October 20, 2021

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The Appliance Of Baby

Watch now: Pending closure of Decatur after-school program strains working parents | Parenting

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DECATUR — Rebecca Kitchens loves talking to her 5-year-old daughter Cadence whenever the busy working Decatur mom gets the chance.

But there is one conversation she is not looking forward to having: telling Cadence why, after August, she won’t be seeing her favorite teachers anymore at the Kid’s Connection after school and summer care program run by Macon Resources, Inc.

Kitchens said she and many other devastated parents were told the program, which houses more than 50 kids, will close on that date. Cadence, she explains, has autism and it’s tough to find affordable, trustworthy facilities with properly trained staff to take children with special needs.

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“She really likes it there and she asks about her teachers all the time,” said Kitchens, 36. “Now we’re going to have to tell her she won’t be there to see her favorite teacher after August… and she is not going to understand that.”

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Kitchens said she was told Aug. 13 is the final closure date but that appears to be under discussion. Amy Bliefnick, away for a family event for the Monday holiday, told the Herald & Review that closure dates were being discussed to coincide with the start of the school year and availability of Decatur Public School care facilities. She said she would listen to parents’ concerns and be ready to make a statement after doing that.

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Other parents who contacted the Herald & Review also quoted Aug. 13 as the closure date they had been given. Kitchens said the reason cited was the facility “never recovered financially from COVID” and the stresses dealing with the pandemic had placed on the care program.

Kitchens said her family was told the program would linger until August and the start of school and then be gone. She said what the family will do in the future is up in the air as there are few care programs catering for special needs children, and those that do often have high prices and long waiting lists.

Kitchens said both she and her husband, Tyler, want and need to work but are faced with a massive headache of juggling job times and child care without the MRI program to rely on. “It just seems like the only alternative is to have a parent stay home,” said Kitchens, who works as an infant feeding technician at a hospital in Springfield. “But I want to work; I have my LPN license and I also want to go back to school and get my RN.”

Kitchen said a MRI speech therapy program her daughter uses will continue and she will continue to use it. But the loss of reliable out of school care may be a bridge too far for the Kitchens family and other working parents to try and deal with.

“For our family, our closest relative is an hour and half away from us to get help and so, with this closure, this just becomes a perfect storm for us and so many working parents like us,” she added. “It’s very hard.”

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid