HARRISBURG – The Department of Public Welfare is offering $200,000 in mini-grants to child care centers to work toward achieving higher quality environmental health standards.
The new Pennsylvania Early Care and Education Healthy and Green Initiative is jointly funded by the Heinz Endowments and is aimed at promoting healthy early childhood development.
It will help fund environmental health improvements in child care programs participating in the Keystone STARS program, a voluntary quality improvement program for child care and Head Start programs. Each child care center will be eligible to apply for up to $5,000 to make environmental health improvements.
“About 300,000 children are enrolled in child care in Pennsylvania. On average, these children typically spend between four to eight hours a day, five days a week in a child care setting,” Acting Secretary Beverly D. Mackereth said. “These grants encourage our Keystone STARS participants to take additional steps to ensure our children are learning in safe and healthy environments.”
Years of research has concluded that environmental toxin exposure can have serious and negative impacts on many different parts of a child’s developing body and may contribute, but not necessarily cause, health problems such as asthma, cognitive developmental delays, respiratory illnesses and learning disabilities.
“The Heinz Endowments has a long-standing commitment to supporting quality early care and education in the state ofPennsylvania,” Heinz Endowments’ Senior Director of Children, Youth & Families Marge Petruska said.
“As we learn more about how the environment plays a critical role in early childhood development, assuring that early childhood programs are equipped with the knowledge and necessary tools to make improvements is vital,” Petruska said.
The Children’s Environmental Health Network, a national multi-disciplinary organization whose mission is to protect developing children from environmental health hazards and promote a healthier environment, and its Eco-Healthy Child Care Program© will provide the framework for making environmental health improvements in early learning programs across Pennsylvania. Programs will be required to attend professional development training through Eco-Healthy Child Care© in order to apply for funding.
“Assuring that Keystone STARS participants offer quality care and education to young children is a central theme of our work,” Mackereth said. “By thoroughly addressing environmental health in these programs, we further promote the healthy development of all children.”
For more information about the initiative and mini-grants program, please visit www.pakeys.org.