Cuts to child care programs loom

City budgetary cuts may produce thousands of “latch key” Queens children if funds to day care and after-school programs remain slashed.

Allocations to the Administration for Children’s Services is down more than $30 million in the city’s preliminary budget for the 2013 Fiscal Year.

“Thousands of families won’t be able to have access to affordable child care,” said Gregory Brender, policy advisor for United Neighborhood Houses. “They’ll face a horrible choice of leaving their kids at home or not going to work. We can’t have these children become latch key kids.”

Since 2009, more than 43,000 city children lost access to child care programs. If funding is not restored, 47,000 families may lose access to child care and after-school programs — 15,900 child care slots and 31,800 after-school program spots, according to the Campaign for Children.

If the cuts are made, 90,000 fewer children will have access to these programs than in 2009 — a 61 percent decrease.
The free Out of School Time (OST) after school program is facing a 39 percent reduction in programs in Queens, going from 83 programs to 51 programs for the entire borough, the campaign said.

Specific programs have not been targeted, though Brender said the Administration for Children’s Services has created targeted and non-targeted zip codes for the remaining funds.

The lack of affordable child care goes further than just denying children a place to go when their parents are at work, Brender said it prevents educational opportunities.
“Early childhood programs set up the skills you need later in life, develops literacy, provides homework help, the arts and a place to be active instead of being stuck at home,” he said.

Last year, the city council restored $13.6 million for nearly 5,000 child care vouchers for school-aged children. The 2013 Fiscal Year begins on July 1.

Procuring the money for these programs from another source is not a feasible option, according to Brender.

“I think for the overwhelming majority these programs will be lost; there are not private funds to keep these programs going,” Brender said. “We need the city to make the investment.”