State Reverses Policy On Child Care Payments For Poor Parents

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The state has reversed its policy on child-care payments for some poor parents, returning responsibility for making the payments to regional nonprofit organizations.

The state had shifted the work to a central office in Frankfort on July 1, but complaints from parents and day-care centers, who said they were going months without payments, prompted the reversal, said Mark Birdwhistell, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

"I want to apologize to any families and our providers who have been inconvenienced in this process," Birdwhistell said. "that was unfortunate and we are working to rectify that situation."

Problems arose shortly after the state started routing the applications to Frankfort. State officials said they were unprepared for the number of applications.

About 11,000 children whose low-income parents are trying to get off welfare and into jobs or are subject to state investigations of child abuse and neglect and have been directed to put their children in day care. That represents about one-quarter of the 44,000 per month whose low-income parents get help paying for child care.

The state spends about $170 million a year for all child-care assistance and state officials estimate that they are behind on payments to about 200 child-care providers.

Tom Emberton Jr., commissioner of social services, said the state will immediately begin shifting that work back to the five agencies that include Community Coordinated Child Care, or 4-Cs, in Louisville and the Child Care Council of Kentucky in Lexington.

Representatives of the five agencies met Thursday with Emberton and agreed to resume handling the applications and approval of payment.

"What it means, hopefully, is that we'll be able to get this back on track," said Susan Vessels, executive director of 4-Cs.

For some parents, the switch back to the old system is a relief.

"It's about time," said Simone Clay, 22, a single mother in Louisville who said her son's day care had to wait nine weeks on payment after she entered a state job-training program aimed at helping her get off welfare.

"A lot of us are single parents," she said. "If they don't pay, we might as well sit at home and collect welfare."

Information from: The Courier-Journal

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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