May 9, 2022

The early years from birth to five are critical to the well-being of our children, families and community. 90% of a child’s brain develops by age 5. This development is influenced by many factors, including a child’s relationships, experiences, and environment. The COVID-19 Pandemic Report Survey from the Early Learning Investment Commission and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry that surveyed businesses about their workforce, found that 54% of employers lost employees due to a lack of childcare. Pocono Mountains United Way surveyed childcare providers in Monroe County where it was determined that the pandemic has affected their business, staff and children in their care.

77% of eligible children in Monroe County do not have access to high-quality funded Pre-K. Childcare providers struggle to hire and retain quality employees. Childcare staff do not receive the same benefits that staff would otherwise earn if employed as an educator in a public-school setting. Enrollment at childcare facilities is significantly low as some parents are reluctant to have their children in childcare facilities for fear of contracting COVID-19. Suzanne DelCorso, Owner/Director of the Growing Tree Learning and Day Care Center in East Stroudsburg shared that the center is struggling to recruit and retain staff leaving families across Monroe County unable to access childcare.

Under the best of circumstances, it’s hard enough for parents to juggle a job while raising young children. Having safe, stable, and nurturing childcare is the key that allows so many families to make it all work. For too long, quality childcare has been difficult to access, especially for those who need it the most. COVID-19 and the subsequent economic crisis have made it even more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain high-quality, affordable care, and forcing some parents to leave the workforce. We hosted an early learning roundtable conversation with local leaders to discuss the continued challenges in the childcare sector. Attendees included PA State Senator Mario Scavello; Pocono Chamber of Commerce’s Senior Vice President Shantelle Davis; Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Kimberly Early, and Outreach Director Jan Schwartz; Pocono Services for Families and Children’s Program Director Sandy Shay and Early Childhood Program Staff Jackie Lapping; Pocono Mountains United Way Vice President Sarah Jacobi and Community Impact Manager Roxanne Powell; Northampton Community College of Education’s Associate Professor Kate Curry, and Wee Wons Daycare and Preschool President Jen Smith.

Pocono Mountains United Way is investing in early learning opportunities to ensure children have access to books, scholarship assistance and mentoring opportunities in the home to help children grow and thrive, and screenings to determine a child’s strengths and potential factors that may interfere with a child’s learning. We strongly urge individuals in our community to contact our elected officials to invest in this critical system and provide high-quality, affordable childcare for working families. The current and future workforce of Monroe County’s economy depends on it.

Michael Tukeva


Pocono Mountains United Way