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Northampton Day Cares Remain Open, But Funding Woes Remain

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NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, N.C. — The Rich Square Child Development Center vowed to close their doors on Wednesday. Instead, they stayed open. Despite running out of state and federal assistance, some Northampton County day cares kept their doors open a while longer, rather than put the kids out on the street.

The compromise meant Tonya Stephenson, a mother of three, won't have to go day-care shopping -- at least, not yet.

"I feel a full investigation needs to be done, and if it costs people's jobs, then it does," said Stephenson.

It's the county's social services director Al Wentzy who's now in the hot seat. Armed with financial charts showing day-care costs escalating while government assistance was dropping, Wentzy said the crippling blow came when the state failed to kick in more money. Day cares then became over-enrolled.

"Who do I cut first," said Wentzy. "Yes, it is my responsibility. If we had known that we were not going to get a reallocation, I would have created a waiting list. Would it have made a substantial difference? I can tell you honestly that we would have ended up terminating children anyway."

Now the program is short more than $230 thousand dollars. The state argues that Northampton is the only county in the state facing this problem -- a problem they say the county created.

Both sides agree that in the end, it's the kids and parents that could eventually pay the price -- a price of not having a place to go. Day care providers say they will continue to offer services to the families through Monday, when they plan to meet with Northampton County Commissioners to ask for money.


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