Federally-funded Day Care Services Not Reaching Poor Jewish Children in New York City. Poverty Agenc
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Federally-funded Day Care Services Not Reaching Poor Jewish Children in New York City. Poverty Agenc

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An estimated 20,000 children from some 10,000 law-income New York City Jewish families are not getting federally-funded day care services for which they are entitled by federal income standards, Jerome Becker, chairman of the Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Rabbi David Cohen, Coordinating Council executive director, charged that the Jewish poor and lower income working class families have been systematically excluded from an “adequate share” of such services from the start of the federally-supported day care programs.

Cohen said the New York State Department of Social Services is considering revisions in regulations on day care center operations. He told the JTA that the state Social Services Department was working on revisions in day care center regulations and had scheduled a final review on all comments in requested changes for some time this summer, with final regulations to be issued in the fall.

The comments by Becker and Cohen stemmed from testimony from the Coordinating Council given at a Social Services Department little publicized conference on proposed day care regulations held in Albany on April 25, at which Joseph Langer, Coordinating Council operations director, submitted a statement asking for changes to make possible greater participation by children of poor Jewish families.

Cohen said that because of “kosher food needs, lack of Yiddish and Russian-speaking and geographical location, the Jewish poor and the lower-income large working families attempting to earn a living under adverse economic conditions, cannot take advantage of day care in New York City.”

He added that currently there are some 430 federally-supported day care centers, receiving more than $90 million in public funds, in New York City “with just half a dozen having the ability to provide kosher meals. For the observant family in Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, there are no kosher federal day care centers available.” What this means, he said, is that the observant Jewish family “cannot take advantage of day care in most of the city.”


Langer told the conference that a recent survey of the New York City day care centers “indicated the lack of bilingual Yiddish and Russian-speaking staff.” He declared that traditionally, the Social Services Department has recognized the need for program activities in day care centers “to contain cultural awareness components and bilingual staffing to promote the physical, intellectual, social and emotional well-being of the child.”

Langer added that since the day care center enrollee “spends 50 percent of his waking hours at the center, the environment must emulate the cultural role of the home environment” and that, “without the necessary staffing, parents reject participation in the center on these grounds.”

Becker declared that, for the working parent, “the location of the day care center is crucial. A geographic survey of New York City’s 430 day car centers reflects neighborhood targeting similar to the exclusionary anti-poverty districts of the ’60s and ’70s,” a reference to the organization of anti-poverty efforts in which 26 areas were designated as recipients of the bulk of poverty funds, on arrangement the Coordinating Council consistently criticized as discriminating against the city’s Jewish poor.

Becker noted that New York City officials, in response to “the radical shifts” in the poor population over the last decade, are currently restructuring the city’s anti-poverty efforts. He said “it is now time to re-evaluate the locations and services of day care centers” to make them more accessible to Jewish poor families.

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