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DPW Creates New Office of Child Development
September 8, 2004

Pennsylvania Secretary of Public Welfare Estelle B. Richman announced the creation of the Office of Child Development within the Department of Public Welfare, a new initiative linked with the Department of Education to bolster early care and education for Pennsylvania children. "This new office will cut across departmental lines and will play a major role in our efforts to realize Governor Rendell's vision for the children of Pennsylvania," Secretary Richman said.

Philadelphia-area child advocate Harriet Dichter has been selected to lead the new office. In addition to serving as deputy secretary for the Office of Child Development, Dichter will have a dual capacity role as co-director of the Office of Policy for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The two departments are being linked to ensure coordinated leadership on children's issues and to raise the priority level concerning issues of child development, early care, and education. "I'm very excited by this opportunity," Dichter said. "It clearly shows the governor's commitment to these early childhood issues."

One of the programs that will be a cornerstone of the new office is the Keystone Stars Quality Child Care Initiative. The program uses grants and other financial incentives to encourage child care providers to raise their performance standards. Dichter, who has been working with the Department of Education on a consulting basis for the past 15 months, most recently was director of planning, policy, and public engagement for the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Her work for the state has focused on leading the Pennsylvania's BUILD initiative, a national plan to develop early learning systems for children. She also played a key role in the creation of the governor's early learning team, which was charged with formulating and implementing the early childhood agenda for Pennsylvania. Dichter also had leadership roles in developing Pennsylvania's new Head Start Supplemental Program and in early childhood initiatives under the Education Block Grant.

Dichter will report to both Secretary Richman and the Dr. Francis Barnes, secretary designee for the Department of Education. She began her assignment with the state September 7.

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