Community Connections for Children. Stay tuned for more information! 

In 2023, I want to challenge myself to find ways to share the lessons I’ve learned as a leader with others. And to seek out and learn from aspiring leaders in my community. To find ways, in particular, to support women leaders, especially those in the next generation.

And then there are big, BIG goals… like moving the bar of progress in the early childhood education field and improving the financial conditions within the industry.

As well as educating, challenging, and nudging community leaders in the private and public sectors to make meaningful systemic changes.

Current Trends Around New Year’s Resolutions

Have you ever wondered how others feel about this time of year, and the goals or resolutions they set? 

In a recent poll conducted by Forbes Health/OnePoll, “29% of respondents stated they feel pressured to set a new year’s resolution. 

And more people cite improved mental health as a top resolution (45%) compared to improved fitness (39%), weight loss (37%), and improved diet (33%).”

And New Year’s resolutions struggle to stick with us. 

According to a OnePoll survey of 2,000 Americans in 2020 and reported by the New York Post, “February 1 is the day we call it quits on our New Year’s resolutions. It takes just 32 days for the average person to finally break their resolution(s) — but 68% report giving up their resolutions even sooner than that.

In fact, one in seven Americans never actually believe they’ll see their resolution through in the first place.

Dismal statistics, which is why I set both specific goals and overarching goals. And fill my social feed, inbox, and life with uplifting messages to keep me on track.

And today, I’m bringing you a bit of support as you reach for the goals, visions, and resolutions you’ve set for 2023.

Seven Quotes to Give You Encouragement

  1. Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction.”

— Melody Beattie

  1. “Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.”

— Morgan Freeman

  1. “What would you do if you were putting yourself first in your own life?”

― Ingrid Clayton

  1. “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”

— Hal Borland

  1. “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start.”

— Nido Qubein

  1. “But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others…It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.”

— Brené Brown

  1. “As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others, and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear.”

—  Tracee Ellis Ross

Stay True To Yourself, Always

It’s important not to get caught up in the hype or in the hustle culture that the Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuks of the world promote.

Staying true to yourself often happens in the simple things, the things you believe intrinsically. And if you’re like me, you want to embrace those things. For me, it looks like finding a better work-life balance and practicing self-care.

Trying new things AND giving myself permission to do nothing at all.

I hope 2023 is a year in which you reflect on your real priorities and what brings you joy, and you give yourself permission to do more of that.

Additional Reading

Forbes: New Year’s Resolutions Statistics 2023

NY Post: The Average American Abandons Their New Year’s Resolution By This Date 

About Community Connections for Children

Community Connections for Children (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

York County Early Learning Investment Commission ECE Educator Awards 2022 Report

Posted on: January 18th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

Click MORE ON THIS STORY for the full report.

ELIC Report 2022

What Bagels Taught Me About Leadership

Posted on: January 18th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

No one thinks of their life as extraordinary — a tool for teaching and leading others. 

I have learned all of us are mistaken. 

For good or bad, our lives have an impact on others. We carry our experiences with us. 

Often, we don’t even know we are carrying them. We lug them into places they don’t belong and realities that don’t align, even if our minds and hearts think they do. 

When years or decades have convinced us that one thing is to be expected, or ‘normal,’ even if it’s wrong and toxic, it’s hard to let that go.

In December 2011, I started a job as Executive Director. 

The building was designed, I quickly learned, by architects with a sense of humor (or too much time on their hands).

By elevator stops, there were three floors. By changes in elevation, there were seven


The Executive Director’s office, as is stereotypic, was at the very top of the building. The staff would joke that you had to pack a lunch to get from one department to another. 

After my tour, I believed them. My new office was huge, complete with a six-foot table and a large desk. By far the biggest office I had ever had. 

It was also the only one in the building with windows looking out to the street. The symbolism wasn’t lost on me.

On my second day, I decided to bring bagels to work. And to serve them on the table in my

office. The bagel shop is at the end of the street where I live, and it was an easy thing to

do. I didn’t think it would be anything out of the ordinary.

Why bring bagels? 

Because I am my grandmother’s and mother’s daughter. If you want to get to know people, share a meal with them. Serve them (literally and figuratively). 

I thought it would help me match names with faces and get to know the staff of almost 50. I chose a wide variety of bagels and types of cream cheese, set everything up, and sent out an email to the entire staff, inviting people to come to my office and get a bagel.

And no one came. I sent out a page and still, no one came.

I started to grow concerned. Clearly, what I expected to happen—bring food and people will come and eat it—was not what happened in this organization. 

I called one of the Associate Executive Directors. A woman I sort of knew prior to starting my job. I asked, somewhat panicky, “Do people not like bagels? Should I have gotten donuts?

Maybe yogurt and granola?” 

She paused and my heart sank a little. She said, “People aren’t used to going to that office. Except for their first day when touring the building and their last day. They just don’t have any context or experience for going to the Executive Director’s office. Certainly not to share a meal.”

I was incredulous. I said, “Can you please just help get them into the room? If you can get them in the room. I think I can do the rest.”

It never occurred to me that people would be uncomfortable, perhaps even afraid of sharing a meal with me. It wasn’t my lived experience. That was not how I saw myself.

That’s not the type of Executive Director I wanted to be. I too had that kind of boss (more than once). We all have. And while I wasn’t so naïve to think that the title didn’t come with assumed and real power, it certainly wasn’t my vision of leadership

The Queen Bee

I thought back to a few short weeks prior when I told my former boss I was leaving. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Oh, so you’re going to go be a Queen Bee.”

I responded (incredulously), “Well I never thought of it that way, but technically, yes, I

guess so.”

And here on my second day, I was smacked across the face with how the “worker bees” perceived the “queen.”  And I didn’t like it and that persona didn’t fit. And I knew the most important thing I had to do, in those first weeks and months, was to address this culture I had inherited. And work alongside my new team to change it.

That morning some people did come up. They trickled in. As if the brave ones were scoping me and the situation out. I had hoped they would stay and eat, so we could chitchat. Very few did. For those that did, I took it as a win, a first step in developing relationships.

And it was also clear that when those scouts returned with food and apparently unharmed, it nudged others to come up. Not everyone came. Not even close. There were a lot of leftover bagels. Bagels I stubbornly refused to move to the kitchen or conference room. I wasn’t going to concede that point: my goal of using food to start and make a connection.

Over the weeks and months, I spent as much time as I could out of my office. Interacting with the team. Sharing myself—as a person—a real person. Not the principal or the queen. Some people came around quickly. For others, it took a long time. Some were pretty shell-shocked from past toxic bosses and experiences they had throughout their careers. 

It was as if they couldn’t quite convince themselves that I meant that I wanted the culture to be different. And that I was committed to working with them to create a new culture we could all feel good about.

Gradually, Trust and Relationships Were Built

Lots of food is served from that office table. The candy jar regularly has to be restocked. The team knows, literally and figuratively, the door is always open. 

And stop in they do. To ask questions, share ideas, give feedback, and talk about their lives. They believe me, not because of my words, but by my consistent actions. They know I am there for them.

Always and all ways.

The Board hired me and I report to them. But I work for the staff. It’s my primary task to serve the staff and ensure they have everything they need to be successful. (and get out of their way and let them do it!). How else could the organization (and I) be successful?

Years later, we still talk about the day I brought bagels. It’s become, I suppose, our “creation story.” A simple act that I had no idea would become an eye-opening experience. 

A mirror held up to the culture I inherited, and the painful issues staff carried with them that needed to be addressed. And a tiptoe into the water of building trust and real relationships.

And the Other Side of the Story…

Approximately 40% of the staff who were there that day are still here nearly 11 years later. 

I recently asked what they remembered about that day. Probably the biggest testament to our new culture is that I could ask, and they felt free to respond honestly and openly. 

Here’s what they had to say:

Someone who had been on staff for years prior to that morning remembered asking a coworker where the Executive Director’s office was. She commented, “Doesn’t that say it all?  It was an open door policy without an open door for most staff.”

Several others commented they remembered not wanting to go up because it was awkward and out of the norm to do so. 

