Head Start services back up after one-day glitch
By Kalyn Belsha firstname.lastname@example.org October 8, 2013 11:37AM
Jayden Sullivan of Aurora plays at the Two Rivers Head Start Agency in Aurora. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: November 10, 2013 6:23AM
Two Rivers Head Start Agency, which serves preschool-age children at 12 locations from Aurora to Yorkville to Elgin, is back up and running Tuesday after a computer glitch caused a one-day suspension of services.
Head Start is a federally funded program that offers early education to low-income children ages 5 and under and to pregnant women.
Two Rivers serves 1,050 children and employs 235 staffers.
On Friday, Two Rivers alerted staff and parents that the agency would have to suspend services on Monday because there was an issue accessing the federal grant money that funds the program.
The funds are put in one major account and Two Rivers takes money when it needs it.
“We were unable to do a draw down due to a glitch in the system,” said Two Rivers Executive Director Diane Lacey.
The computer glitch wasn’t caused by the federal government shutdown, Lacey said, but because government workers were furloughed, Two Rivers couldn’t get in touch with anyone to solve the problem.
“We called everyone in the world,” Lacey said.
She waited as long as she could on Friday, but when the issue still wasn’t resolved, Lacey had to make a tough call.
“I was just worried to open the program if we couldn’t pay staff,” she said. “It’s very hard when you have to tell parents on Friday that on Monday they won’t have care for their children.”
Many parents whose children attend Head Start programs are working low-wage or entry-level jobs and can’t afford child care, Lacey added, so the one-day closure was especially difficult for them.
“And staff too were very upset without knowing how long this was going to last,” she said. “It’s very heart-breaking.”
Two Rivers finally was able to get in touch with someone in Springfield who resolved the issue, allowing services to resume Tuesday.
For some families already struggling, the uncertainty was a major stressor.
“We were freaking out,” said one man whose wife works for Two Rivers. “We’re floating on fumes.”
He said his family was panicked when they heard about the closure because he’s been out of work for two months recovering from knee surgery, and the family was relying on one income.
“It doesn’t affect just the kids, there’s a ripple effect,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard-working families that depend on this.”