Magazine article Public Management

Award for Programs for the Disadvantaged in Memory of Carolyn Keane

Magazine article Public Management

Award for Programs for the Disadvantaged in Memory of Carolyn Keane

Article excerpt

ICMA's Excellence Award for Programs for the Disadvantaged, established in memory of Carolyn Keane, recognizes a local government that has enhanced the quality of life for the disadvantaged, including homeless citizens and people with AIDS. This year, ICMA presents the award to the city of Manassas, Virginia, and to City Manager John G. Cartwright for creating a child-care partnership.

In the spring of 1992, the lifeline that holds many low-income families together and keeps them self-supporting was almost severed when state day-care allocations to the city of Manassas were slashed by 80 percent. With more than a third of its population under the age of 18, Manassas began providing day-care assistance to the working poor in 1988. As more and more single mothers joined the work force, however, the waiting list for subsidized day care continued to grow. Initially, day-care eligibility was determined on a sliding-fee scale, with participating families contributing a small co-payment based on family income. The program quickly became a tragic lottery, however, when monthly per-child day-care expenses in Northern Virginia rose to $400. As the program's ability to sustain the existing system decreased, child neglect complaints increased by nearly 40 percent.

Staff of the city's social services department determined that parents receiving services paid only 15 percent toward their child-care costs while the city underwrote the remaining 85 percent. The staff also discovered huge disparities among co-payments, which were based on whether the child was being reared by a parent versus another relative and not on ability to pay. Finally, parents who had worked their way off welfare to become employed suddenly found they were no longer eligible to receive day-care assistance. Many were knocked off the ladder to success and became dependent on welfare again. …

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