One person reported she went to other offices to ask if anyone was going up. She went on to say, she gathered her courage and went up as she was curious. But most people didn’t.

And when asked what has changed since that day, my colleagues had this to say:

You are personable, friendly, relatable, kind, humble, and tough when we need you to be. 

You have had a unique way of being our leader, feeling deeply about what we have been experiencing, and if we are content and happy at work. 

I think the appreciation you have for what we all do and the interest in wanting our opinions is a big change.  

You are more focused on our work-life balance.

Departments work together more than before.

You trust that staff will get the work done and be good stewards of our work time and taxpayer dollars.

In the past, we could not inform our staff of certain things until we had the go-ahead from upper management. Everything was so secretive and structured in a way that you could not stray from the norm.  This made our working environment very stressful.  It also made a division between management and staff. 

The culture has changed in such a way that you are more accessible and available because of your view on how an ED should support their organization and your staff. 

These responses are humbling. 

It’s been a lot of hard work, intention, and shared leadership to create this culture of trust, respect, and fun. It’s something we talk about, pay attention to, and nurture.

And I’m grateful for our shared commitment to the continued development and growth of our culture. I will, years from now, retire from this position.

However, if I ever do become a leader somewhere else, you better believe on my second day, I will bring bagels and serve them from my office. It will tell me all I need to know about the culture I inherited.

My advice to you as you start a new job in a leadership position? 

Bring bagels and serve them in your new office.

About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, 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

3 Mindset Shifts to Embrace as a Hybrid Employer

Posted on: January 18th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

As you probably know, a hybrid workplace is one in which staff members have the flexibility, based on their position, preference, and job performance, to work at the office or off-site. 

It’s a workplace that trusts and values its employees, actively promotes and fosters a work-life balance, and supports individualization of work schedules. 

These workplaces are forward-looking, innovative, and adaptive. They continue to ask the question, how can we support our staff and serve our clients better

And an understanding that the answers are not mutually exclusive.

On top of all those characteristics, successful hybrid workplaces listen.

“Our capacity to operate at peak productivity and performance varies dramatically according to our personal preferences. So in designing hybrid work, consider the preferences of your employees—and enable others to understand and accommodate those preferences.”

— Lynda Gratton with Harvard Business Review

Listening matters.

If you work at a hybrid employer, you may feel similar to the way respondents felt in a recent Gallup Poll. 

If reported the greatest advantages of hybrid work to date are: 

  • improved work-life balance
  • more efficient use of time
  • control over work hours and work location
  • burnout mitigation
  • higher productivity

And that same poll showed the greatest challenges of hybrid work include: 

  • having the right tools to be effective at work
  • feeling less connected to the organization’s culture
  • impaired collaboration and relationships
  • disrupted work processes

If you’re still on the fence about embracing a hybrid approach, here are a few statistics from Zippia’s September 2022 hybrid workplace report:

  • 74% of U.S. companies are using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model
  • 63% of high-growth companies use a “productivity anywhere” hybrid work model
  • 55% of employees want to work remotely at least three days a week

Hybrid workplaces are more in demand than ever, and I’m pulling back the curtain to share with you how we here at CCC transitioned from an in-person nonprofit to a hybrid workplace.

How CCC Shifted from a Traditional, In-Person Employer to an Evolving Hybrid Workplace

The shift from traditional to hybrid was built on the foundation and culture we work so hard to create. 

About a year into the pandemic, a manager who has been on the team for years commented, “We would not have been able to transition to working remotely if the pandemic had hit either before you became Executive Director or shortly thereafter. We didn’t trust our employees, and there was a culture of micromanagement. Our communication and connections were not strong like they are now.”

Like most Executives, while I saw the pandemic coming, I had about four hours—from the time I

got the Governor’s text at around 5 am until my 9 am all-staff meeting to develop the initial plan

for how people would do their jobs at home. 

And at that moment, while I didn’t know exactly how it would all work out, I had a deep trust in my team’s commitment to those we serve and knew they would work hard to complete their job duties.

