The Keystone STARS program provides the following types of grants: STARS Merit awards, Education and Retention awards, Rising STARS Support grants, Special Initiative grants and Child Care Works Add-On funds. CLICK HERE to visit the PA Keys website and learn more about these grants. 

Adjusting STARS Grants and Awards. 2016-2017 STARS grants and awards are being adjusted to reflect budget constraints. CLICK HERE to view the grants and awards structure for 2016-2017. Eligible programs currently waitlisted for 2015-2016 STARS Merit Awards will receive 2015-2016 amounts. The 2016-2017 Merit Awards for STAR 2-4 center-based programs have been reduced by 35%. The methodology used to adjust the grants and awards was provided by the STARS Stakeholders group.

All 2016-2017 Grant Requests will be posted as they become available from OCDEL.

2016-2017 Merit and Education Retention Award (MERA)

The 2016-2017 MERA Request paperwork is now available. Please note, while we continue to process the priority unfunded Merits from last year, we anticipate beginning to process new 2016-2017 Merits and ERAs on or around November 2, 2016. You may submit your grant request at any time, however, we will not process until November 2. There will be no priority given to requests submitted prior to November 2. Please review the documents and contact your STARS Specialist with any questions. CLICK HERE to review the new award amounts for 2016-2017. CLICK HERE to review best practices in grant spending.

Again this year you must complete and submit a request form and a budget form(s). Please note there are two versions of the budget form. One is an Excel Workbook to be used for electronic submission. One is a PDF to be used if faxing. If using the PDF format, Attachment #2 is used for Merit requests and Attachment #3 is used for ERA requests.

Submit your Merit and/or ERA request via:

  • Email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Include your MPI# and your location name in the “Subject” line of your email message
  • or Fax to 267-765-2397

Electronic submission is highly recommended to expedite the processing of your grant request.

Click on the links below to download the appropriate forms.


Click on the links below for Merit and ERA guidance documents.

Rising STARS Support Grants

The Rising STARS Application window is now closed.

The Rising STARS initiative focuses on access to the highest quality services for hard to reach/hard to serve children and families by providing supports to providers as they move up the quality scale. The Rising STARS Support Grant application is a two-step process. First, eligible programs submit an application and supporting documentation. After applications are scored and reviewed, successful candidates are invited to submit a grant request for funding. CLICK HERE to read the FAQ for complete details on the application process.

Who Is Eligible?  
To be eligible, all providers described below may not have received more than two previous support grants or a previous Rising STARS Support Grant unless they successfully moved from STAR 1 to STAR 2 using the Rising STARS Support Grant.  Eligibility exclusions include STARS Head Start, PA Pre-K Counts, Private Academic Schools (PDE licensed preschool) and School District Pre-K.

  • Current STAR 1 child care certified early care providers (including SACC only providers) who are actively working on a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) plan that includes moving up to a STAR 2 in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Current STAR 2 (including SACC only providers) providers who previously received a Rising STARS Support Grant and successfully moved from STAR 1 to STAR 2.
  • Current STAR 2  (including SACC only providers) providers who have received the maximum amount of Merit Awards (five) but who now are positioned to move to a STAR 3 or 4.


Grant Receipt Collection Documents

Beginning in 2015-16, providers will not submit receipts to the Regional Key.  Providers must keep original receipts for their records and for review by Regional Keys and state/federal agents who may need to review receipts for auditing/monitoring purposes.  All grant related documents must be maintained for seven years.

For monitoring purposes original receipts must have at a minimum:

  • A purchase date (within the current Fiscal Year July 1– June 30);

  • The name of the vendor or supplier;

  • Descriptions of purchased items;

  • Cost of each item and evidence of payment – the receipt must indicate balance due or, if paid, a balance due of $-0-. If the receipt or invoice shows a balance due, proof of payment must be provided either by cancelled check or a document indicating balance due of $-0-;

  • Dollar figures for total purchases must equal or exceed the requested Merit Award subcategory (and care levels) indicated for each item (Classroom Furnishings / Learning Materials / Minor Renovations / Gross Motor Equipment / DHS Certification Business Practices, Computer Technology / Professional Development, Accreditation Costs, Staff Benefitsand Other Expenses).


Direct Deposit

SERK wants to help practitioners receive their grant payments as quickly as possible, in part through direct deposit payment. Payments will be transferred directly to your bank accounts and providers will be notified by email when the transaction occurs. CLICK HERE to download the direct deposit form.


Grant Support Resources

Sample Bonus Policy 41 KB 

Sample Education and Retention Award Policy 44 KB 

Best Practices in Keystone STARS Financial Award Spending

  • Registered Apprenticeship in EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

    An Early Childhood Education Career Pathways Partnership to develop straightforward, articulating career pathway steps for Pre-K workers, including the Registered Apprenticeship in Early Childhood Education.

    CLICK HERE for more information.


    A PARTNERSHIP WITH THE Mayor's Office of Education:


    CLICK HERE for more information

  • Direct Deposit

    Get your grants and awards faster!!

    SERK wants to help practitioners receive their grant payments as quickly as possible. You can do this in part through direct deposit payment. Payments will be transferred directly to your bank accounts and providers will be notified by email when the transaction occurs. CLICK HERE to download the direct deposit form.

“I love Keystone STARS. I have a degree in childcare, but the Keystone STARS program showed me what I was doing right and where I needed to improve.”

– Patricia, Montgomery County

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