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Parents, advocates say kids will benefit if NY spends more on this key child development program

A bus filled with about 70 parents and providers from across New York State went to Albany Tuesday morning to advocate for a key child development program.
The Children's Agenda
A bus filled with about 70 parents and providers from across New York State went to Albany Tuesday morning to advocate for a key child development program.

A bus filled with 70 parents, advocates and providers from across New York State went to Albany Tuesday morning to urge state officials to increase reimbursements rates for providers in the state’s Early Intervention program by 11%.

The Early Intervention program provides a wide range of services to infants and toddlers who have intellectual and developmental delays and disabilities. The state pays for the services, but counties administer the program.

The Children’s Agenda, an advocacy group, has reported that over 500 children in Monroe County have been on the waitlist to receive Early Intervention services for over 30 days — the legal deadline for children to receive the services they are entitled to. The wait is largely due to a shortage of providers, said Brigit Hurley, chief program officer at The Children’s Agenda.

A bus filled with about 70 parents and providers from across New York State went to Albany Tuesday morning to advocate for a key child development program.
The Children's Agenda
A bus filled with about 70 parents and providers from across New York State went to Albany Tuesday morning to advocate for a key child development program.

“When young children like this don't receive services that are designed to support their development, they end up lagging behind, they end up sometimes regressing,” said Hurley, who is also coordinator of the Kids Can’t Wait campaign.

Hurley was among the 35 individuals from Monroe County who were on the bus. She said that the shortage of providers is due to poor pay. Providers are instead choosing to work in hospitals or in schools where they can make more money.

“Even if they're very passionate about young children and would love to work with infants and toddlers, they just can't afford it,” Hurley said.

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The 11% rate increase, Hurley said, would align with the state’s more recent increase in reimbursement rates for preschool special education providers.

“The services are an investment in the future of that child as well as the future of our community,” Hurley said.

Kimberly Dooher was also on the four-hour ride to Albany. She said early intervention saved her daughter Vivian’s life.

“It allowed her to maximize her potential,” Dooher said. “It’s absolutely devastating to hear and witness children waiting for these crucial services.”

Dooher also co-founded Parents Helping Parents of Monroe County, a nonprofit that advocates and provides support to children and families who are waiting for Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education services in Monroe County.

“I will fight for the rest of my life for kids to get exactly what Vivian got.”

The group is also asking legislators to develop a new way of funding Early Intervention programs and for a loan forgiveness program targeting graduates seeking jobs in the field.