Come March 1, the statewide Child and Adult Care Food Program should be back in Frederick County.
On Thursday, members of the Frederick Board of Aldermen cast the final votes needed to allow the Frederick Community Action Agency to take over sponsorship of the program, which halted in December when the former longtime sponsor, the Frederick County Department of Social Services, abruptly pulled out of it.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program is a Maryland State Department of Education program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program reimburses child care centers, adult day care centers, family child care homes and after-school programs for providing nutritious food and teaching about healthy eating, according to the program’s website. Providers are required to complete training and submit meal plans with local sponsors to receive the funding.
The Department of Social Services was involved in the program for decades before cutting ties in December. The decision came as a shock to local providers who were left scrambling to make up the lost reimbursement income, which in some cases equaled hundreds of dollars a month.
Local day care workers have been struggling to cover the costs of healthy, nutritious food that the program supplemented since it lost its sponsor.
The aldermen approved a special ordinance allowing revenue and associated expenses for more than $537,000 to support the program in the current FCAA budget. Through the agreement, the city will serve as a pass-through for the state grant funds.
The board members also approved an ordinance authorizing the Community Action Agency’s position schedule to add a full-time supervisor, full-time case manager, and part-time outreach worker to administer the program. The money for the positions, and all other program expenses, will come solely from the state grant funds, with no city taxpayer money set to be expended.
FCAA Director Mike Spurrier said the votes were the final approvals needed for the agency to take over the program.
“We’re excited. I think things are coming together,” he said Thursday after the votes.
Spurrier said the State Department of Education approved the agency’s application last week and that staff members have completed necessary training with state officials. He said training will commence with local day care providers next week and that the program should be fully functional by March 1.
From there, Spurrier said staff members will execute new agreements with all 195 child care providers in the program and perform site visits over the coming weeks. He said the program can be initiated before the site visits, but that a time period exists for the visits to be completed.
Spurrier said that Sarah McAleavy, the coordinator for food and nutrition services for FCAA, will take over the full-time supervisor position and that he plans to hire for the other two positions. He anticipates it will take about a month to get everything settled.
Spurrier also said he is working on trying to help the providers get back pay for the months they were not provided funding from the program. He said he has budgeted for the money in the FCAA budget if it is approved, but that it is ultimately up to the state to approve.
Aldermen Ben MacShane and Derek Shackelford initiated the plan for FCAA to take over the program after the social services department backed out with a resolution, which the aldermen unanimously approved at their last meeting on Feb. 7.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program had an average of 220 providers and reimbursed more than $890,000 between July 2016 and June 2017, according to a DSS annual report.
Patty Morrison, Child Care Choices director at the Mental Health Association of Frederick County, has said that the county has 195 child care providers, 25 percent of whom are in the city of Frederick.