State Budget Cuts Affect Local Programs

Significant state budget cuts for the fiscal year 2010 will impact Queen Anne’s County’s Community Partnerships for Children and Families, a Local Management Board, and the assistance the agency provides to community programs.

There are five key programs affected by the 37 percent cut from the Governor’s Office for Children, including Partnering for Youth after school program, Healthy Families, Chesapeake Helps, Character Counts! and CASASTART. To address this drastic cut, the Community Partnerships Board approved a plan at the end of May to backfill half from earned reinvestment funds, still leaving a financial gap of 18.5 percent.

The Queen Anne’s County Partnering for Youth after school program began 15 years ago at Sudlersville Middle School. Annual funding for the program was obtained through competitive grants and totaled $300,000, which allowed Partnering for Youth to offer activities five days a week at all county middle schools. When this funding began to decline in recent years, PFY was able to secure alternative funding to continue the expansion plan to cover all county schools, although middle schools is first priority.

Last year activities were offered at Bayside, Church Hill, Grasonville, Kennard, Matapeake and Sudlersville Elementary schools and at Centreville, Matapeake, Stevensville and Sudlersville Middle schools. A wide variety of activities were offered including sports, fitness, art, music, dance, journalism, math, science and history.

State funding for after school programming at the middle school level has continued to decline in the past three years to $86,000 annually, covering only 68 percent of the expenses. This year’s budget cuts combined with the 18.5 percent support from the Community Partnership Board will leave the programs with limited funding to conduct all middle school after school activities for the 2009-2010 school year. The PFY Advisory Council has once again given priority to the middle school programs and is planning to shift funds to support activities offered at county middle schools.
“Further scale-backs may become necessary for remaining after school programs if additional funding is not discovered,” said Kim Umberger, coordinator of the program, “and many students may lose the safety and enjoyment of the after school activities.”

Healthy Families Queen Anne’s/Talbot provides intensive prevention and early intervention services to first-time at-risk parents residing in Queen Anne’s or Talbot County and who are eligible for Maryland Children’s Health Program (M-CHP). Eligible families voluntarily engage in an intensive, strength-based home visiting service beginning prenatally and continuing until the target child starts school. The reduction in funds will eliminate a part time bi-lingual family support worker vacancy, a position which may have served ten to fifteen families annually.

Chesapeake Helps, located on the Chesapeake College Campus, serves the Mid-Shore area by connecting community members with the wide array of resources available to them. Counselors are available by phone to assess the needs of their callers and direct them to the appropriate resources and services available in the local area. Chesapeake Helps will not have to decrease the number of hours a counselor is available by phone but budget cuts are forcing the agency to offer only one counselor when in previous years additional counselors were available during peak times.

Chesapeake Helps is looking to cut costs in advertising and is seeking donations of advertising space in local papers and newsletters, as well as other resources.

The mission of the Character Counts! Program in Queen Anne’s County is to strengthen personal character traits, build families with character and build a more cohesive community.

The program was first introduced eight years ago and last year there were 117 character coaches. These volunteer coaches visit classrooms and share lessons about the six pillars of character (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship) with students. The Character Counts! Advisory Council coordinates an essay contest, scholarship opportunity, Coaches Recognition Dinner and many other activities throughout the year to support the spread of good character in the community.

Character Counts! coordinator Jacki Carter said the reduction in funds will affect promotional materials offered at community events, schools, and other activities.

“The public needs to know about the good programs supported by the LMB. As a concerned community, every citizen needs to pull together for our children to make sure that they receive the support they need to become successful in life,” said Carter.

The CASASTART (Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse – Striving Together to Achieve Rewarding Tomorrows) program was designed by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Queen Anne’s County’s CASASTART program focuses on students who are at-risk for substance abuse, truancy and behavior concerns.

Funding from the state supports three part-time case managers, located at Sudlersville Middle School, Centreville Middle School and Matapeake Middle School.

”The CASASTART program has a positive impact on school attendance, grades and behavioral referrals for middle school students at-risk of juvenile services involvement. Budget cuts to the CASASTART Program will require a reduction in the number of hours CASASTART case managers are employed at each school site and will jeopardize program success,” said Mary Ann Gleason, Family Network Specialist with the Community Partnerships for Children.

Other programs affected by budget cuts are the Chesapeake Child Care Resource Center, including LOCATE, which helps parents find licensed child care, and the Judy Center Partnership’s Family Support Program. Staff members are seeking out all grant opportunities and welcome any tax deductible donations.

“The board, staff and community have worked very hard to fund and develop programs that meet the unique needs of the communities in this county. These budget cuts and other losses in revenue are taking us backward during a very vulnerable time. We are doing our best to ensure the county has the resources it needs for children and families and would like to thank the Queen Anne’s County Commission and staff for their support and for allowing us to use innovative ways to find funding for programs,” said Paul Stearns, president of the Community Partnerships for Children Advisory Board.

Anyone who may be interested in learning more or finding out how to support these programs may contact Mike Clark at 410-758-6677, mclark@qac.org, or visit the Community Partnerships’ website at www.communitypartnerships.info.

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