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Parents rally to save child development center

SF Public Press
 — Jun 14 2010 - 6:33pm

The Children's Village Child Development Center at 250 10th St. will soon shut its doors as the San Francisco Archdiocese sold the property to a groups of investors. At least 40 kids will be displaced when the center closes on August 31, 2010.

Parents received a letter in June 2009 from Catholic Charities CYO, an independent organization that oversees the development center, stating the property, owned by the Archdiocese, was being sold and the center would shut down the following year.

The center opened in 2000 and serves children of the SOMA neighborhood. The facility can accommodate up to 110 kids from three months to 5 years old and has been running at capacity. With some children moving on to kindergarten in the fall, the current enrollment is 40 children.

Parents said Catholic Charities received $1 million from the Archdiocese to vacate the center, but the organization said they have not received money to move out.

Gabrielle Slanina, a communications officer for Catholic Charities, said there were several factors that led to the decision to close the center.

“One of the factors is that the center is losing more money then taking in.” said Slanina.

The organization also said it was restructuring in response to goverment contract funding cuts.

And Slanina said the center was serving only one-third the number of low-income families it was intended to help. The rest of the spots are used by children whose families have higher incomes.

Sabrina Qutb, who has a foster son in the program, said parents were devastated that the center is shutting down. “The center provides for my son's unique needs,” she said. “This is a high quality program and parents have come together to find solutions to keep the center open.”

Megan Laurance, who has two children at the center, said there is not enough time to find open slots at other childcare centers. “We tried talking to Catholic Charities for more time, but they would not listen to us,” she said.

Slanina said Catholic Charities have met numerous times over the past year to hear proposals from the parents and set up a meeting with the Archdiocese to discuss the parent's concerns.

Catholic Charities is planning to open another facility near The Children's Village in January, according to Slanina.

Laurance said there are no guaranteed spots for the 40 children currently attending the day care. The new facility will be housed in Mercy Housing’s new senior building on 10th and Mission Streets.

“We understand about the children, and San Francisco needs quality childcare. We are not happy with the closure,” said Slanina.

Rafael Parra said there have been no transition plans in place and the situation has placed parents in an urgent situation. Parra has two sons at the center and feels no one is talking to the parents.

“Forty kids are going to be left out and they don't seem to care,” he said.

Tom Jackson, a legislative aide from Supervisor Chris Daly's office, voiced his concerns about the 110 slots that would be lost in the city. “Childcare lets parents work,” he said. “This is why families are leaving San Francisco. Let's not have 100 families leave the city.”

Jackson urged the new owners and the church to work with the parents.

The parents of The Children's Village have formed Supporting Early Experience and Development, a nonprofit group to help save the childcare center.

“We are going to do everything we can to find alternate solutions,” said Laurance.


When she says " the center is losing more money then taking in.." she is not mentioning the fact that this is under "CCCYO management." SEED presented a proposal to CCCYO showing a viable way for this center to reach profitability almost immediately, with upfront rent payments offered by parents. The parents group offered to pay market rent to lease the SOMA facility so that the kids would have a transition plan and Archdiocese would get money.
They preferred to ignore our plan and turn it over to speculators. When asked about a transition plan at the conference today, Slanina says they have been working with parents on providing one - but when pressed, she could provide no comment on who was being helped or what plan would actually be available starting Sept 1 when the kids are displaced. Net net: they are doing nothing. Shame.