December 13, 2006
The only not-for-profit daycare center in Southampton could soon be a memory.
"We are in danger of closing," said Barbara Byrne of the Southampton Day Care Center, located on David White's Lane in the Village of Southampton. "We couldn't meet our payroll last week."
Linda Schmidt, director of Southampton Day Care, confirmed that the center is facing an uncertain financial future. Low enrollment has forced staff to confront the very real possibility that the day care, which has been in business since 1985, might soon be forced to shut down.
Currently, said Schmidt, only 16 children, ages 3-5, are enrolled in the center; 30 children are allowed by law. The center is undergoing a re-licensing process that will allow them to open the program to two year olds as well.
"Our intent is to get our name out there and let people know we're here for them," said Schmidt.
Because the center is a not-for profit, rates are reasonable and kept as low as possible to keep them in line with Department of Social Services requirements. However, 60% of the center's budget is based on weekly parent fees. "When you don't have high enrollment, the budget gets all lopsided," said Schmidt.
Financial woes haven't affected kids enrolled in the program, Schmidt assured. "I have a very dedicated, hardworking staff, and the parents seem very happy. I've had no complaints, and the kids like coming here."
The Southampton Day Care Center "Fountain of Youth" was founded with the goal of creating a safe and nurturing environment that offers an educational program including language development, math skills, arts, science, music, fine and large motor skills, and writing techniques.
"Daycare, in general, gets a bad rap," said Schmidt. "People think it's just playing for 10 hours a day, but it's not like that at all. They're learning, not only educational subjects but social skills. It's not personified babysitting by any stretch of the imagination."
Children do not have to be town residents to enroll; many parents who work in the area sign up their children. As a working mother who leaves her own three-year-old and three-month-old in daycare, Schmidt understands the conflicts confronting parents today. "Parents have to work these days," she said. "We're a service to the community — we like to help working parents. We're a safe, comfortable place that prepares our children for pre-K and elementary school. It's nice to know that your children are being well taken care of."
Despite a generous community, said Schmidt, the center needs help. "When you don't have the parent fees, everything else kind of suffers."