Executive Summary for the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) State Plan for Plan Cycle FFY 2022-2024

Child Care Works and Keystone STARS

  • Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) is the primary source of federal funding for Pennsylvania's subsidized child care program, Child Care Works (CCW) and its quality rating improvement system (QRIS) Keystone STARS.
  • Pennsylvania's annual federal allocation is one of the largest among all U.S. states and territories.
  • CCW currently serves about 74,000 children each month.
  • Families must meet work or job training requirements and have income below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines (FPIG) to enter the program and income below 235 percent of the FPIG to remain in the program
  • Foster children, children who are enrolled in PA Pre-K Counts, Head Start, Early Head Start, newborn siblings of children who are already enrolled, children of teen parents and children experiencing homelessness are placed prioritized on the wait list. Families qualifying under the low-income program are placed on a waiting list if funds are not immediately available. There is no waiting list for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) families and former TANF families.

Key Changes for Pennsylvania's CCDF Plan


  • The plan covers the period Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2024.
  • There are eight sections to the plan that span all elements required under the CCDF re-authorization of 2014.
  • Pennsylvania's plan certifies how we comply with all the requirements.

Promote Family Engagement through Outreach and Consumer Education (Section 2)

  • The resources and supports for consumer education and referrals are available to all families regardless of income.
  • The Department of Human Services' (DHS) consumer education websites — Early Childhood Education and Child Care and Early Education Programs Search — provide a variety of information to the public about child care options, quality child care, inspection results, and information about becoming a licensed child care provider, including criminal background check requirements.
  • Families can access information about a multitude of services and benefits, including, but not limited to, Head Start, TANF, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medical Assistance (MA) using the public portal "COMPASS".
  • Information and resources are available to families of children with special needs through the CONNECT helpline.
  • Pennsylvania has issued policy statements and guidance to providers and parents regarding the reduction of suspension and expulsion of children from care.

Provide Stable Child Care Financial Assistance to Families (Section 3)

  • Families enrolled in CCW are eligible for no less than 12 months of continued eligibility before eligibility is redetermined, regardless of a temporary change in the ongoing status of the parent or caretaker's employment, job training or educational program, and increases in the family's annual income as long as the family income does not exceed 85 percent of the State Median Income (SMI) for the family size.
  • Participating families are required to report fewer changes, and there are a limited number of circumstances under which child care assistance would end before the conclusion of the 12-month period.
  • Families experiencing homelessness or domestic violence may seek waivers for verification requirements, making the initial application process easier.
  • Grandparents and other caretakers who suddenly find themselves responsible for young children can expect to receive help with child care for the duration of the 12-month period, continuing child care assistance at a time when the child and family most need it.
  • Families experiencing increases in wages can expect to remain in the program as long as their income does not exceed the threshold of 85 percent of the SMI in between redetermination periods or 235 percent of the FPIG at redetermination. This means a family of four can remain income eligible until their next redetermination if their annual income does not exceed $82,261. At redetermination, a family of four can remain eligible if their annual income does not exceed $62,275.
  • Families pay only a small percentage of their income towards their cost of care.

Ensure Equal Access to Child Care for Low-Income Children (Section 4)

  • All regulated providers are eligible to receive CCDF funding, including Child Care Centers, Family Child Care Homes (FCCHs) and Group Child Care Homes (GCCHs). Families also have the option of choosing a relative provider, as defined by CCDF. In certain circumstances, a relative provider can provide in-home care for children meeting the criteria.
  • Currently 89 percent of licensed child care providers have an active CCW agreement with one or more Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC). 73 percent of providers have current CCW enrollments and there are 1,840 relative-providers.
  • In 2018-2019, $2 million in CCDF funding was used to fund a pilot program serving CCW eligible infants and toddlers via contracted slots. The Infant Toddler Contracted Slots (ITCS) Program was expanded in the 2019-2020 budget which included an additional $15 million to serve more eligible children. Contracted slots are an alternative to the traditional voucher system. Instead of having funding follow the child, as in the traditional voucher system, the ITCS program, awards funding to a provider. If a child leaves the funded provider, the provider continues to be paid for the slot and is responsible to fill the slot with a different CCW eligible child. In SFY 2020-2021, just over $14 million of CCDF funding was used in eighteen of Pennsylvania's nineteen ELRC regions to provide the ITCS program. The goals of the ITCS program include providing fiscal stability for high-quality child care providers serving CCW eligible infants and toddlers, and establishing a continuum of care for children and families in high-quality child care settings with a focus on strengthening the link between high-quality child care programs and high quality pre-kindergarten programs.
  • The Cost of Child Care in Pennsylvania study conducted by Penn State University indicates a strong correlation between quality and increased child care costs. STAR 3 and 4 providers generally had higher costs compared to STAR 1 and 2 providers. As such, half of the STARS 3 and 4 providers had per-child costs greater than the maximum cost of STAR 1 and 2 providers in the study. In prior years, OCDEL prioritized increasing tiered reimbursement rates for higher Keystone STAR designations. As a result of the 2019 Market Rate Survey, OCDEL prioritized increasing base rates to ensure all providers have adequate funding to meet health and safety guidelines and have opportunity to pursue higher levels of quality.
  • Tiered reimbursement for STAR 2, 3, and 4 providers remains unchanged.
  • Pennsylvania's county based CCW rate structure was replaced with an ELRC regionalized rate structure.
  • For families at or below 100 percent FPIG, co-payments will not exceed 8 percent of annual income. For families at or below 235 percent FPIG, co-payments will not exceed 11 percent of annual income.
  • Pennsylvania recognizes it has additional work to do to improve payment rates for providers.

