The recent government sequestration affected Tucker County. Our area felt the very real effect in the loss of the Head Start Program.
The local Head Start Program is run by the North Central West Virginia Community Action Association. The NCWVCAA is a federally funded program through the Head Start Program a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. The NCWVCAA Head Start program serves nine area counties: Barbour, Marion, Monongalia (delegate county), Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Taylor, Tucker, and Webster. Their Early Head Start Programs serve four counties: Marion, Preston, Randolph, and Tucker.
The Head Start program serves low income families with pre-school and early childhood programs which focuses on families and the child preparing them for later life with such things as school readiness, health, nutrition, and social services. The Early Head Start program is both a home-based and socialized program with organized socializing for parents and child once a week, and helps work on things like speech therapy, fine motor skills, colors, numbers, and how to play with others.
According to RuthAnn Ponzurick, Children Services Director for Head Start and Early Head Start for our area, they received notification from the federal government that due results of the sequestration of the federal government they would have to make a 5.27% reduction in their budget to be effective July 2013. This amounted to a $300,000.00 cut that had to be made at the program’s discretion.
“This was a very, very difficult decision we had to make”, said Ponzurick. “We tried our best to minimize the impact on communities, families, and staff.”
The cuts resulted not only in program loss for the region but also job loss of four staff (none in Tucker County) and any vacant positions were eliminated.
According to Ponzurick, “We based our reason we chose to cut Tucker County’s Head Start program on three criteria: 1) We couldn’t find qualified family educators for the five home-based slots; 2) The distance the staff was traveling from (Fairmont, Philippi, Elkins, etc.) and; 3) Are there other resources already in place the families can utilize.”
“Anytime you have to cut even one slot, it’s one too many. It was a very difficult decision”, she added.
Ponzurick went on to list other resources and organizations available to Tucker County Families:
*Parents As Teachers- 304-478-3827 (offer home visits, serve birth-5 years and have no income guidelines.
*Tucker County Board of Education offers Pre-K for any 3 year old with an IEP or any 4 year old. 304-478-2771
*Birth to 3- serves children with special needs 304-478-3827.
*Tucker County Family Resource Network- is a referral and information agency among other services. 304-478-3827
*Our NCWVCAA still has its Early Head Start program in place and also serves as a referral agency, case management, earned income tax assistance, heating costs, etc. 304-478-3536.
The local Early Head Start program serves the needs of pre-natal up to age 3 years with home-based services and is being supervised out of Barbour County 304-457-2181.
Though it’s often easy to only see how we’re affected locally, we were not the only county to see changes. In Barbour County the NCWVCAA had to close a classroom (Barbour County’s Board of Education went on to open a Pre-K class in its place). Webster County combined their Pre-K with their kindergarten class and Head Start is not permitted to serve combined classes.
“Removing a much needed service anywhere is devastating for a county”, Ponzurick said. “We’re not sure what the future holds, there may be more sequestrations in the future and possibly more cuts we’ll have to make in the future.”