Pennsylvania’s early learning programs
Whether it’s child care, Head Start, or preschool, your child’s early learning program matters!
- Find out more about why quality matters in early learning programs and questions to ask about a program’s quality
- Download our PA Promise bookmark with quick tips on choosing an early learning program for your child. (PDF) or order copies online
Through Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), Pennsylvania invests in a number of programs, serving more than 300,000 of Pennsylvania’s children and families. Pennsylvania’s early education programs are built on best practices, accountability at every level, and making sure that our programs are preparing children for school. Programs like Child Care Works, PA Pre-K Counts, Keystone STARS, Head Start, Nurse-Family Partnership, Parent-Child Home Program, and Early Intervention, help our local agencies, early learning programs, and school serve our children better so they get the early education they deserve. They give our families choices for quality early education at home, in community programs or in school, for part or all of the day.
Pennsylvania’s Certification Services Bureau certifies and inspects family and group child care homes as well as all child care centers in Pennsylvania to make sure that they meet basic health & safety standards. The Regional Child Development Offices can also answer questions about a child care program’s safety record and take complaints against a child care program.
Pennsylvania’s Child Care Works Subsidy provides financial assistance for child care so that low-income parents can continue to work and provide for their families. Pennsylvania’s Child Care Information Services (CCIS) agencies offer parents a wealth of resources on how to find the best care for their child. Families can apply for Child Care Works online or visit the CCIS agency in their county. To be eligible for Child Care Works, families must earn 200% of the federal poverty level or less, such as a family of four earning $47,100 a year and meet certain work requirements.
Parents can receive parent information and counseling from Child Care Information Services (CCIS) agencies on:
- How to choose quality early learning programs for their child;
- The benefits of early learning programs for their child;
- Selecting a child care setting that meets your needs;
- Early care and education programs available in your community:
- Child care provider referrals tailored to your specific needs
Pennsylvania’s Children’s Trust Fund is teaching parents and early childhood teachers ways to strengthen families and build protective factors in an effort to prevent child abuse and neglect before it begins.
For parents of children ages birth to five with disabilities or developmental delays, Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention (birth- five) program provides individualized support and assistance for both child and family. Early Intervention provides children from birth to five with disabilities or developmental delays with services to help maximize their development so they are successful in any early education setting. These services are available in all Pennsylvania counties and are provided free of charge to children and their families. Based upon the individual needs of each child and the child’s family, the programs may differ.
Services can include:
- Support services
- Development therapies
- Parent education
- Other family centered services that assist in the child’s development.
Head Start provides comprehensive early learning services to children and families who are most at risk of academic failure. Families earning 100% of the federal poverty level or less are eligible to apply. There is no cost to families.
Keystone STARS/ Early Learning Keys to Quality supports child care and Head Start programs that are committed to continuous quality improvement and offers families a valuable tool to gauge quality in early learning programs. Programs earn a STAR 1 through STAR 4 rating based on research-based standards for staff education and professional development, early learning environment, and business management. The more Stars, the higher the quality. Eligible xhild care programs receive professional development, technical assistance and targeted financial supports to continue to improve the quality of the early learning services they provide.
The Nurse-Family Partnership gives first time mothers the supports necessary to provide an excellent start for their children. Registered nurses work with the expectant mothers to ensure a healthy pregnancy, to engage in activities with the baby that will promote healthy development, and to make plans for the future.
Pennsylvania’s Parent-Child Home Program, provides a home visitor to help parents learn how to read to and play with their children in a way that promotes early learning and builds a positive parent-child bond.
Parent Child Home Program is for families who:
- Enroll their children between 18 months and two years of age and participate for two years.
- Are challenged by low levels of education, poverty, literacy and language barriers, and/or are isolated and not accessing community services.
PCHP is free to families in 3 counties.
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, provides high-quality half-day and full-day kindergarten for at-risk preschoolers in schools, Head Start, child care centers and nursery schools.
PA Pre-K Counts is designed for children who:
- Are between age 3 and until the entry age for kindergarten and live in families earning up to 300% of poverty (such as a family of four earning $70,650 a year)
- May be affected by other risk factors such as English language learners or having disabilities or developmental delays.
PA Pre-K Counts is free to families. There are PA Pre-K Counts classrooms in most of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Space is limited and classrooms fill up quickly, so it is recommended to enroll your child in March or April for the coming school year.