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NY Budget Crisis Spells “Impending Disaster” for Families

June 14, 2010

NEW YORK - A state budget is more than two months overdue, the governor may not be able to get any more emergency extensions approved, threats of a state government shutdown are in the air, and human service agencies are staring into the abyss. Already wracked by subsidy and grant cuts, state workforce shrinkage and laid-off parents, child care centers are sensing what they see as an impending disaster.

Pepper Robinson, executive director of Five Towns Child Care Center, a nonprofit center in Inwood, New York, says more kids will slip into the unregulated "underground" care system unless state lawmakers act soon.

"I don't know the ins and outs of how things work up there. I know that I have to make my budget work. I can't shut down."

Robinson says she had to cut her teachers' benefits to avoid layoffs. She also stopped advertising, and increasingly finds herself asking parents, 'What CAN you afford?' in order to keep their kids from being shown the door.

According to Dana Friedman, president of the Early Years Institute, families are dropping out of child care centers "in droves." She says they can't afford the fees, and the assistance they could once rely on is drying up.

"What early childhood programs are experiencing now is impending disaster. And I don't know what the word would be for the families who are hoping to rely on these programs, but clear desperation is what we're hearing from families out there."

Robinson acknowledges that legislators in Albany are in a tough spot.

"I went up to Albany this year, and I looked right at people who have always served children, 'I know you care for the children.' They don't know what to do. They looked at me like, 'There's no money.'"

Child care advocates insist if kids aren't adequately cared for in the early years, the cost to society grows as they do.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY