A program that provides relief and assistance for families with children who suffer developmental delays may be cut back. A service called BabyNet could lose resources in its near future because of the recent budget cuts in the Department of Health and Environmental Control, one agency who supports BabyNet. CPO of BabyNet Dan Worry explains the program:
BabyNet is South Carolina’s infant’s and toddler early intervention program. It is part of the federal individuals with disabilities education act. So, it’s the federal special education law that governs all of the special education programs from kindergarten through 12th grade, and on into adulthood.
South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness is the BabyNet agency that helps prepare children for school and lifeskills development. Worry says the agency is seeing cutbacks, which could affect many families.
BabyNet is an interagency program that is delivered in part by the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, DHEC and the state School for the Deaf and Blind. So, it is funded in combination with a federal grant to the state, but also money from the South Carolina General Assembly, and as it’s been a tough couple of years for the state budget. The portion of state funding that DHEC received this year has dropped about 50 percent.
And, since DHEC helps support BabyNet, the funding for the program will also be affected. Worry says there are some who need the services more than others.
We are looking at this crisis for the program. We want to make sure that those kids for whom the program is absolutely necessary still has access to it. So, anything is on the table.
Worry says there are some portions of the program that they will start looking at, so families will be less affected.
We are limited in some of how we approach this. But, we are going to look at things like staffing and state level sorts of contracts. There are lots of different required components to this kind of program. So, we can look at pairing back where we can and soliciting ideas on how to do that.
One way to do that, according to Worry, could be changing a state law. He says once the state defines who is eligible to get BabyNet benefits, then if families qualify, they will get help.
There is a state law currently that prohibits us from asking families to participate in the costs of the program. There is the ability, and other states have, what is known as a sliding fee scale where depending on the family income they have some ability to take on some sort of co-pay.
The next legislative session begins in January. Worry knows legislators will be dealing with declining state revenue, but he wants them to look into the sliding fee scale possiblity as well.