Tarrant County Head Start provider could see operations interrupted Nov. 1

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The families of nearly 10,000 Tarrant County children enrolled in Head Start or a day-care program for working parents could lose those services if the U.S. government shutdown doesn’t end by Nov. 1.

The Fort Worth-based provider of those services, Child Care Associates, said in a filing with the state that it could be forced to lay off most of its personnel if there’s no resolution in Washington. The not-for-profit organization said that roughly 600 of its 625 workers could be affected if the group’s federal grants to provide the services go unfunded.

“We’re trying to come up with alternative plans and consolidate locations to reduce the impact,” said Bob Duke, interim president of Child Care Associates. If the government shutdown can be ended before then, “none of this will happen,” he said.

The possibility of layoffs was disclosed in a filing with the Texas Workforce Commission required under the federal WARN act.

Federally funded Head Start provides preschool training, along with meals and medical screenings, for nearly 1 million children from low-income households. Those services are provided by about 1,600 different providers that apply for federal grants, which last year amounted to about $8 billion.

Child Care Associates is the only Head Start provider in Tarrant County, serving about 2,700 children, Duke said. It also administers day-care services for about 6,400 Tarrant children from low-income households where a caregiver is working or in job training. Those services are funded by federal block grants to states.

Last year, Child Care Associates received about $67 million, the vast majority of it federal money, Duke said. It also administers day-care services for about 1,800 children in the Abilene area.

About two dozen Head Start programs around the country have already lost funding because their grants were supposed to start Oct. 1, said Sally Aman of the National Head Start Association.

State and local governments in Florida and Massachusetts provided money to keep programs in those states open. But 16 programs serving 7,200 children in six states were kept open only by a $10 million donation to the association from a wealthy Houston couple, Aman said.

That donation will fund those 16 programs only through this month, she said.

Duke said about 700 more Head Start providers, including his, will be affected starting Nov. 1, when their grants were scheduled to be funded. He said it’s an example of how the shutdown “is starting to hit some things that are unique in local communities.”

Child Care Associates operates 34 of its own facilities, each with about four classrooms, and provides teachers to additional classrooms in the Fort Worth and Hurst-Euless-Bedford school districts, Duke said.

Clint Bond, a spokesman at the Fort Worth school district, said “we’re aware of the possibility” that the services could be interrupted, and the school district is looking at options to keep the programs open. It provides half the teachers for classrooms located on its campuses and also provides teachers to Child Care Associates facilities, serving about 500 children in all.

The district could provide substitute teachers to fill in for personnel on its campuses, Bond said. And it’s possible the district could continue to provide teachers to Child Care Associates classrooms “if we can keep the lights on in those facilities,” he said.

“What it would take financially and how we would do it, we don’t know yet,” he said.

Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay

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