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Ohio’s Youth Could Lose Their Home Away from Home

July 3, 2009

Columbus – Budget perils are threatening the safety and well-being of Ohio’s children, according to parents and community leaders across the state, who rely on after-school and summer programs to provide care for their children while at work. They are urging lawmakers to save the programs, which providers say help children thrive, but which would be cut under current budget proposals. State lawmakers are spending the Fourth-of-July weekend working on a budget fix.

Toledo mother Jackie Richards says she wouldn’t be able to provide for her family without these programs.

"I’m a single mom of three kids, and if I don’t have after-school care or summer care, it’s really, really hard to get to work."

Columbus-area single mother Lori Theiken’s child is in a summer program. She worries that, if funding is cut, some children could end up in dangerous situations.

"Kids are left either home alone or they are left home without adequate supervision and that can get them into trouble with the law or get into some physical trouble where they would to be hospitalized. Kids need to be supervised, and unfortunately, parents have to work."

Leslie Sheward, president of the Twin Towers Neighborhood Association in Dayton, says these programs are a home away from home and provide more than just care and educational opportunities.

"Cutting these after-school programs would also mean that some of these kids would not get a meal, because a lot of these kids get meals from our after-school program. That is the only meal they are going to get in the evening."

Other cuts under consideration include programs that help at-risk infants and children, those with a mental illness or disability, and seniors and families. Gov. Ted Strickland is counting on a proposal to allow electric slot machine gambling at Ohio's seven horseracing tracks to help fill some of the $3.2-billion budget hole, but many say other means, including additional taxes, are needed to raise revenue.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH