Rebecca “Becky” Mercatoris was announced Tuesday as the first director of Allegheny County’s new Department of Children Initiatives.
Ms. Mercatoris, of Ben Avon, will head the department after it was formed earlier this year with a 2021 budget of $443,476, described as its funding for “year zero” of the program. Allegheny County directors make $121,654.42 annually.
“I welcome this new opportunity to serve our county’s children, families, child care and out-of-school time providers as we move forward to a child care and out-of-school time that really works for everyone in our county,” Ms. Mercatoris said in her remarks.
She has previously worked for the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Child Care and the Child Care State Capacity Building Center. She holds a master’s degree in public policy and management from the University of Pittsburgh.
The department was developed out of the findings of a 26-member working group formed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in 2019 after a ballot measure to fund children’s programs through property taxes failed during the 2018 election.
The report recommended creating the department and giving it a $20 million a year budget. That funding would allow the department to give early learning to 900 children, in addition to after-school programming for 1,500 more.
The office will begin working on the issue of helping young children get prepared for school and learning, Mr. Fitzgerald said. “I’m so excited that we’ve got so much economic growth and so much economic development happening in this region right now, but unless these kids are ready to avail themselves to those opportunities, it’s almost like in a different world — they’re not connected to it.”
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