Establish Standards and Monitoring Processes to Ensure the Health and Safety of Child Care Settings (Section 5)

  • Pre-service training and ongoing professional development in twelve core areas include:
    • Prevention and control of infectious diseases
    • Pediatric first aid and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
    • prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
    • Administration of medication
    • Prevention and response to emergencies due to food and allergic reactions
    • Building and physical premises safety
    • Prevention of shaken baby syndrome, abusive head trauma, and child maltreatment
    • Emergency preparedness
    • Handling and storage of hazardous materials
    • Appropriate precautions in transporting children
    • Recognition and reporting of child abuse and neglect
    • Child development
  • Pennsylvania has approximately 6,884 child care providers and 137 licensing representatives. This is a ratio of approximately 50 providers:1 certification representative.
  • In a review of Pennsylvania's Criminal Background check process, as part of a federal Technical Assistance (TA) effort, our current background check of the state criminal repository was identified as name-based and the process to link to the FBI fingerprint process did not meet the requirement. Pennsylvania continues to work to come into compliance with this requirement by developing a process to comply with a fingerprint-based check of the state's criminal repository.

Recruit and Retain a Qualified and Effective Child Care Workforce (Section 6)

  • OCDEL sets the policies for Professional Development (PD) within the Early Childhood Education (ECE) workforce system in Pennsylvania. In response to the work of the Power to the Profession Taskforce, In July 2020, Pennsylvania began the process to review the current Core Knowledge Competencies (CKCs) and make recommendations for a revised set of Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators (PSCECE).
  • OCDEL transitioned from the previous Career Lattice to the current Career Pathway model. The Early Childhood Education ECE Career Pathway serves to simplify and guide the profession towards meeting the minimal qualifications and competencies needed for each ECE role within the commonwealth.
  • Professional Development Organizations (PDO) were established in January 2020 through a competitive Request for Application (RFA) process. The awarded grantees work under contract with OCDEL to develop partnerships with Pennsylvania-based institutions of higher education (IHE) and community-based partners to provide credit-bearing professional preparation for ECE professionals working to provide high-quality early learning services to children and families.
  • Pennsylvania released policy guidance setting new standards for interagency collaboration at state and local levels to identify young children experiencing homelessness and ensure access to quality early learning programs.

Support Continuous Quality Improvement (Section 7)

  • A broad overarching goal is to improve racial equity in Pennsylvania's child care system. In the DHS Racial Equity Report 2021 more than 50 percent of families enrolled in CCW are Black, despite making up 13 percent of the population in the state. 65 percent of the children enrolled in CCW are attending child care settings with lower ratings (1 or 2 STARS in the Keystone STARS system). Child care settings with 3 or 4 STARS serve the fewest number of families receiving CCW. Within populations identified as Black and White, 31 percent of Black children enrolled in CCW are in STAR 3 or 4 programs as compared to 46 percent of White children enrolled in CCW. In the FY 22-24 plan cycle, a priority will be to equalize the representative enrollments.
  • Keystone STARS Performance Standards were designed to be flexible enough to allow for defining quality in different types of settings including family child care homes (FCCHs), group child care homes (GCCHs), and school-age child care (SACC) programs. Pennsylvania's QRIS is a hybrid system where providers must meet certain foundational standards at STAR 2 but have more flexibility to choose priority activities for points to assist them in moving up in designation.
  • OCDEL has established annual participation goals for each STAR level and monitors the business partners responsible for these quality activities. OCDEL has a strategic progress indicator goal to increase the total number of children enrolled in CCW in STAR 3 or 4 programs from approximately 36.7K (in December 2020) to 47K by May 2025. Also, to decrease time ECE programs remain at STAR 1 and 2 before moving to STAR 3 or 4.
  • In August 2020, OCDEL implemented a new Internal Assessment Process (IAP). With this process, programs can choose from a broader selection of Program Observation Instruments (POIs) that may better meet their assessment of quality needs.

Ensure Grantee Program Integrity and Accountability (Section 8)

  • OCDEL participates in risk assessment of activities and audits conducted by external auditing firms and/or other State agencies, as it relates to CCDF. These audits have revealed there are no gaps in processes or procedures and no internal control deficiencies.
  • Pennsylvania participates in the triennial Federal Improper Payments Error Rate Review for the CCDF program and a separate triennial Monitoring of CCDF activities by the Office of Child Care.
  • OCDEL uses the Performance Standards Monitoring Tool to provide monitoring consistency across all ELRC sub-grantees. The Monitoring Tool addresses customer service, including resource and referral, caseload management which includes eligibility and policy compliance, and Administration, which addresses funds management. ELRCs are informed of the results of the monitoring and a plan of correction may be required If deficiencies exist.