21 Cares for Kids

Head Start has open class slots -- and waiting list

Some families make too much for guaranteed spot

Head Start - open slots - and waiting lists

REDMOND, Ore. - NeighborImpact, a 21 Care's For Kids partner, said Thursday it still has 79 spots available for the Head Start program on the High Desert.

But the program is needs-based, so many low-income families don't qualify, as they don't fall below the federally set poverty line.

"I was very shocked and upset, because I was so happy that my son was going to be able to go into it," Tasha Kissell, a single mom in Redmond, said Thursday.

Kissell is working hard to make ends meet. She was hoping her annual salary of  $18,000 would automatically qualify her 4-year old son for the Head Start program.

"And then I sent in my application and got denied," said Kissell, who is not alone.

So far, over 100 families have been put on a waiting list, because they are above the federal poverty line.

"It really is the hardest part of our job," said Patty Wilson, deputy director at NeighborImpact. "(Wages of) $18,000 for a family of two is nothing, and we would like to serve all of these children. Unfortunately, we just can't."

Head Start is bound by federal guidelines. According to those rules, a family of two (that would be a single parent and their child) could not make more than $15,171. A family of three needs to make less than $19,790 a year to qualify. 

"The income threshold is really low," Wilson said.

It's a frustrating situation for those who do not qualify.

"I qualify for a little bit of food stamps, but that's it. I'm a single mom to a 4-year old that now can't go to Head Start because I cannot afford it," said Kissell.

Head Start encourages families to apply, even if their income is above the poverty line. They are looking at applications on a case-by-case basis.

"We keep an active wait list from now until the end of the school year," Wilson said.

With 79 slots still open, Kissell might be one of those who make it from the waiting list to a spot in the program. She is pregnant with her second child, and the maximum income level is higher for a family of three.

Wilson said even if you do not qualify, NeighborImpact might still be able to help you.

"Our Childcare Resources program will do their best to help you find something you can afford," Wilson said.

To qualify, children must live in Deschutes or Crook counties and be three or four-years-old on September 1, 2014. Applications and information regarding eligibility are available for download at www.neighborimpact.org, or area NeighborImpact offices in Bend, La Pine, Redmond and Prineville. Families can also call (541) 323-6527 to have an application mailed.

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