Daycare Closure Threatens Angel’s Care

DSC_0352MJ Gonzalez Magaly Feliciano and her son, Angel, practice the computer skills he learns at the League Treatment Center.

The holidays took on a bittersweet feeling at the Feliciano household this year, when Magali Feliciano, a single mother of two, received a letter stating that her son’s daycare was closing down.

“We had to get prepared again, it was going to be another battle,” said Ms. Feliciano, whose 4-year-old son, Angel, a special-needs child, attends Duffield Children’s Center, one of the fifteen daycare centers in New York set to shut down as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to close the city’s budget gap.

The day care centers, which provide services to low-income families, including many on welfare, are subsidized by the government and housed in leased properties, where rents have significantly risen in recent years. Officials with the Administration for Children’s Services said that the pricey programs can no longer be funded. The shuttering would save the city nearly $9 million.

Duffield, located on 101 Fleet Place in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, was originally scheduled to close last spring, but after protests, marches, rallies, and support from government officials, the day care stayed open. But the reprieve was temporary.

On a recent evening in her Lower East Side apartment Ms. Feliciano had just gotten home, after spending her only day off running around the city, “I was picking the baby up from daycare, and spent the afternoon looking for things for my older son’s birthday.”

Ms. Feliciano is used to long days. She is up at six in the morning, gets Angel ready for school, and takes him outside where a bus picks him up at 6:45. Then, she heads to work in midtown.

Though a Lower East Side resident, Angel is enrolled in the League Treatment Center in Brooklyn, an agency for diagnosis, treatment, and education of children with developmental disabilities. Angel attends the League in the morning, and then is taken to Duffield in the afternoon, where he stays until his mother can pick him up after work at 7 p.m.

But if Angel can no longer attend Duffield until that time, Ms. Feliciano said, her son might not be able to stay enrolled at the League, where he receives vital care – including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and motor skills therapy.

“If Duffield closes, forget the League Center,” Ms. Feliciano said. “I can’t be in Brooklyn in time to pick Angel up. And what daycare will cover the transportation like Duffield does?”

Betty Stromberg, Duffield’s director, said that Ms. Feliciano was not the only one to depend on her facility’s proximity to other programs, like the League.

“Our location is key,” she said. “And we provide a service that can’t be replicated.”

She said the decision to close the center was “foolish, and a very big hardship.”

Elysia Murphy, a spokeswoman with Children’s Services, said that the decision to shutter the centers is not one that the agency made lightly. But, she added, the day care center leases that the city pays for are placing strains on the city’s child care system. “We have very few options when facing tough decisions about reducing spending that will not lead to discontinuation of services for families,” said Ms. Murphy.

Even as it faces an uncertain future, Duffield has supporters, including City Councilwoman Letitia James and lobbyist John Wright.

“I believe there is room to work with these centers’ lease-holders to bring down costs for the City,” Ms. James said recently at a news conference held to discuss the day care centers that are threatened with closings. “To unilaterally suggest closing these centers is to displace hundreds of Brooklyn children without considering obvious alternatives.”