From the very beginning of the pandemic, we were a hybrid workplace. Some staff preferred to

continue to work in the building, and we were able to accommodate them. With precautions of course, like not sending accounting team members home with blank checks and a printer.

One of our core programs pays child care fees for low-income working families directly to child care providers. We process thousands of payments and distribute them to seven counties — for an average total of $5 million a month.

The next payment was due to be processed two days after we transitioned to working at home. Plans were made to cut checks and process ACH with as few people in the building at the same time as possible. I remember going into the office at 5 am to sign the checks after the finance team member had printed them out the day before. We did whatever was necessary to keep CCC running and our community supported.

Over the past two and half years, we continue to revise our model—to re-imagine and re-

configure what hybrid means to us.

We distributed a staff survey asking each employee what their preferred work model was —home, office, or hybrid. And to define “hybrid” how many days per week or month in the office they preferred. The Leadership Team used this information to develop individualized staff schedules that aligned with preferences as well as reduce the number of people in shared office spaces at the same time. 

Some job functions, such as receptionists, require people to be in the building. Others, we have determined, do not. Even if prior to March 2020 we would never have thought the job could be performed while not in the building.

When we first sent people to work remotely from home in March 2020, of course, their laptops

went with them. Over the course of weeks, we quickly realized this was going to last longer than

anticipated, and staff could choose to take home their office chair, printer, and equipment to

support their home workspace. 

Our HR manager regularly sends information about ergonomics, mental health and wellness, and reminds the staff of our EAP services. We send multiple emails a week regarding health and wellness, started a weekly mindfulness/meditation practice, and use TEAMS for catching up and sharing photos of our lives (our new “water cooler chats”).

Three Mindset Shifts to Embrace This New Way of Working

  1. Technology Is Your Friend

CCC quickly embraced Zoom and TEAMS. Staff was encouraged to explore these tools and empowered to share their knowledge with others. We realized that TEAMS is a fantastic tool

both for “work tasks” and “maintenance and promotion of our interactions and culture.”

We learned how to teach the families, providers, and community partners how to use these

technologies to ensure that we could effectively engage with them during the height of the pandemic when in-person visits were not possible.

  1. Flexibility and Individualization

Pre-COVID, most CCC staff worked 8:30 am to 5 pm, although we did have some people begin as early as 7 am and others start later. We have shifted our mindsets so that work times are more flexible.

Our culture and trust, and systems of checks and balances, allow us to have staff work times

that align with their needs. For example, in the first weeks/months of COVID when schools

were closed or remote, some staff began their work day earlier, perhaps took a longer break

during the middle of the day (than the typical hour lunch), and then worked later into the evening.

We allowed them the flexibility to manage their time to ensure that they were both meeting their

work requirements and their family responsibilities. These schedules could change daily,

weekly or monthly as their particular situations changed, and we are able to accommodate

these variations.

CCC’s leadership team shifted to a more individualized approach. While we previously

accommodated modest variations in schedule, we typically approached situations striving for

consistency. Our mindset has shifted so that we embrace a culture of individualization.

We accommodate individual schedules, needs, and preferences. We work hard to ensure that staff view individualization as “fair” even though it may not be “equal.”

  1. Connection Doesn’t Require Proximity

Prior to COVID, we did our work in person. Either within our office buildings, at an early childhood education program, or attending face-to-face meetings in the communities we serve. We would drive all over our 13 county regions with the mindset that to support and effectively interact with someone, we needed to do it in person.

And while there are some things that are better done in person, we have learned that many

things can happen with the same high level of personal connection virtually. Particularly small

group meetings or meetings that pull in people from multiple counties. 

Eliminating travel time has greatly increased attendance at these meetings. We worked hard to provide virtual meetings across several platforms, at various times, and in both small and large groups to foster connections when we couldn’t meet in person. 

As we transition back to more in-person events, we think strategically about what the best format for the interaction is as well as the preferences of the persons we will be engaging with.

Two Reasons Our Hybrid Workplace is Working

  1. Commitment to Customer Service

From the very first days of COVID, our commitment was both to protect our staff and to continue

to provide the highest possible customer service. CCC never closed—we just transitioned to

working remotely (and now hybrid). 

We determined very quickly that the most critical aspects of customer service are not you being in the same physical space. But rather through actively listening to the person you are interacting with, building meaningful and effective supportive relationships. That work can and does happen through consistency, caring, and time. 

Our staff cares deeply about those we serve. And we mean SERVE. We work for them. And that care and commitment shines through even over Zoom or the phone. 

We believe that our retention rate (99.99% over the past three years) and the ability for clients and providers to have the same point of contact are critical to high-quality customer service and effective partnerships.

  1. Culture

CCC’s staff regularly comment that this is the best place they’ve ever worked. And that’s a

testament not just to leadership but to each and every employee. We deeply care about and pay

attention to our culture. It’s a culture of mutual respect, open communication, and the belief that

each employee is critical to our success. 

Many businesses that struggled through remote working and are having trouble implementing a hybrid work model state that the challenges are mostly around maintaining their culture and ensuring that staff feels and are connected and supported. 

Since CCC spends a great deal of time and resources promoting and nurturing our culture, we had the tools in place to maintain and grow it even during COVID.

As the saying goes, if you want to know what’s important to you, track what you spend your time

on. We intentionally spend time on communication, connections, culture, and relationships. We’ve done that for years, and it is what enables us to be so successful.

We practice what we preach, encouraging work-life balance, people taking their PTO, involving staff at all levels, seeking their meaningful input, and using it to inform decisions and policies. Board and staff (all staff) regularly serve on committees together, and the ED does not micromanage their relationships or communications.

And Our Biggest Struggle When It Comes to the Hybrid Model

… Growth

CCC added 11 positions during the past 18 months. It has been challenging to secure new

employees during this time of staffing crisis. We feel fortunate that we have all but one 

position filled. (Check out our website if you’re looking!) 

We’ve also, due primarily to the ARPA and CARES grants to ECE programs, DOUBLED our

revenue from approximately $85 million to $161 million in the past two years. 

This incredible growth was initially done with the staff on hand. It required our excellent leadership team to effectively manage job tasks, increased workloads, and staff morale. 

Of course, the increased work did not mean that other job functions went away (that’s never the case, especially for a nonprofit). Our staff rose to the occasion and have successfully navigated the exponential growth.

Advice For Nonprofit Leaders Looking to Recruit and Retain Talented Team Members

If I could only give you one piece of advice it would be to join the evolution toward a hybrid work model. 

According to Stanford University research, “About 70 percent of firms — from tiny companies to massive multinationals like Apple, Google, and Citi — have implemented some form of hybrid working arrangements so their employees can divide their time between collaborating with colleagues on site and working from home.”

Stop saying, “we have always done it this way, we can’t try that, or we have to do the same thing for every employee”

Value, trust, and actively encourage work-life balance and offer some type of hybrid work model to retain your workers.

CCC has ONE staff person who has left for another position since March 2020. One. Fortunately, the great resignation did not impact us. And you’ve heard about how women left workplaces at a higher rate… which is noteworthy since 98% of our staff are women. 

Why have we retained our team when others have not? 

Because we listen, adapt, and trust. 

As a nonprofit that serves families, it is critical that we also value—through tangible means—the

family life of our employees. We’ve worked hard to keep our culture thriving, to increase

salaries, to adapt to a hybrid model, and to support our employees.

Simple but powerful concrete actions to maintain our culture and connections included a weekly

newsletter at the start of the pandemic, not about work, but about life during the pandemic,

written by the ED. 

Fun virtual meetings planned by staff committees, that occurred both during work hours and in the evenings. We played trivia, Bingo, and Scattegories. Family members joined in. We laughed and connected with each other. 

We have lunch and learn check-ins on a wide variety of topics to promote staff interactions. The Executive Director held small group sessions with every employee to maintain connections. 

It’s imperative to evolve our culture and boost morale as leaders and employers. 

You can implement change within your organization, nurture a listening environment, and grow trust within your team, too.

“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they’re at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.”

