Making ends meet 

A much-needed program finds its niche

A much-needed program finds its niche
Raising two children and working full-time can be a difficult task for a single mother. Now add into the mix being shot seven times and struggling through physical therapy. This is the challenge Debra Gray currently faces. Fortunately, she receives childcare vouchers administered through the Community Centers of Indianapolis to help lighten her burden.
Diane Jackson, executive director of the Martin Luther King Multiservice Center: “When you look at what some of these families make, it helps you know how valuable the program is.”
Gray, who was recently shot by her ex-husband and is now in a wheelchair, is one of thousands of parents who depend on these childcare vouchers. “It’d be much harder without the program,” Gray said. Her two children, ages 10 and 4, attend day care during the day while Gray works through her disability. Her injury forced her to take time off from her job at Household Finance, where she made about $800 per month. However, she hopes to be back at work again soon. The childcare voucher program went through a change of contracting in the past two years. In June of 2001, Daybreak, the private company running the program, was involved in money scandals. Millions of dollars were unaccounted for and the company was shut down. This left the state searching for a new means to administer the vouchers and it turned to the Community Centers of Indianapolis. A new contract was drawn up with very specific terms for salaries and proper spending procedures. Periodic checks are made to verify employee salaries, in order to avoid a repetition of the problems with Daybreak. Diane Jackson, executive director of the Martin Luther King Multiservice Center, was aware of the voucher program while it was run through Daybreak. “They had some organizational problems,” she said. There are seven different sites around the Indianapolis area which administer the vouchers. A family must meet certain income standards to qualify for the program. For example, a family of two, parent and child, must make less than $1,229 monthly to be eligible. “When you look at what some of these families make, it helps you know how valuable the program is,” Jackson said. After the change in administration many of the participants experienced some initial problems. “It was a confusion for a lot of the parents. A lot of people were still going to the old office,” said Susan Boberschmidt, operations supervisor at Southwest Community Center. “However, once the transition happened, a lot of the clients benefited from it.” The community centers are focused on making the program easy on the parents. They try to avoid parents wasting time by making the procedures and paperwork manageable. Overall, the goal of the program is to allow parents like Debra Gray to maintain a job and earn an income without having to worry about the financial burden of childcare. It helps the parents to support their families by using the crutch of childcare vouchers instead of government-generated income. “One of the largest barriers to people working is how expensive day care is,” Boberschmidt commented. “Without the program a lot of these people would have to go back on welfare.” Ali Gray is no relation to Debra Gray.

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