Migrant Head Start program closes doors in New Carlisle

A child care program in New Carlisle that serves migrant workers appears to have temporarily shut its doors, and some local advocates said the decision could impact area families and businesses.

A New Carlisle Migrant Head Start program recently closed its doors at 476 N. Dayton Lakeview Road, according to information from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which is responsible for licensing and inspecting all child care settings in Ohio.

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The program had previously been operated by the Texas Migrant Council, based in Laredo, Texas, said Bret Crow, a spokesman for the Ohio DJFS.

“The Texas Migrant Council (TMC) is no longer operating its six programs in Ohio, including the one in New Carlisle,” Crow said. “The Community Development Institute (CDI) is planning to become the new owners of these programs. Per our procedure, ODJFS allowed CDI two weeks to transition ownership without stopping services to families. We were not aware that services were stopped until this morning, which is unfortunate. We were in communication on Friday with the folks at CDI urging them to continue services.”

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Information on the agency’s website says the Migrant Head Start program provides various services for children and families in seven states, including education, bus transportation, nutrition and safety and mental health. Staff from that agency could not be reached for comment Monday.

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While the ODJFS licenses the Head Start center, Crow said the Head Start grant is between the provider and federal government. The latest available inspection report, dated Aug. 16, 2017, showed the program was fully compliant and served a total of 61 children.

A press release on the TMC’s website, dated Wednesday, May 16, says the agency received notice it will undergo an Emergency Suspension of Federal Assistance.

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“There are still several questions that remain unanswered, but we are doing our best to gather those from the Office of Head Start,” the press release says. “TMC is working cooperatively alongside the Office of Head Start for a smooth transition of services to an interim grantee until a permanent grantee is identified and awarded the grant. TMC will do everything possible to ensure that services to children and families are executed without interruption. Our commitment to quality programming and services has not changed.”

A letter dated May 15 from the Administration for Children and Families says all federal financial assistance t0 the Texas Migrant Council has been suspended. It notes the agency suspended funding after a monitoring review conducted in April.

“It was clear to the OHS monitoring team who traveled to Laredo, Texas that TMC does not have sound fiscal practices or properly trained personnel in place to safeguard federal funds,” the letter states.

Carl Ruby, executive director for Welcome Springfield, said the program provides important services for migrant families working in the region.The organization is a non-profit that assists immigrants.

But he added the Head Start program has an impact on area businesses and other community members as well. He said most of the families affected are migrant workers coming from Texas, and the children are mostly U.S. citizens.

“It will have a huge effect on the economy here in Clark and Champaign County as they deal with the ripple effect of people not having a place to take their children and missing work,” Ruby said. “These are not undocumented kids.”

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families referred the newspaper to CDI’s website earlier this week.

The website says the Federal Office of Head Start appoints Community Development Institute to operate a Head Start/Early Head Start program when the existing grantee’s responsibility ceases.

“Examples of circumstances under which this could occur are: a grantee may be suspended, terminated, or relinquish their grant (voluntary termination). Suspensions and terminations may occur due to financial, health and safety or other issues in operating a program.”

Patrick Fisher, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday it is not yet clear when the New Carlisle program will reopen. He said CDI Head Start will manage the program until a competitive process to identify a new provider is finalized, and the agency will work to minimize the impact on local families in the meantime.

“The CDI Head Start team is working on staffing, facilities, licensing, vendors, transportation, and insurance, which is required to begin operations as soon as possible,” Fisher said. “The extent of the disruption will depend on the cooperation of TMC, as well as local and state licensing officials.’

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