(Satellite Location: East Erie) Tackling Erie's Childcare Crisis - Early Childcare Investment Policy Initiative

April 11th,2024 | 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Professor/Instructor/Speaker: Early Childcare Investment Policy Initiative Team 

Tackling Erie's Childcare Crisis - Early Childcare Investment Policy Initiative


For too long childcare's profound contributions, particularly to the economy, have been underappreciated. And now, the provision of childcare services in Erie, like the nation over, is in crisis. Low, uncompetitive pay for care workers and thus staffing shortages; rising costs of running childcare centers themselves; working families that cannot afford childcare and thus must remain home rather than report to a job; and more are pushing access to childcare to a breaking point. The public is invited to hear from the team of experts JES has deployed to lead the Early Childcare Investment Policy Initiative. Come explore the high stakes for Erie, the challenges, and contribute your ideas to lasting solutions.


Location: Erie Center for Arts & Technology (ECAT)—650 East Ave. Suite 120, Erie, PA 16503.

Date/Time: Thursday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m.

Admission: FREE

Parking: lot at 7th street entrance, 7th street street parking

Early Childcare Investment Policy Initiative Team 

- Elana Como, Early Learning Resource Center Region 1 Director and CEO, Northwest Institute of Research, Inc. 

The Northwest Institute of Research, Inc. (NWIR), is a non-profit research and social services corporation which manages the Child Care Works (CCW) subsidized child care program for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, operating as grantee for Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) Region 1, serving Erie, Crawford, Mercer, and Venango Counties.  
Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRCs) are hubs of child care information. ELRCs provide information on quality child care and personalized child care referrals to child care providers based on specific needs or preferences. ELRCs also administer the Child Care Works subsidized child care program. Funded by state and federal governments, the CCW program helps low-income families pay their child care fees. 


- Court Gould, Initiative Facilitator/Lead 

Court Gould, a featured JES contributor who authored the Caring for Erie’s Economy: Childcare is Economic Development report, is serving as facilitator and project lead. He served 20 years as founding executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. After three years with the Erie Community Foundation as vice president of Community Impact, he is a sustainable solutions consultant and certified professional coach. 

- Karen Grimm-Thomas, Creative Child Care Solutions of The Pennsylvania Key 

Creative Child Care Solutions (CCCS) is a Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) initiative (of the nonprofit The Pennsylvania Key) that helps employers identify and address the child care needs of their employees. In her role at The Pennsylvania Key, Karen leads CCCS focusing on building the business community’s capacity to support their employee’s child care needs and invest in local early learning systems as a means to attract and retain staff and create positive work environments. The Pennsylvania Key works collaboratively with partners and community organizations on behalf of OCDEL to deliver educational, professional, and administrative services to early childhood educators and leaders to support the enhancement of early learning experiences for young children in Pennsylvania. 

- Michelle Harkins, Executive Director - Early Connections, Inc. 

Early Connections is a leading organization in Northwestern Pennsylvania for early care and education, 

providing direct service as well as training and planning leadership for a wide geographic region. Direct 

service is provided to children and their families in five high-quality childcare locations throughout Erie 

County, serving children from birth through school age. Early Connections is the Intermediary for the Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program and Sponsor for the Registered Early Childhood Pre- 

Apprenticeship Program, serving 18 counties within the Northwest Region. Early Connections also 

administers Erie’s Future Fund. Created in 2011, this community initiative assists low-income families in 

preparing their children for kindergarten by providing a scholarship to attend high-quality programs 

throughout Erie County. Formerly the YWCA, Early Connections has been serving children and families in 

our community since 1895. 


- Andrea Heberlein, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission 

The PA Early Learning Investment Commission was created by an Executive Order in 2008 for the purpose of mobilizing business leaders across Pennsylvania to secure support for investments in early learning. The Commission has 50 members, all senior business leaders from across the Commonwealth, representing many of PA’s leading industries. It informs thousands of business and civic leaders annually about the critical importance of preparing all young children with the knowledge and skills required for success. It works to improve tomorrow’s economy through smart policy and investment in today’s young children by fostering public and private sector investment in high-quality early learning programs. These investments are essential to Pennsylvania’s edge in the national and global marketplace. A particular focus is on working with the Executive and Legislative branches to provide advice and support for policies and investments that serve an increased number of at-risk children. 
- Rina Irwin, Chief Executive Officer at Child Development Centers, Inc. 

In her role as CEO, Irwin oversees an organization that provides child care and early childhood education to nearly 2,000 children across 15 centers in Venango, Crawford, and Erie counties. With founding in 1969 and with more than 400 employees, CDC's enrollment now tops that of some local school districts. CDC’s growth is part is tied to assuming responsibility for federal and state Head Start programs in Erie, Crawford, and Venango Counties. 


- Tiffany Lavette, Founder of Her P.O.W.E.R. Inc. which owns and operatesABC 24-Hour Childcare, Founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Black and Brown Childcare Providers and co-owner of LaVette’s Enterprises 
Tiffany is a highly regarded social equity advocate, childcare provider, consultant, coach, friend, teacher, and leader. She is surrounded by a team of individuals who firmly believe in impacting the lives of families one child at a time. Tiffany currently serves on the Erie County DEI Commission where she is the immediate past chair, serves on the advisory board for Pre-K for PA/Start Strong PA, Trustee at Greater Calvary F.G.B.C. and is committed to helping others reach their highest level of success personally, professionally and in business.