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The fight is on to protect the city’s day care programs.
City Councilmember Bill de Blasio and parents hit the steps of City Hall to protest a new funding system that could leave many of the programs in jeopardy.
Under the new system, the city Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) will only allocate money to day care centers that have a full roster of children.
That is a startling change from the way it was previously done – money was provided upfront regardless of the number of children enrolled.
Parents are concerned that local day care centers will ultimately be forced to close their doors because many are underutilized, meaning they fill less than 85 percent of their available seats.
Discussing the new system, de Blasio criticized the city for jeopardizing the future of these day care facilities.
“In the midst of a major economic downturn, it’s irresponsible to take resources away from our children,” he said. “These child care centers make it possible for working families to make ends meet and have a safe place for their kids to be cared for.”
Officials at ACS say it’s the city’s poor economic outlook that makes the new funding system – and the money it will save the city – necessary. John B. Mattingly, ACS’s commissioner, says the city can’t afford to waste money on unused seats.
“Right now, there are families struggling in NYC who need child care and there are too many vacant seats going unused,” he’s said. “It is only by serving the maximum number of children that the child care system can remain viable – and ACS can no longer pay for empty seats in child care centers while there are NYC children who need and are eligible for child care.”
The department is trying to increase enrollment at underutilized day care centers in hope of preventing closures.
“We have committed $2 million to assist day care centers with the marketing and recruitment and whatever technical assistance is needed to help them recruit income-eligible children in their neighborhoods – or to attract some families who can pay privately for child care,” Mattingly said. “We are also streamlining operations at the ACS child care Resource Areas to reduce the time it takes to determine eligibility and enrollment. Eligibility now takes on average two to five days, where it used to take weeks, in all boroughs, except Brooklyn and Staten Island.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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