FORSYTH COUNTY -- Families who receive childcare aid may soon lose assistance due to recent changes to a childcare subsidy program in the state of Georgia.
A statewide funding restriction went into effect Oct. 1 for the Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, a subsidy designed to help low-income families afford safe child care.
While the restrictions will likely have little effect on Forsyth County, residents and caregivers in neighboring counties are expected to be directly affected, and some are already worrying about what this might mean.
In Hall County, Executive Director of Gainesville Academy Pam Forrester, voiced her concerns to The Gainesville Times.
“You are going to see a lot of kids who are not going to be in a safe environment if this CAPS thing keeps going the way it’s going. And it’s hard-working families. They’re trying,” she said.
Director of the Joyland Child Development Center, Sheila Missler, told The Times more than 50 percent of the families at her daycare receive the subsidy, though as of late September, the center had not received updated information about the program’s changes.
And while many childcare centers in Forsyth County — the Forsyth County News called 10 — either do not accept CAPS-eligible families or have less than five children affected, Kim Coleman, owner of Primrose School of Cumming East, said nothing good can come of the change.
“We know it’s not going to be good; [Georgia] is not going to be able to help as many families,” he said. “I really don’t know what the [change] entails, though.”
Though CAPS is Georgia-specific, the program receives funding from the federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF.)
For the state to continue to receive the funding, it was “necessary to prioritize new families enrolling in CAPS based on specific needs,” according to the CAPS website.
Whereas previous funding for the program was based solely on certain eligibility requirements, the state has now added “priority groups.”
These groups include: TANF applicants and recipients, children in DFCS custody or in Child Protective Services, minor parents in school, grandparents raising grandchildren, children with special needs, children in Georgia’s Pre-K Program requiring extended care or victims of a natural disaster.
Other included groups are “persons who are considered homeless, persons experiencing domestic violence and families with very low income.”
Forsyth County Schools has a homeless education program, but the subsidy won’t affect children in public school, given attendance is free.
There were 299 students enrolled in Forsyth County Schools who qualify for the program, as of September, and they may have siblings not yet of public school age whose parents rely on the subsidy.
Still, very few Forsyth County childcares have said they expect to be affected. Time will tell, though, said Coleman.
For more information or to apply for CAPS, visit dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/how-apply-caps-program.