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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

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