Editors Note: Last spring during our interview series Stretched Thin, we reported on the impact of the state budget impasse on local social service agencies. There's still no budget. In our new series Stretched Thinner, we check back with those social social service agencies.
The YWCA's Young Wonders Early Learning program offers a variety of ways to help working parents and their kids, find ways to get at-risk children the support they need. Although a stop-gap budget was a temporary fix, it's now gone, leaving the program without the financial support it needs from the state in order to serve families in the community.
"Right now we are still in that state of fear," said Melissa Breeden of the uncertainty caused by the continued lack of a budget. "Because of the budget crisis, nothing is guaranteed. A couple of our current clients that received aid came to me and asked 'what is happening, will I still have care for my child?'. I tell them that we're happy to serve them, but we're taking this week-by-week. That's the crisis that we're in. We don't know more. We need a budget passed, and even if it is passed, we're looking at cuts. So are we going to lose some of our families because their co-payments increase? We might."
The specter of layoffs is ever-present. Though Breeden has not had to fire anyone yet, staff members are leaving to find other positions, and Breeden then does not fill those positions, leaving the program shorthanded. "Our program needs have shifted. If we're not receiving this money, we have to look at our priorities."
Breeden credits the staff of Young Wonders Early Learning with staying positive in the face of uncertainty. "But it is hard when they come to me with questions of what it's going to look like in the future. And I don't have the answers. I will pour my blood, sweat and tears into the program to make sure we are continuing to provide our services."