Calais Head Start Prepares for Future

By Lura Jackson

In 2013, a series of federal financial cutbacks went into effect in a process termed sequestration. For Child and Family Opportunities (the organization that runs Head Start for Washington and Hancock counties), the cuts meant a budget shortfall of $95,000. For 43 kids between the two counties, that meant that they were no longer able to attend the program, which prepares children for formal schooling through its encouragement of socialization and learning projects. Cutbacks were scheduled to continue the following year with an additional $144,000 decrease, signaling an even greater impact for local families.

Earlier this year, however, Congress reevaluated the sequestration, temporarily halting cutbacks and in some cases opting to restore funds to those that had already transpired. Child and Family Opportunities was among the organizations that had its funding restored, and the additional cutbacks that were anticipated for this year are no longer scheduled. As a result, 38 slots among Washington and Hancock counties were reopened. "We'll be growing back up to 179 kids," CFO Executive Director Doug Orville says. "We're very lucky—a lot of places around the nation had to close their centers because of the initial cuts."

While the reprieve from the sequester is certainly a welcome one for CFO, Orville notes that it may only be temporary. The sequester outlined ten years of cutbacks, meaning that the organization will still be vulnerable in the years ahead. "Congress has time to act. We hope that they will."

In addition to federal funding, CFO receives state funding specifically for children under 3. On July 1st, that funding was cut by over 30%, which translates into a reduction in its capacity for infants from 10 to 7 slots. The Calais centers will not be impacted by this reduction.

Part of CFO's mission is providing quality child care and preparatory schooling to underprivileged and economically struggling families. In Calais, it operates two centers, one at the WCCC campus and one at the Elementary School, covering infants up to 3 years with Early Head Start and older children with its Head Start and Pre-K programs. Both centers have received "Step 4" quality certificates, ranking them among the finest child care providers in the state. Orville recognizes that sometimes it can seem that slots are limited, but he encourages all interested families to apply. "People shouldn't assume that our centers are always full. Families come and go all the time." 

To speak with an enrollment specialist, please call Jamie at 667-2995, ext. 237.