Proposal may hurt child care quality

Allan Xu / Daily Titan

 

Newly proposed state budget cuts may adversely affect child care in California.

The cuts child care would undergo if the proposed bill were to pass is something to worry about, especially in the case of children with special needs, said Beverly Vargish, assistant director at Cal State Fullerton’s Children’s Center.

A revised version of the proposed California budget will be available in mid-May.

In early January, Gov. Jerry Brown introduced his budget proposal for the state’s 2012-13 fiscal year.

According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, “the governor’s plan envisions multiyear tax increases and significant reductions in social services and subsidized child care programs.”

Preschool California, an organization aimed to fight for child care said the proposal will save $517 million for the state, but at the cost of “slashing program eligibility” and “reducing reimbursement rates to providers” — removing “approximately 80,000 low-income children from preschools and child development centers.”

Vargish said the governor’s plan would use vouchers as an option for parents who would qualify for subsidized child care through CalWORKS, as the process for funding child care would have to go through social services first and then through welfare if the budget proposal passes.

To qualify for the voucher, a parent would have to be employed, prove financial need and would have to apply for welfare to be eligible for a voucher, Vargish said.

Low-income families who qualify would be able to use the vouchers for child care. The voucher would not need to be redeemed at an accredited institution.

“It could go to, like I said, ‘grandma,’” Vargish said. “That doesn’t mean that grandma isn’t a wonderful person, but grandma might be older and sticks the preschooler in front of the TV because grandma can’t handle the preschooler and your money is … now going to grandma instead of going to a program like ours where quality is guaranteed.”

Diana Robles-Nichols, an instructor in the Child and Adolescent Studies Department, said vouchers would have to be monitored closely to ensure the best quality care for the children.
“Vouchers can work, but they would really have to be monitored differently,” said.

Robles-Nichols. “You always have the risk that you’re leaving your children with somebody who could potentially be abusive or neglectful and sometimes you may not identify that until later.”

Early identification of a child’s special needs is important. If not detected early, it could hinder the child’s progress, she said.

“If they’re not monitored and you don’t know where they’re using them and you’re not requiring that they use them at any specific place — if it’s not licensed, if it’s not a place that’s accredited and if it doesn’t have teachers that have specialization, they’re not going to identify these needs,” Vargish said. “I’m worried for the children of the state of California, especially low-income children.”

The Children’s Center, which is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, is considered a full-inclusion institution, Vargish said. As a full-inclusion day care and preschool, the Children’s Center ensures that children with special needs are included in the center’s programs.

“Anything that would go for any other child would also go for that child with special needs,” Vargish said.

The Children’s Center utilizes its Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools (CCAMPIS)  grant to help parents who may be low-income and need child care, Vargish said. The grant also pays for teacher training, allowing them to attend conferences with various workshops, with a choice of attending a workshop about how to deal with children with troubling behavior or students with special needs.

Although the center currently does not have any master teachers focused on working with  special-needs children, some of the teacher aides, who are students, are in the child development field and are interested in pursuing a career in working with special-needs children.

The Children’s Center and the early childhood program within the Special Education Department work together with the “I Dream” program on campus, which allows students interested in becoming inclusion specialists to intern at the center, Vargish said. They are then connected with a child during their internship.

According to the governor’s budget summary, “refocusing CalWORKS and subsidized child care by increasing income support to working families and reducing assistance to families who are not meeting work requirements,” will save California about $1.4 billion.

Violet Marquez, 24, a liberal studies major interested in working with children with special needs, has worked for two years as a teacher’s assistant at Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach, where she works with autistic children.

“(Brown’s budget is) just going to end up hurting the kids, which will end up hurting our society because more and more kids have special needs,” said Marquez.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of 8-year-olds, the prevalence of autism in children has increased. The ratio of children with autism used to be 1 in 110 and has increased to 1 in 88.

The proposal is currently being reviewed and Californians will have the opportunity to vote on it in November.

About Vanessa Martinez