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With needs heightened by COVID-19, Endowments focuses $4.4 million on child care, prenatal–age three

PITTSBURGH, Pa., June 9, 2021 –The Heinz Endowments has announced $4.4 million in new funding to support Pittsburgh’s pandemic-ravaged child care sector, the well-being of mothers and infants, and training to help communities advocate for better child care and early learning policies. 

The grants include funding for a new initiative to reach out to and engage families with newborns; aid for equitable access to early childhood services and education; and efforts to empower mothers in the Pittsburgh region who are working for policy change in the prenatal–age three care and education sectors. 

“The pandemic ripped open the curtain on the precarious state of our nation’s early childhood care and education system, and has made abundantly clear how essential that system is to the healthy development of America’s children, and to the future of our economy,” said Grant Oliphant, President of the Endowments. “While recent state and federal funding is significant, we must do more to make up for chronic underfunding and invest in a system that truly works for every child.” 

Michelle Figlar, Vice-President of Learning for the Endowments, cited a 2020 Early Childhood Workforce Index study from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment that revealed that early childhood educators nationwide earn a median wage of $11.65 an hour, while Black educators in the same positions are paid 78 cents less per hour than their white peers. 

“The pay inequity many providers face, combined with the pervasive affordability and accessibility issues our most vulnerable families experience when seeking child care, shows the urgency of our work in this sector,” said Ms. Figlar. 

Grants directed to programs serving the region’s prenatal–age three children and their families include $800,000 to support Allegheny County Department of Human Services’ Hello Baby initiative. The program uses data to predict risk for all babies born in the county and connects families to a multitude of available services, including home visits, health and nutrition support, and child development and early education opportunities. 

“The Endowments’ grant for Hello Baby underscores their decades-long support of early childhood care and education in our region, and will help us reach our goal of more equitable access to services for new parents and their children through our multi-pronged contact approach,” said Dr. Erin Dalton, Director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. “Beginning with the birth of every child born in Allegheny County, our data and human-centric approach helps ensure that those babies and families most in need receive all the support they need, leading to healthier, happier futures for not only them, but for our entire region.” 

The child care sector, already operating on thin margins prior to COVID-19, has been hit especially hard by the challenges of the pandemic, which caused widespread closures of care centers due to mandated lockdowns, decreased enrollment, and increased safety protocol costs. The pandemic has focused new attention on the sector’s challenges, recognizing the critical role quality and affordable child care has for children, working families and overall economic health.  

Hosanna House, the recipient of a $400,000 grant to help bridge funding gaps caused by pandemic-induced revenue loss, provides high-quality child care, including some pre-kindergarten services at no cost for children whose families meet income requirements as part of its Child Development program.  

 “Our aim is to help ensure that all children have access to the best care possible, regardless of their family’s income or where they live,” said Leon Haynes, Hosanna House’s Founding Chief Executive Officer. “The past year has been challenging for us and the families we serve, and without this type of equity investment, we would not be able to offer high-quality, nationally-accredited care to our community.” 

“This support helps to ensure that our children are prepared as well as any child can be for kindergarten and beyond, with a goal of ending a life cycle of poverty for all children,” said Mr. Haynes. 

In addition to its funding to support prenatal-age three children and their families, the Endowments is also investing in programs designed to build community capacity and encourage broad engagement in addressing policy change, and emphasize equitable access to child care services.

Grants in this area include $600,000 to Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children to implement equity-centered advocacy in reaching pregnant women and families most in need, and $500,000 to Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children to support its strategy to increase access to high-quality, affordable early care and education services provided by an appropriately and equitably compensated workforce. 

MomsRising Education Fund, a nonpartisan, national organization that is building the advocacy strength of parents and caregivers in Allegheny County, receives a $400,000 grant to engage and empower the region’s early learning sector. 

“The collective voice of moms and caregivers of the Pittsburgh region’s children is unstoppable,” said Karen Showalter, MomsRising’s Pennsylvania Director. “Moms are determined to address the challenges facing our families, including giving our kids equitable access to care and the early learning opportunities they need.”

“By directing funding to both immediate needs and community capacity building for advocacy,” said Ms. Figlar, “we can best ensure our region’s children and their families have the care they need now, and that their voices are heard in the urgent policy challenges that are on the horizon.” 

A summary of Endowments grants covering prenatal–age three and advocacy for education and care is as follows: 

Prenatal – age three grants ($2,490,000)

Child Trends, to support prenatal - age three grantmaking and build capacity for assessment of progress toward equitable outcomes for children and families ($70,000).

County of Allegheny/Department of Human Services for Hello Baby, to support a multi-pronged outreach and engagement initiative for families with newborns ($800,000).

Elizabeth Seton Center Inc., to serve additional toddlers and their families, employ more early childhood educators, and reduce waiting lists for high-quality local child care ($50,000).

Education Law Center – Pa, to advance education justice, beginning in early childhood, by removing barriers to public education and replacing them with affirming policies ($700,000). 

Hosanna House, for funding of its Child Development Program, in recognition of decreased revenue caused by the COVID-19 crisis ($400,000). 

Mommy’s Imagination Station, to increase educational services – including early education for toddlers, Pre-K, and kindergarteners – to vulnerable populations ($70,000). 

Reading Is Fundamental Pittsburgh, to support Storymobile and Book Babies programming, and to reduce the literacy and achievement gaps in targeted neighborhoods ($400,000).  

Advocacy for education and care ($1,897,000)

Council for a Strong America, to increase capacity of regional law enforcement, military and business leaders as early childhood education and K-12 advocates ($150,000).
MomsRising Education Fund, to engage, educate and empower Allegheny County parents and caregivers to influence policies affecting the early learning sector ($400,000). 

National Council of Jewish Women, to inspire working mothers to advocate for a strong and stable child care sector ($47,000).

Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, for the implementation of a policy advocacy strategy to increase access to high-quality early care and education programs 
provided by a valued and appropriately compensated workforce ($500,000). 

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, for the implementation of a data-centric and community-informed prenatal through young adulthood policy strategy ($600,000). 

Teach Plus Incorporated, to empower effective teacher leaders to achieve education policy wins in Pennsylvania that will advance equity for students ($200,000). 


For information contact: 
Scott Roller
The Heinz Endowments
412 338 2619 /