— Sir Richard Branson, Virgin America

Additional Reading

Harvard Business Review: How to Do Hybrid Right 

Gallup: Advantages and Challenges of Hybrid Work 

Stanford: Hybrid is the Future of Work 

Zippea: 30 Essential Hybrid Work Statistics [2022]: The Future of Work

About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, 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 Uncertain Future of Early Childhood Education: Part Two

Posted on: January 18th, 2023 by Kristen Miller

Including Steps to Effect Real Change

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

When we think about “best practices” in early childhood education, let’s think in terms of policy and program structure, as well as curriculum.

Research tells us that the best early childhood education curriculums are child-directed and play-based.  

Play is the work of childhood and lays the strongest foundation and best tools for development— mentally, socially, and physically.  

A local early childhood education expert puts it this way, “Reggio Emilia, Italy, and Finland focus on children and PLAY—both exploration and discovery—with fewer ADULTS standing around to tell children what to think and how to think. Follow the children and they will lead. Give them a voice and allow them to freely explore their interests and watch what happens to our future generations.”

Play-based curriculums focus on the child and incorporate their imagination, interests, and creativity into learning. Young children don’t learn best through worksheets, drills, or computer games, they learn by exploring and doing. Incorporating these elements into every program will ensure a high-quality program.

In fact, the 2021 UNICEF Report: “Where Do Rich Countries Stand on Childcare?” assessed the following indicators: 

  • Paid parental leave
  • Access to child care
  • Quality of child care
  • Affordability of childcare

Of the 41 countries included in the study, the United States ranked 40th, only ahead of Slovakia. Dismal results, right?

And with each individual indicator, the US ranked 15th in quality, 41st in leave (yes, the very end of the list), 38th in affordability, and 35th in access. 

The report found that the US is the only wealthy country without nationwide, statutory, paid parental leave

As a country, we must do better.  

The countries in the top five overall rankings are Luxembourg, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany.  And the top five in quality are Iceland, Latvia, New Zealand, Finland, and Denmark. 

And an important point, the countries with the highest quality childcare combine a low teacher-child ratio with high qualifications. 

Why Quality Early Child Care Matters

It’s obvious why quality early child care is important as it shapes the next generation. But let’s take a dive into the latest research to really understand the value.

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, in their recent report, “From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts: A science-based approach to building a more promising future for young children” proposed the formation of the following….

“A research and development platform that will catalyze a new era in early childhood policy and practice, driven by a new way of thinking fueled by advances in science and a new way of working that embraces the culture of innovation.”

Decades of research in behavioral and social sciences and recent discoveries combine to help explain how healthy development happens, what can derail it, and what we can do to restore it. 

Important findings include:

  • Relationships with caring, responsive adults and early positive experiences build strong brain architecture. 
  • Significant stress from ongoing hardship or threat disrupts the foundations of learning, behavior, and health with life-long negative consequences.
  • Providing the right ingredients for healthy development—including protective factors that can counterbalance the effects of adversity—from the start produces a better outcome than trying to fix problems later on in life. 

It’s clear that early experiences affect a child over the course of their life—in learning, yes, but also in physical and mental health. 

Let’s explore a successful program here in the states to see what we should be working towards.

A Look at a Cutting-Edge Public & Private Partnership in the US 

Because child care is considered essential to “military readiness,” the Defense Department spends over $1 billion a year funding everything from the upkeep of centers to subsidizing parent fees to the employment of 23,000 childcare workers—many of whom are specifically trained by the military for early education and are paid more than their civilian counterparts.

The military requires its providers to meet state health and safety licensure as well as national accreditation. Nearly all (95 percent) of military child development centers have a Department of Defence certification and receive accreditation by a national accrediting body such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Compared to about 10 percent of civilian centers. 

Providers are subject to four unannounced inspections per year, and ongoing noncompliance can result in the closure and dismissal of staff. 

The education and training of child care instructors are key indicators of quality. As such, the MCCS mandates a training program (including on-the-job training) and credentials as a condition for employment. This training is provided at no cost to the employee, and it is linked to a career ladder that leads to increased compensation for each promotion. 

Additionally, the military system offers higher wages and benefits than those received by civilian counterparts, which has dramatically reduced staff turnover.

