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Struggling parents anxious as government shutdown could close subsidized daycare

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For a close, personal look at how a government shutdown in Washington would affect people here at home, one need not look further than a group of three- and four year-olds and their families.

Families of children at a local Head Start program told PIX11 News that it wouldn’t just be furloughed federal workers who are without work under a shutdown.  They, too, would be forced to forego working, they said, if they could not rely on the day-long child care and education that Head Start, a federal program, provides.

If the threatened government shutdown were to go ahead, Head Start funding would be cut off.  That would have an immediate effect on a handful of daycare centers and preschools which are funded in whole or in part by Head Start.  More than 1,000 others would face cutbacks in hours or programs, and could possibly shut their doors if the government shutdown were to wear on.

At the Drew Hamilton Day Care Center, which is run by the Children’s Aid Society with partial Head Start funds, both parents and staff are watching and waiting.  “This is for our kids’ life, and this is our life too,” said Katimi Bouare, the parent of a four year-old at the facility that’s housed in the Drew Hamiliton public housing community.  “[The government] shutting down is like shutting our kids’ life down,” Bouare said.

The single mother also sent her three older children to the Drew Hamilton facility over the year.  Both she, and the director of early childhood learning for the Children’s Aid Society, Andrew Seltzer, said that the effect of a partial or complete cutoff of Head Start funding would have an effect that goes well beyond the classrooms.

“This is the working poor, who go to work everyday and they require child care,” said Seltzer.  “Because if they don’t get childcare, they won’t get paid for their jobs.”

Katimi Bouare and her family easily illustrate Seltzer’s point.  The West African immigrant told PIX11 News that her housecleaning jobs and the college courses she takes to improve her condition simply can’t happen without Head Start’s child care.

That is a sharp contrast to Congress.  The average yearly salary for most of its 535 members is $174,000, and members of Congress are required by law to receive their salaries even if they shut down the rest of the government.

By comparison, Katimi Bouare makes less than $25,000 yearly to support her family of five.  Even that would go away, she said, if Head Start were to close, as it’s on course to do in the shutdown.

“This would create crises in families,” said Seltzer, who is a psychologist who specializes in child and family counseling.  “Because families suddenly have to choose [among] work, safety child care, money.  These are huge issues.”

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