Oakland Tribune, “Protests draw attention to halt in Kidango funding” [9/29/2010]
“Protests draw attention to halt in Kidango funding”
Sean Maher, Oakland Tribune [9/29/2010]
OAKLAND — Parents of about 2,000 Bay Area children found themselves temporarily without child care service Wednesday as a major local provider closed up shop to demand Sacramento lawmakers to finalize and pass the state budget, which is three months late.
Kidango, a nonprofit with child services in 42 locations across the Bay Area, closed all its doors for a day to stage a protest that drew hundreds of parents and their children to a march through Fremont and into to Oakland via BART for a rally at the Elihu M. Harris State Building and City Hall.
California gives the nonprofit about $800,000 a month to aid its operating budget — about $35 per day for each child in its care — but has not sent any money since July 1, when the state’s last budget expired. The 91 days that have passed are a record for the most populous U.S. state.
Kidango organizers said they’re weary of struggling every year to protect state funding for child services, but that this year has been the worst yet since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed in May to cut child welfare services funding entirely.
“California has been funding child services since World War II, when women had to enter the work force, and never has a governor suggested this funding be eliminated,” Kidango regional director Jennifer Cambra said.
“Of course, it was probably just a bargaining chip to get Democrats negotiating,” Cambra said, “but it was audacious.”
Karen Mahoney-Wilson attended the protest with her 4-year-old grandson, Tyler, whose parents were both born deaf. Tyler and his 7-year-old sister, Katie, both entered Kidango programs at about 18 months old, allowing their parents to work and go to college, Mahoney-Wilson said. It’s especially important for their development to be in day care centers, she added, because it allows them to be around peers who both hear and speak.
Many parents opted to take the day off from work to join the protest; others had to take the day off from work to be with their children or find other arrangements.
“Having everything shut down today was a hardship on lots of our families,” Cambra said, “but one day is a lot better than what we could be facing if the budget doesn’t get passed, soon, with these services protected.”
The nonprofit lost about $100,000 in revenue through the closure, she added.
Without state funding, Kidango is relying on funding reserves and credit lines Cambra said are set to run out Nov. 15.
If that happens and the services have to cease, “I can’t even think about it,” Mahoney-Wilson said.
“My other daughter is a single mom with two kids in Kidango in Dublin,” she said. “It just can’t happen. The result would be devastating.”
The single mom had to scramble to get a baby-sitter Wednesday for the one-day service closure, lucking out when a former sitter became available, Mahoney-Wilson said.
“It’s certainly a godsend for some families if they have relatives who can help,” she added. “But you can’t always count on that, and you can’t be sure the child is getting the same benefit. When they’re in day care, these kids are in learning centers, getting prepared for kindergarten.”