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$22 million in Head Start funding awarded to local centers

A child left unattended on a bus in 2010 nearly jeopardized $22.8 million in federal funding annually to the Miami Valley Child Development Centers, Inc. serving 388 infants and toddlers and 2,283 preschool children.

Mary Burns, president and CEO of the of Miami Valley Child Development Centers Inc., said she learned last August the organization had to reapply for funding —through a competitive process — with the Office of the Administration for Children & Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Miami Valley Child Development provides infants and toddler day care along with educational preschool services in 25 centers and private homes in Montgomery, Clark and Madison counties. All teachers hold bachelor’s degrees in early childhood eduction and teacher aides have associates’ degrees. Many of the families served are at or below federal poverty levels.

As part of the Head Start reforms, President Obama announced in 2011, 125 Head Start grantees that failed to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks were required to compete for continued federal funding with other potential early childhood service providers in their communities.

Organizations that chose to compete for funding were required to demonstrate that they had corrected all deficiencies in a sustainable manner in order to be considered for funding for the next five years.

“This competition raises the quality of Head Start programs across America,” Office of Head Start Director Yvette Sanchez Fuentes said. “We are holding every provider accountable to deliver high-quality comprehensive services to children and families, so we can continue to deliver on the promise Head Start makes to communities.”

The Miami Valley Child Development Centers had one “deficiency” on its record.

In 2010, the agency had contracted with First Student Transportation to provide bus service for children in their care. Burns said the bus monitor and driver — employees of the transit company — failed to notice a four-year-old sleeping in a seat, before leaving the vehicle to lunch at Penn Station.

Employees of the child development center also failed to do an accurate head count, when the children entered the building, Burns said.

“Somebody in the community saw the child on the bus and reported it,” Burns said.” We self-reported the incident (to the Office of Head Start). We called the parents. There was a review of the incident.”

The child was not injured.

The two transit employees were fired and, Burns said processes were cemented to make sure it doesn’t happen again. She thought the incident had been resolved, when she learned their funding was in jeopardy. Loss of the funding would have resulted in job loss and service cuts.

“The economic impact of the loss of 470 jobs on the greater Dayton area would have been terrible,” Burns said. “I was thinking mostly about our parents. If they don’t have good child care, they aren’t going to be able to work.”

Craig and Toni-Anne Powell’s nine-month old son Stone has attended the Miami View child care center at 830 W. Fifth St., for three months.

“We visited 10 to 15 centers in the Dayton area, this one exceeds our standards and expectations,” Craig Powell said. “We have run into a set of care givers we feel comfortable leaving our treasure with. The staff has the credentials, but credentials only go so far. The sense of caring and concern is outstanding.”

On July 1, Burns was notified their funding would continue, but with a 5.27 percent reduction as a result of sequestration.

The reduction cut $578,000 from the organization’s budget this year and $1 million in 2014. Burns said 138 children - receiving Head Start or Early Head Start services provided at private child care centers - will no longer be served because of the budget cut.

All employees also are required to take one furlough day in 2013. Next year, 30 administrators must take five furlough days and, 440 employees will be laid-off for one week.

“If sequestration continues past next year, we’ll have very difficult choices to make,” Burns said.

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