Chicago families fighting to save 3 child care centers set to close over lack of funding

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parents are rallying to save three child care and education centers in Chicago that are slated to close at the end of the month.

The Head Start Programs run by Catholic Charities serve hundreds of families but the centers are preparing to close their doors when funding runs out this month.

A little girl is fighting to keep her very first school open.

"They can't close it. Because they just can't. Some of the kids need to learn more and more before they can go to another school," Lily Cinta said.

Lily was just three years old when she first attended Catholic Charities Head Start Program at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. Her grandparents also benefited from it.

"I was taking GED over here and my wife learned to speak English," said Andres Reyes, Lily's grandfather.

Now, those programs are set to end at St. Josephs, Our Lady of Tepeyac in Little Village and the Chicago Lawn Center. November 26th will be the centers' last day.

Parents received the news barely two weeks ago

"I was literally in shock. I was really happy that my son was finally happy to be in pre-school. It was a dream for him to go and he was the happiest little boy I would have imagined," said Marlene Reyes.

Parent Joanna Torres said, "I don't know what to do. November 26. It's two weeks. I just don't know what to do."

As of last year, Catholic Charities Child Development Centers served 502 children and 460 families in primarily LatinX communities. In addition to their Head Start Program, they offer parents GED and English as a second language classes.

"We are immensely proud of that legacy," said Brigid Murphy, Catholic Charities' director of communications. "Unfortunately, we are not immune to the funding challenges facing all human service providers in Illinois."

The centers have been mostly funded with government grants, which have remained stagnant over these last several years.

Catholic Charities said the cost of running the programs is far more than they receive, and making up that amount has become unsustainable. The organization's current shortfall is over $1 million.

Catholic Charities said they're working with the city to transition impacted families into other Head Start programs. But it remains unclear whether all will find new, satisfactory alternatives before the end of the month.
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