As childcare programs in Santa Barbara County and beyond are facing the loss of state funding — as mandated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most recent state budget proposal — the county’s Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program is also on the ropes due to lack of financial support. If it doesn’t come up with more than $90,000 in the next few months, HIPPY will be forced to close for the 2010-2011 school year.
An international organization that here in the U.S. has 146 sites scattered over 25 states, HIPPY instructors provide parents of kids ages three, four, and five with curriculum to help gear them for school and the years ahead. Parents, according to HIPPY’s Web site, are given books and materials designed to bolster their children’s cognitive skills, early literacy skills, as well as social, emotional, and physical development.
The program here in town has been operating for the past nine years and its instructors have reportedly worked with more than a thousand families. But, explained Ana Maya, program coordinator, because HIPPY isn’t receiving funding this year from First 5 Santa Barbara County Children and Families Commission (a public group that invests tobacco tax revenues in child-care programs), the program has been forced to rely on cash from individual donors, charitable foundations, and organizations.
However that source has quickly dried up, too, in these financially trying times; Santa Barbara’s HIPPY program has only raised $5,000 out of the $100,000 it needs to stay afloat. Things were tough last year, too, as the program was forced to let go its nine instructors who would teach at people’s homes and instead host sessions — run only by Maya and her assistant — at their office, located at 721 East Cota Street.
In past years, each instructor would have 20-25 client families which he or she would visit on a weekly basis — for an hour at a time — for 30 weeks. But even last year’s strategy of hosting 6-10 families at a time at HIPPY’s headquarters isn’t looking doable this time around. If the program has any chance of surviving, said Maya, funding pledges need to start coming in by August. Classes are slated to start up again in October.
Maya is concerned that the loss of HIPPY will be more than just an inconvenience but a real blow to the community. “It’s going to really impact our families a lot because our program helps families connect with their children,” she said. “It gives parents the opportunity to work with their children one-on-one, and not just with their child, but also with other children. And that’s what we need in our community: for parents to spend more time with their children and work together with them.”
Speaking about how HIPPY typically serves at-risk youth, Maya said, “Without HIPPY, an opportunity for early intervention will be lost. This will have a significant impact not only on the future educational success for these children but also increase the need for later intervention at a higher cost to the community.” According to a press release that cites a First 5 study, “For every dollar invested in high quality early care and education services, a return of $7 or more dollars can be gained through reductions in juvenile crime, teen pregnancies, welfare, and other social services.”