Child Care Services Association’s (CCSA) response to the News & Observer amounts to nothing short of an utter confession of responsibility for what happened in Durham County.
CCSA admitted to knowing that the way they spent their money would not be sufficient to cover the costs for the full fiscal year.
“We could have terminated scholarships for half of the families in July [the beginning of the fiscal year when the budget was set], or we could try to cut costs, work to find families other sources of funding, see if new funds became available and wait until mid-year,” Sue Russell, President of CCSA, told the News & Observer.
In other words, when CCSA crafted their budget for fiscal year 2009-10, they knew precisely how much funding they had available to finance the Smart Start scholarships they administer. Instead of awarding a number of scholarships appropriate to their budgeted funds available, they decided to proceed in a risky hope that a number of children would drop out of the program or they would find some additional funds later in the year from some unanticipated revenue sources. Their irresponsible decisions caused an unfortunate crisis that severely impacted many in the Durham County community. In doing so they gambled with the livelihood of children and daycare providers.
Childcare providers were sent scrambling to reconcile a sudden absence of revenue from the scholarship program. In spite of this, CCSA asserts that all day care centers involved in the scholarship program “continued to have active licenses for service.” The real struggle of providers like Landeeingdam Dosland Daycare, however tells a different story. According to multiple providers in the Durham area, this day care center lost all of its children on a CCSA scholarship and the owner was forced to seek outside employment, laying off all the teachers she employed. The owner’s license for service may still be “active,” but her daycare operation is not.
The question still remains, as CCSA has still not divulged the specific information, as to how the crisis actually occurred.
Even in CCSA’s response to Civitas, there is no mention of specifics in terms of how the crisis was caused. We don’t know how CCSA spent over $200,000 on personnel to administer the program. We do not know the rate by which children left the program, which was supposedly unexpectedly low. We don’t know why CCSA paid much higher rates for certain children on the subsidies than the Durham County Department of Social Services did under their administration, and how that impacted the shortfall. And the most troubling unknown – how did no one see this coming?
The Director of Social Services in Durham County, Gerri Robinson, has gone on the record stating that the same situation could not have happened to them, had they been in charge of the program. Robinson claims that the monitoring requirements DSS was subjected to would make that situation “almost impossible.” If that is true, how could CCSA and Smart Start claim there was no mismanagement of the administration of the Smart Start Scholarship?
Finally, it is truly disappointing how CCSA resorted to false personal attacks as a defense mechanism, to throw the focus of this situation away from the real subject. At no point during my visit to CCSA did I raise my voice, get loud or aggressive. When I stated my surprise at the way CCSA was hiding the documents I was asking for considering the crisis that occurred with public money, they opened the door immediately and said “We’re done here.” At that point, I immediately left. And at no point were there any parents or children present in the waiting room where this exchange took place.
On behalf of parents, day care providers, tax payers, and everyone else affected by the childcare crisis in Durham County, we once again urge CCSA to disclose ALL information relevant to why such a shortfall occurred. To simply take CCSA’s word for it would be wholly insufficient to the people of North Carolina. CCSA must do all due diligence to our citizens and come forward.