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Pa. officials reverse course on local family support center funding

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Pa. officials reverse course on local family support center funding

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Pa. officials reverse course on local family support center funding
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

By Kate Giammarise

State officials have halted a planned shift in funding that could have hurt or shuttered multiple family support centers in impoverished Allegheny County communities.

The change was confirmed Wednesday by state officials.

On Monday, the Post-Gazette reported a state Department of Human Services solicitation issued earlier this month would have limited a particular funding stream to centers in Allegheny County and threatened centers in Clairton, Duquesne, Homestead, McKeesport, McKees Rocks, Penn Hills, Tarentum, Wilkinsburg and Wilmerding, and in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood that are operated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. Those centers collectively could have faced a $1.3 million cut and could have been limited to funding sufficient for two of what are now 10 centers. 

The prospect of the centers being closed abruptly had led to outcry from a number of local human service officials and state legislators, who had reached out directly to Gov. Tom Wolf and appealed to him to reverse the change.

Allegheny County’s 28 family support centers aim to help families with young children with everything from parenting classes to economic self-sufficiency. They assist with a number of services for families, including child health and development screenings, fatherhood programs, preventing child abuse and home visiting programs for expectant and new mothers.

Several of the centers serve communities that are the focus of Growing Up Through the Cracks, a Post-Gazette series about the region’s pockets of high concentrations of child poverty and the harm it causes families and communities.

The state was not cutting the amount of funding available overall to family centers statewide, though it would have limited what would have been available to Allegheny County.

“I shared serious concerns with the administration about the funding allocated for Allegheny County,” said state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, in a tweet on Wednesday thanking Mr. Wolf’s administration for the change.

The funding solicitation that would have capped the county’s funding was rescinded Wednesday, state Department of Human Services officials said.

“Pennsylvania Family Centers provide highly effective and desperately needed services, but many Pennsylvania communities do not yet have access to them,” said a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, in explaining the agency’s original solicitation.  

“In an effort to achieve a broader dispersion of funds supporting Family Centers throughout Pennsylvania, the Department opened a request for applications earlier this month that included a new approach to disseminating funds. Earlier [Wednesday], the Department cancelled this [request for applications] in order to revisit the approach in a way that both broadens dispersion and continues to provide the important investments that need to be made in existing family centers.”

DHS’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning will renew the existing grants at the current level of funding for two additional fiscal years, said DHS spokeswoman Erin James.

Allegheny County human services director Marc Cherna said he was "very gratified" the state was taking a "fresh look" at the funding, thanking County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County's state legislative delegation, advocates and parents who expressed "what it would be mean if we were to lose funding."

Kate Giammarise: or 412-263-3909.

[This article was originally published by the Post-Gazette.]