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Missouri Families Bear Brunt of Child-Care Cuts

Hundreds of low-income parents in Missouri will soon find themselves scrambling for child care now that social service agencies are beginning to implement major cuts to state-funded programs.

The loss of access to care was foretold weeks ago when state lawmakers approved a budget compromise that cut funding for Early Head Start programs nearly in half, from about $5.7 million to $2.65 million, according to news reports.

The budget takes effect July 1, so that means that local agencies that distribute the funds will be deciding in coming weeks who can stay in free programs and who must go. And those decisions are likely to have long-term consequences, advocates say.

For one, parents who can't afford quality child care could end up turning to unlicensed providers, who aren't subjected to safety and training requirements. Missouri law says people can care for up to four kids, in addition to their own, in an unlicensed home.

But it's the loss of access to early intervention that could have the most lasting impact, as research has shown time and again that quality child care and early learning can be the key to a successful start for kids.

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