We know high-quality early care and education is expensive, and most military families are unable to afford these costs in full. All active-duty military families have access to the system and receive a financial subsidy to offset the cost. 

Fees for on-base programs are on a sliding scale, determined by family income. On average, these subsidies cover 64 percent of the cost. Families using programs in civilian communities receive a stipend to cover a portion of their costs as well.

Unfortunately, despite the nearly $1 billion federal investment in early childhood education programs for military families, there are not nearly enough slots for all the children. Waiting lists are long, priority is not clear (it’s not just in date order), and many children end up in poor-quality programs.

This model is one that researchers, advocates, and lawmakers urge the rest of the country to emulate.

Next Steps We Can Take to Affect Change in Early Childhood Education

In South Central Pennsylvania, we can, as a community, continue to build on our strong foundation and commitment to the quality of our early childhood educators, business and community leaders, and local funders.  

The York Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC) was recognized by the State, for its innovative project to raise funds to provide awards to early childhood educators. Over $468,000 was awarded to 311 teachers serving over 4,000 children. And discussions are currently underway to expand this initiative to other counties across Pennsylvania.  

Local business and community leaders continue to be engaged and committed to increasing the capacity and quality of programs.  These conversations are focused on how we can best leverage both private and public funding to encourage innovation.  

Innovative thinking includes utilizing existing empty spaces in schools, places of worship, nonprofits, offices, and businesses to open early childhood education programs. 

Innovations such as businesses reserving quality child care spots for their employees and providing additional funding to early childhood education programs to increase wages.  Or providing benefits to their employees to help with tuition. 

We know our local economy rests on the childcare industry. And that industry is in great peril. 

It’s imperative for us to work together to come up with long-term, creative solutions to increase revenue, capacity, and quality.

A Long-Term Plan of Action to Effect Change

Long-term steps include rethinking the very way the industry is structured. 

The low teacher-to-child ratios of providing education and care to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers equate to an unsustainable system. 

Parents cannot pay the full cost of care and as a result, the staff is under-compensated, and turnover is high—negatively impacting the quality of programming. 

For the past several years, the staffing crisis has only gotten worse, and most programs are serving only 84% of their typical enrollment.  

Public and private leaders are responsible for making bold, innovative changes to ensure that children get the education they need to be successful in school and life.

And doing so gives parents and guardians of young children the opportunity to work, support their families, and make an impact in their local economy.

We can not fundraise our way out of this problem. And our local leaders and foundations, as generous and committed as they are, cannot raise, year in and year out, the approximate $45 million in additional funding we need in York County, Pennsylvania alone, to fill the gap. 

Public funding to assist all families—not just those who qualify for Child Care Works, Pre-K Counts, and/or Head Start—must be considered. A variety of delivery models, incorporating our current home-based, group, and center providers, must be maintained to give parents options. 

We must invest in all children in the same way that we do low-income children, just like we fund public education for every student from Kindergarten through higher education regardless of income level. 

Some communities have raised funds with additional taxes on things like soda. Others use their lottery winnings to support young children (as well as seniors).  

Nationally, we need to develop a plan for universal care for preschoolers and a plan for care for infants and toddlers. 

Universal Pre-K doesn’t mean that every child has to attend. It means that every family who wants their child to attend has access to a quality program that meets their personal needs. Just like in Pennsylvania mandatory schooling doesn’t start until a child is eight—but most families choose to start their children at age five or six.

We can no longer be at the bottom of the world ranking in our support for young children and their families.  

It’s unfathomable that study after study proves that for every dollar we invest in early childhood education we can save at least $13 in public spending in future years, and yet we are doing nothing about it. 

It’s like if I said in Part One of this series, you’re presented the opportunity to pay a dollar for a gallon of gas today or $13 a gallon tomorrow. 

And you pick to get your gas tomorrow. And you make that choice every day for years. 

It’s a failed economic choice, and that choice is failing our children, our workers, and our businesses.  

We can and must do better.  

Additional Reading:

The Uncertain Future of Early Childhood Education: Part One

The 2021 UNICEF Report: Where do rich countries stand on childcare?

About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, 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

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