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Early Connections Annual Report 2016-2017

United Way Success By 6

United Way Success By 6 Success By 6, United Way of Erie County's Early Care and Education initiative, promotes collaborative community partnerships in order to facilitate Kindergarten Readiness for Erie County children. Professionals from a wide range of organizations come together through several SB6 committees to focus on the needs of young children and their families: Maternal Child Health Task Force, Erie County Early Learning Professionals, and Pre-K Counts, as well as in partnership with the Erie County Local Inter-agency Coordinating Council (LICC). Here are some of the highlights of the previous year: • 11th Annual Success By 6 Early Learning Expo: 87 families including 115 children (91 aged 5 and under), 26 local agency exhibits, hands-on activities, live entertainment, and educational materials. Each child received a book courtesy of Hooked on Books. • 8th Annual Pre-K Counts Awareness Day: 700 preschoolers and their teachers from Pre-K Counts programs throughout Erie County attended, taking part in a variety of educational activities and games at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. • Children’s Behavioral Health Services Guide, produced in partnership with the Local Inter-agency Coordinating Council (LICC): 100 copies were distributed to parents and childcare directors working with children experiencing challenges in the home or classroom. • Children Do Come With Directions booklets: 4400 booklets containing information on child development, health and safety, and basic information on community resources available to help support the needs of families with children were distributed to families throughout Erie County. • Kindergarten Readiness Outreach: promoted the Erie Together Kindergarten Readiness Toolkits and Kindergarten Registration Flyers with P-3 Governors Institute/Kindergarten Readiness Teams, and Kindergarten Registration Events across Erie County. Keystone STARS Technical ssistance Through an annual contract with the Northwest Regional Key, Early Connections continues to provide Keystone STARS Technical Assistance (TA) consulting to early learning and school-age programs in the region. Technical Assistance is provided to facilities who wish to progress through Keystone STARS tiered quality system to achieve a specific level of quality. Consultation is provided through multi-faceted one-on-one coaching and mentoring with early educators and caregivers. • Consultation occurs around the Keystone STARS content areas of Staff Qualifications and Professional Development, Leadership and Management, Early Learning and School- Age Programs, Partnerships with Family and Community. • During 2016-17, Early Connections’ Technical Assistance consultation provided 637 hours of direct service to 68 facilities. • The Professional Development (PD)/Technical Assistance (TA) Blended Model created for the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) in Fiscal Year 15-16 combined prescriptive Professional Development with the one-on-one support and implementation through traditional STARS Technical Assistance coaching and mentoring. Early Connections is still offering the practitioners the opportunity to participate in the Blended Model Technical Assistance project. Professional Development • Early Connections strives to support and educate the child care workforce through professional development opportunities for teachers and staff in 20 counties of Northwestern Pennsylvania. • During 2016-17, 36 individuals completed a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential course offered by Early Connections. Upon completion of 120 hours of coursework and CDA certification from the National Council for Professional Recognition, Gannon University will articulate Early Connections CDA coursework into college credits for participants who desire to continue in the Early Childhood Associate Degree program. The CDA program continues to be an excellent opportunity for Early Childhood professionals. WHAT IS KEYSTONE STARS ? Keystone STARS is a continuous quality improvement program. It has four STAR levels. Each STAR designation has its own research-based performance standards. These standards measure four areas that make a difference in the quality of care your child receives: 1. The educated and welltrained staff 2. The environment your child is in everyday 3. Leadership and Management 4. Family and Community Partnerships As a program moves from STAR 1 to STAR 4, the requirements in these areas increase.

Erie's Future Fund Erie’s Future Fund, administered by Early Connections, is a scholarship program supporting economically-challenged families in enrolling their children in high quality early learning throughout Erie County. Erie’s Future Fund (EFF) was created in 2011, an outgrowth of the Erie Community Foundation’s Early Childhood Advisory Panel in partnership with United Way of Erie County, Success By 6, members of the Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC), and Erie Together. Community leaders from corporate, nonprofit and civic sectors sought to address growing concerns about the lack of school readiness among many children from low-income families entering kindergarten, and the significant impact this was having now and in the future, on Erie County’s economy and quality of life. • The 2016-2017 school year began Erie’s Future Fund’s fifth scholarship year. • Scholarships are funded from within Erie County through individual donations, Pre-K Earned Income Tax Credits, and cause-related marketing. • EFF Provided 150 scholarship opportunities for qualified children from low- income families to attend a high-quality early childhood education program • Over 40 high-quality early care and education program locations in Erie County accept the EFF scholarship. • Qualified families receive educational resources and support during the application process. • The summer of 2017 marked the 2nd year that Erie’s Future Fund was able to offer summer scholarships. • 50 children were provided the opportunity to attend high-quality early childhood education programming for three half-days a week for up to 11 weeks during the summertime. • In order to meet the diverse needs of scholar families, Erie’s Future Fund now allows two scholarship options of either three or five-half days a week during the school year. An open enrollment deadline allows for families relocating to Erie County, those experiencing job loss, or life change to access the program beyond the start of the school year. • Data gathered from the 2016-2017 scholarship year revealed that by the end of the school year, an average of 99% of our 3 year-old scholars were in process or proficient in the Key Learning Areas, and an average of 98% of our 4 year-old scholars were in process or proficient in the five Key Learning Areas. Learn more about Erie's Future Fund at www.eriesfuturefund.org United Way Erie Free Taxes United Way Erie FREE Taxes is a program established to assist eligible low to moderate income wage earners claim the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a cash refund, by providing them with free tax preparation and filing services at volunteer tax sites. The EITC is a special federal tax benefit for working people who earn low to moderate incomes. It is a refundable credit that reduces or eliminates income taxes they owe and is the most effective poverty reduction program in the country. The Volunteers Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) works to ensure that eligible tax filers receive all their tax credits and deductions, including the Child Tax Credit, Education Tax Credit and Child Care tax deductions. FREE tax prep services are provided by IRS-certified volunteers at numerous tax site locations in the community. Visit https://www.unitedwayerie.org/ErieFreeTaxes to learn more about Erie Free Taxes. Erie FREE Taxes VITA patron statistics for the 2016 tax filing season indicated that: Federal VITA Returns: 6,030 EITC Claims (incl in above total): 2,136 1,160 of the VITA patrons live in rural communities 227 patrons had a disability Total Tax dollars returned: $10,130,000 Tax Filer Savings (est.): $1.63M

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