As the dangers of early childhood centers have become more apparent, the federal government has begun to close in on them. Following multiple instances of abuse and neglect in early childhood centers throughout the city, the federal government is claiming that Chicago needs to improve the safety of facilities for young children.
Withholding Funding for Early Childhood Centers
Following seven reports from parents and teachers regarding serious personal injury taking place in child care facilities in Chicago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that would open up the $176 million in grants previously designated for Chicago’s City Hall. Much of that money would have gone toward early childhood education, primarily in Chicago’s West and South sides.
The withholding of these funds is yet another disruption affecting early childhood education in the city, following delays in plans to improve child care programs. Originally, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration planned to develop a program to give every four-year-old child throughout Chicago free placement in a prekindergarten class. The plan was to go into effect by 2021 and also include funding for children three and under, but changes prevented this program from going into fruition.
The individuals who helped develop the plan left with Rahm Emanuel and plans didn’t move forward under Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Incidents Leading to Defunding
Due to incidents involving harm to children, the federal government has questioned whether the city is capable of overseeing a program that is intended to provide sufficient education and care for thousands of children across the city.
The government’s Head Start program received reports of a minimum of seven major infractions starting in January 2019. The most serious case involved a child attending an All About Kids center located on the South Side in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. The child was left unsupervised on a bus in harsh winter conditions, resulting in the child developing frostbite on one foot. The same child was later injured in a bus accident, after which the school’s staff failed to provide treatment or notify the child’s parents.
It’s still uncertain how the lack of funding would affect children’s safety, but a significant change needs to occur to make schools safer for young children. Childcare advocates have been discussing how to improve early childhood education in Chicago, which may lead to more funding from the federal government for expanding education.