PHMC has a long history of providing early childhood education quality improvement and can now help more community-based providers strengthen their services.

PHMC early education programs include : the Southeast Regional Key, which supports quality child care programming in 1,400 family, group and center-based facilities; and Out-of-School Time, which serves 18,000 youth in after-school and summer programs. In addition, PHMC is partnering with the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, and the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC), on a kindergarten readiness assessment for use statewide to demonstrate the impact of high-quality early learning experiences.

PHMC's newest program in this area is the Head Start Fund. The fund will provide grants to community-based providers to help them meet and maintain Head Start standards, as well as investigate the impact of Head Start slots on provider finances.
The School District of Philadelphia began transitioning Head Start slots in spring 2011 with 27 community-based providers. In June 2013, the district selected more providers for the 2013–2014 school year,

bringing the total to 35 providers, some previously selected who added slots and some new. All of the providers chosen by the district are rated three or four in the Keystone STARS Performance Standards. Keystone STARS is an initiative of Pennsylvania's Office of Child Development and Early Learning that promotes quality improvement among child care and Head Start programs. Child care facilities are rated on a scale of one to four stars, with four being the highest rating. Head Start regulations are very specific and require that providers have appropriate furniture, equipment, books and educational materials that relate to development domains, such as Literacy Knowledge & Skills and Mathematics Knowledge & Skills.

PHMC has a history of working with DVAEYC and Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) on early learning projects. "When we heard that the school district was transferring Head Start slots from district buildings to community-based sites, we realized that the providers might need external support to continue to offer quality care, and to meet the Head Start standards and regulations," says Farrah Parkes, Senior Director of Targeted Solutions, PHMC. "We decided to explore this further to get a better understanding of the challenges facing the providers as they add Head Start slots."

PHMC and DVAEYC interviewed 24 of the 27 community-based providers currently providing Head Start services on behalf of the school district. "When we interviewed the providers, the issues facing them included lack of money to buy furniture for designated reading and writing areas, numeric and counting charts, games and other educational materials," says Sharon Easterling, executive director of DVAEYC. "Almost every provider interviewed indicated that additional financial support for start-up costs would have been beneficial in 2011 and/or that they would need to identify additional starter funding in order to expand in 2013."

As a partnership, PHMC, DVAEYC and PCCY approached the William Penn Foundation for funding, knowing that one of the foundation's goals is to increase access to high-quality affordable early care and education. The foundation awarded PHMC a grant of $725,000 in April 2013 to establish the Head Start Fund to assist community-based child care providers in absorbing 2,000 high-quality Head Start slots. The fund offers equipment and material grants, partnering with DVAEYC to facilitate the purchases through the SharedSource Pennsylvania platform, also funded by the foundation.