A Harlem early childhood education provider is suing the New York City Department of Education for violating its contracting process when awarding a new contract for one of its child care programs.
Union Settlement has operated city-funded Family Child Care Networks, which allows the nonprofit to oversee a network of people and small businesses providing child care services in their homes. In the past, its program has been open to children ages 6 weeks old to 4 years old, with services available from from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday year-round.
But the nonprofit said when it reapplied for the Family Child Care Network contract, it received an award last year that only allows it to serve 3-year-olds until 2:30 p.m. only during the school year. Union Settlement Executive Director David Nocenti said this ran contrary to guidance the Education Department put out when seeking contracts, which stated the agency would not give money for programs that organizations that didn’t apply for and barred applicants from requesting to fund programming exclusively for 3-year-olds.
“It’s bad for kids, bad for parents, bad for early child care providers,” Nocenti said. Kids won’t be able to stay with the same caregivers for years under this program, he said, and parents who need more hours of child care year-round won’t be able to be supported.
Hugo Cortes, who helps his wife run a child care center that is funded through the contract, said the limited hours have kept some parents from enrolling their kids. “A lot of parents are upset with us, but it’s not us making the rules,” he said. Their center is currently serving just one child, compared with the six they would usually serve in the past.
“We deeply value our community partners who provide early childhood services to tens of thousands of children across New York City, and we have enough seats in East Harlem to meet the needs of families,” Sarah Casasnovas, spokesperson for the Department of Education, said in a statement. “We’re committed to providing as many early childhood opportunities as possible in our communities, and the lawsuit is without merit.”