For the first time, the Child Development Center at Blessed Sacrament Academy
on Mission Road is losing enrollment. It still offers quality care for children ages six weeks to five years. Their programs continue to teach vital developmental skills. And, the children always receive nurturing care from staff. Why enrollment is down can be captured in three words — loss of funding.
More than 70 percent of the children usually enrolled in the Child Development Center are funded from the Child Care Services program, part of the City of San Antonio's newly named Department of Human Services. Carol Silva, director of CDC explains, "Our enrollment is struggling due to cuts in Child Care Services funding, as well as economic stress for the private pay clients."
The Child Care Services program helps parents who are striving to become self-sufficient (working or attending school) by giving them more choices in childcare arrangements. Money for this program comes from state and federal funds through Texas Workforce Commission. In partnership with childcare providers, such as CDC, Child Care Services helps fund daytime or after-school care for children of qualifying families.
On October 1, a new qualification for receiving childcare benefits from Child Care Services seems to have thrown up a barrier for some applicants. Texas state law now requires single applicants to physically go to the Attorney General's office and file with the court for child support. A certified document from the AG's office must be included in their application packet. The law was designed to 'prevent fraud' and make sure applicants are filing for or receiving child support, perhaps to help defray costs.
Although there are no hard statistics, as the law has only been in effect for a little over a month, there are indications that some applicants are reluctant to file for child support and therefore don't qualify for childcare funds. And, in a Catch-22, if they do receive child support, that amount is added to their income and they stand to lose benefits depending on where that puts them on the sliding scale that determines benefit eligibility.
So, what if you're a single teen mom and you have a child by an abusive boyfriend and are afraid to have the state contact him for child support? What if you don't have a ride down to the AG's office? What if you are not sure who the child's father is? What if you just don't want to name the father for some other reason? How much money will the AG spend on tracking down and collecting payments?
"The new requirements are definitely impacting the PVA teen moms," said Linda Rodriquez of Por Vida Academy, located on the Blessed Sacrament campus. "The sliding scale has also increased dramatically and those who might be qualified now will have to re-certify in three months and many will not make the cut."
Whatever the situation or reasons, what do you do if you lose childcare benefits and your job doesn't pay enough to afford it on your own? Who does your child stay with? A neighbor? Your elderly grandmother? Your new boyfriend? Or do you just quit your job or stop attending school?
The wolves of human services program cuts are circling the door and we're throwing out the women and children first. Clearly, some programs will still need to be funded in order to address our city's major problems of teen pregnancy, child abuse, and high school drop-out rate.
On the other hand, will nonprofits redevelop their programs to concentrate on prevention, instead of damage control? How can community get involved with providing services to these especially at-risk children? Will you let our legislators know how the new law and other funding cuts are affecting those in need? It is human services after all.
For more from Laura Carter follow @lauracarter or visit A Small Blog