When Mary Ewell completed a government-sponsored training program three years ago, she had marketable secretarial skills that landed her a job, but no money to pay someone to care for her daughter.
That problem was solved when the District of Columbia’s department of social services recommended she turn to a federally subsidized nursery school in her neighborhood.
Ms. Ewell, a single parent, says her child benefited “tremendously” from her involvement in the Matthew Memorial Baptist church nursery school, one of 102 day-care centers in Washington funded under Title XX of the Social Security Act. And now, she says, her younger daughter is also profiting from the program.
Three-year-old Tracy Ewell, born with an accumulation of fluid in her ear that has caused developmental speech and hearing problems, receives therapy from the nurseryschool teachers at the day-care center, according to her mother.
Five-year-old Mary Ewell now participates in the before- and after-school program; both children, according to Ms. Ewell, have become more poised and outgoing since they were enrolled at the day-care center.
Ms. Ewell says that without day-care services she would not have been able to work. But with federal appropriations to states for day care reduced by 20 percent this year, the availability of assistance for people like Ms. Ewell may be sharply curtailed.
And that, say proponents of day care, will not only make it more difficult for low-income parents to work full time, but it will also deprive their children of a preparation for school that teachers and child-development specialists alike believe makes an important difference in later educational achievement.
Title XX of the Social Security Act was enacted by Congress in 1975 to provide a variety of community-based human services including child care, protective services for children and adults, foster care for children and adults, home maintenance and management assistance, transportation, family planning, counseling, and the preparation and delivery of meals and health support services.
Its day-care component has become popular in the states not only because it provides support for working parents, but also because of the findings on its link with early-childhood development.
According to Therese Lansburgh, honorary chairman of both the Day Care Council of America and the Maryland Committee for Children, recent studies document that poor children enrolled in well-run day-care programs “make significant developmental gains” that “expand their intellectual horizon.”
An Observable Difference
Some who work with such children in public schools say they do not need studies to demonstrate the difference between students who have been exposed to day-care programs and those who have not. Helen Suber, a teacher at an elementary school in a low-income area of Washington, D.C., said she observes the differences every day.
Mrs. Suber said students with preschool training are ready to perform when they enter school, while the others are at odds with their new environment.
“They don’t know how to hold their crayons and pencils, but those with preschooling have no problem and are trained to know the alphabet and colors, and can count a little bit,” she said. “There is a difference.”
In fact, the link between early training and success in school is well enough documented, child-care advocates note, that some cities and states are adding day-care services to their educational programs.
More school systems serving low-income children, toward whom the Title XX program is directed by law, may begin considering that option as state-administered Title XX day-care programs respond to cuts in federal support.
That support has already been reduced to $2.4 billion from $3.1 billion last year under Congress’s new 1982 budget bill; the bill also consolidated Title XX funds into block grants and lifted regulations governing how the money is to be spent--including requirements that states contribute a specific proportion of the day-care financing.
In 1979, under the former matching provisions of the federal law, states spent approximately $822 million on Title XX day care; in 1980, they spent approximately $723 million, according to Allen N. Smith, of the day-care division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
During those years up to 500,000 children nationwide received subsidized day-care services.
Restrictions at the State Level
Many day-care specialists expect the effects of federal budget cuts to be amplified at the state level, since states no longer have to meet matching requirements.
With increased demands placed on state and local funds due to pervasive federal reductions, states, they say, may be unwilling to maintain Title XX centers without imposing restrictions and new fee requirements that will limit access for children of low-income working parents--the same children that day-care advocates believe most need the service.
But in California, for example, where day care is administered by the education department with state funds alone, the picture is a lot better than for other states that accept the government’s day-care subsidy.
William Roberts of the California Education Department said the state legislature decided in 1972 that day care should be morethan babysitting and authorized a cooperative agreement with the state’s social-service agency. Under the novel arrangement, the education department assumed responsibility for the administration of subsidized day care.
Mr. Roberts said that last year the state refused Title XX funding for day care and now assumes full funding for the program as part of its education effort.
In New York, however, where Title XX funds are a significant part of the state’s social-welfare budget, income eligibility for day-care services has been tightened in expectation of a $60-million cut in state and federal aid.
In Baltimore, city officials are dismantling their Title XX centers in anticipation of the cutbacks.
Mr. Smith said it is too early to know what other states will do with less money because there are several options. It is possible to serve the same number of children by sacrificing quality, he said; states could also adopt a sliding scale of fees instead of the full subsidy arrangement which many already have developed.
Maureen McKinley of the Day Care and Child Development Council of America, Inc., said that the quality of day care could be jeopardized if the states alter eligibility requirements for working parents.
She said parents on welfare will be more likely to seek the cheapest day care for their children because the money will be comingout of their pockets and will not be recovered until the following month.
Marjorie Smith, chairman of public policy for the Maryland Committee for Children, said publicly funded day care is provided not as a service to children but as a service for their parents who are in school, or involved in job training, or in need of some relief because of family problems.
Mrs. Smith says she is uncertain about the future of the program because surplus state funds in the past have never been used to supplement day-care programs despite the benefits.
Baltimore to Use Private Centers
In Baltimore, social-service officials have decided to contract with private centers exclusively because of federal spending reductions and the cost of maintaining publicly run centers.
Four centers will be closed by the end of October and those remaining will be shut down by February 1982.
Audrey Sutton, chief of day-care services, said the decision to shut down means that about 1,087 preschool and school-aged children will have to be moved to privately operated centers. And there is already a waiting list of an additional 2,000 families in need of subsidized day care in Baltimore.
“I would say,” said one Baltimore social-services administrator, “there’s a little bit of turmoil.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 1981 edition of Education Week as School Board Appeals State Ruling Admitting Deaf Pupil to High School