On Friday, March 25th, with potentially devastating budget cuts looming, the children of Community and Parents Day Care Center in Williamsburg delivered a reminder why Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) funded centers, such as theirs, must be preserved.
At the center’s annual Culture Day, the children, aged 2-4 years, sang and danced in languages and styles representing their different cultural backgrounds and those of their teachers. “We do Culture Day to honor all the different cultures we have,” said Kathleen Molloy, Director of the Center. “Our children are multicultural, our parents and staff are multicultural, and this is a way of teaching respect for yourself. When you respect yourself, you can respect someone else.” Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who attended the event, stressed the importance of “this type of socialization, where they learn about different cultures and diversity. It helps them understand that New York City is the richest city in the nation because it is one of the most diverse, and they learn to accept everyone else, and to find that there is commonality and common ground.”
Unfortunately for the kids, and even more so for their younger siblings, budget cuts may spell the end of this valuable head start program. Beginning this year, as a way for ACS to save money, parents were given a seven year window to receive child care services, beginning with the enrollment date of their first child. Parents who space out the time between having children will be forced to pursue other avenues of child care for their younger children. These alternative services are often significantly more expensive or provide less education.
“It’s not looking good [for ACS schools],” said Molloy. “About 16,000 slots may be cut. All my children that are getting dropped, come September 2nd, have older siblings, and that’s how they use that rationale. It’s kind of like the parents have term limits on the amount of time they can receive services in the child care programs.”
As for the parents, many of whom are working class, single mothers, the effects could be dramatic. With safe, nurturing and inexpensive child care available, many of the parents of children in ACS funded programs have been able to get jobs and often are able to get off public assistance. Being forced to seek out private daycare could reverse this positive trend. “My parents can’t afford private daycare,” said Molloy. “What do they want them to do? Go back on welfare?”
Molloy gives most of the credit for the Center’s success to her teachers. “My teachers do a lot of hard work with these kids,” said Molloy. “[For example,] I have children receiving Special Ed services. If they weren’t in school and the parents didn’t recognize a problem, that child would never receive service. But because my teachers are trained to recognize students that have special needs or need services, the kids get the services when they are younger. Every dollar spent now is a dollar you save later on remedial education. That’s another benefit of keeping them in the program.”
Molloy also credits the support of our elected officials for the success of her program, noting the support of Velazquez (“never has anyone else paid attention to our little center like she has”), Councilmember Reyna, whose representative was at Culture Day, and Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
Velazquez explained the importance of the Center. “When we are providing child care head starts we are helping these kids develop skills and follow instructions, so that when they go into the first grade, they have already developed all those skills. That is important.”
At Culture Day, Molloy and Velazquez addressed parents about the importance of the program and how they could help fight for funding. Molloy is chartering a bus to take parents and faculty to a City Hall rally to restore ACS cuts on April 6th. She reminded parents of their responsibility to speak out on behalf of all centers, not just Community and Parents, even if their youngest child is completing the program this year. Anyone interested in joining the Center at the rally can get more information by calling (718) 388-3433.