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Program for at risk kids in NC affected by government shutdown

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Wayne County's Head Start program is one of the largest in the state serving 600 children and their families Wayne County's Head Start program is one of the largest in the state serving 600 children and their families
GOLDSBORO, N.C. -

Up to eight of the state's 59 Head Start programs face closure if the federal budget situation isn't resolved by Oct. 31.

Head Start provides meals, medical screening and education for children from low income families.

The eight programs affected start their new fiscal year Nov. 1.  Other Head Start programs in North Carolina start their fiscal year Dec. 1.

The Head Start program in Wayne County is one of the largest in the state, serving over 600 kids.

"When I look in every child's face I see my own face, and my family," said Program Director Patricia Colon.

Colon is a product of this program herself, having attended it in the late 70s.

For Colon, this program and its services to families and kids is paramount.

"They need the services we provide so it's very frustrating that decisions are being made that could negatively impact the lives of children and families who are the most vulnerable," said Colon.

Almost all the kids in Wayne County Head Start are also part of the WIC program.

If the WIC and Head Start programs are shut down, those enrolled could be in trouble nutritionally.

"If they're not able to receive WIC services and not able to receive their meals at Head Start, it could impact them with food security and their ability to even eat," said Colon.

The national Head Start foundation was given a $10 million gift from a family in Texas to help keep programs open in six states that were in danger of shutting down Oct 1. But the gift wasn't shared with programs in N.C. because they still have funding.

"We are receiving funding from the last federal fiscal year which is why we are able to maintain operations today," explains Colon.
 
Colon is worried that even if the program ends temporarily, some of these kids might not return when funding is restored. 

"There is that risk children may fall through the cracks even if a budget is reached. That is a concern," she said.

"I went to the same Head Start program I am now the director of," Colon said proudly.

Colon is optimistic funding will be restored by Oct. 31 but is realistic in assuming it won't happen by then.

"There is a lot of uncertainty," she said.

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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