Photo courtesy of Jessica Ciparelli of the CT Early Childhood Alliance
A child at EASTCONN Vernon Head Start (Photo courtesy of Jessica Ciparelli of the CT Early Childhood Alliance)

(Updated 8 p.m.)Even before the end of the fiscal year, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell has started using her executive authority to start scaling back programs that are already running deficits.

One of those programs is the “Care 4 Kids” program, which helps low-income families get money for childcare services, so they can go to work.

“Childcare is a major stumbling block for many families,” Shaun McNally, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, said earlier this week. “It’s the glue that holds the early childcare and education systems together.”

Remove this glue and a lot of high-risk, high-needs children won’t get a quality daycare experience, which will lead to an increased need for services when they begin attending school, McNally said.

“A lot of legislators don’t understand how it permeates the entire system,” McNally, who is a former legislator himself, said. “It’s a tricky program, but a really important program.”

While he understands the program is running a more than $10 million deficit, McNally said its incumbent upon legislators to find the funding and position the state for the future.

“The solutions aren’t cheap, but they are far cheaper than a prison cell,” he said.

“The state just does not have the money to keep operating the program as it had been operating,” Department of Social Services spokesman David Dearborn said. “While no one in government is happy about the need to change the program, we can’t keep operating in deficit, as if we had the necessary funding.”

The Department of Social Services is emphasizing the fact that the program has not ended, but if you’re new to the program your name will be added to a waiting list if you have not received Temporary Family Assistance in the past.

Also those whose income was at or below 50 percent of the state median income level on May 12, will no longer receive assistance if they make $39,404 a year as a family of three.

This concerns Tamarah Smith of Meriden.

Smith, who currently has three children in the program, fears that over the next few months when the state applies the new eligibility standards that she will be kicked off the program.

Smith who works at the Wallingford Community Child Care Center said her husband is currently on a partial lay-off and if he’s rehired full-time they may exceed the new eligibility standards, however, even with their two incomes they would not have enough money to keep their two four-year-olds and seven-year-old in daycare over the summer.

She said at that point it’s likely she would have to quit her job at the daycare in order to care for the kids at home. The problem with that scenario is, it means they may not be able to pay the mortgage and would probably have to move in with her parents. Also the grants she receives so she can complete her bachelors degree in early childhood education would disappear because she would be unable to continue working at the center.

“There’s so much more at stake,” Smith said. “We’re just getting by a it is.”

She said with the help of the “Care 4 Kids” program the family has been able to pay their bills on time and buy groceries more frequently than once a month.

Speaker of the House Chris Donovan said on Monday that the “Care 4 Kids” program is very important. He said daycare in general is important in the daily lives of families.

While he seemed optimistic about the Democratic majority seeking to restore the eligibility requirements and funding for the program during budget negotiations, it was unclear where the program stands in comparison to other scaled back programs.

The last time the state changed “Care 4 Kids” eligibility in 2002, over 13,000 poor children were cut out of the program. Early childhood advocates are fearful even more children and families will be cut out of the program again this year, if lawmakers don’t properly fund it and restore the eligibility standards.