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Starting Points funding uncertain

February 16, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Morgan County parents might be looking elsewhere for a kindergarten readiness program next year, the director of the Staring Points Family Resource Center said.

The program, called Playgroup for Children, helps children ages 3 to 5 learn to socialize, Director Audrey Morris said.

Morris said Starting Points Family Resource Centers in West Virginia do not know if funding will be continued.

She learned last week that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin did not include Starting Points in his State of the State Address.

Morris said Starting Points, which is at 292 N. Washington St., has been funded by the West Virginia Governor's Cabinet on Children and Families through federal, state and private funds, and through a grant project of the Family Resource Network of the Panhandle.

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Morris said previously that a portion of the funds from the Governor's Cabinet on Children and Families included the Family Resource Network and Starting Points. Last year, $1.2 million was designated for the Family Resource Network and $720,000 went to the various Starting Points centers in the state.

"The $1.9 million funding is there," Morris said.

Morris said the budget for fiscal year 2005-06, which begins July 1, will not be known until April.

Today is Children's Day at the West Virginia Legislature in Charleston. Morris plans to attend and talk with state lawmakers to lobby for Starting Points funding.

"The parents and families who come to the centers do not qualify for other programs because they have too much income," said Morris. "Most are stay-at-home moms and the dads work. They don't need full-time day care. There is finally a program in the state that helps the financially borderline. This statewide program keeps them from falling through the cracks."

The Starting Points Family Resource Center for Parents with Young Children has been available in Berkeley Springs since 1999, Morris said.

"It's very discouraging to have to fight for this program every year. I'm getting tired of it," she said.

There are 16 Starting Points Centers in West Virginia, Morris said. The minimum operating cost is $45,000 for each center, and "we still don't have enough money," Morris said.

Dwayne Myer said he takes his child to Starting Points.

"It's the only place I've got to take my child, and if this is gone, I've got nothing," he said. "I travel out of state to work. If this goes, why am I in West Virginia?"

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