The Civitas Institute, a right-wing Raleigh foundation, claims that mismanagement by a Durham nonprofit cost almost 250 needy children their child-care subsidies in December.
Those responsible for managing the subsidies, though, say the claim has little or no basis in fact.
"It's not based on anything," said Tracy Zimmerman, spokeswoman for North Carolina Partnership for Children, who called the Civitas claim "outrageous."
“The Civitas Institute and [author] Andrew Henson have it all wrong,” the Child Care Services Association of Durham said in a prepared response.
In November, the Child Care Services Association, which administers a Smart Start scholarship program with an annual budget of about $3.4 million, informed about 200 families that their subsidies would end Dec. 17.
Smart Start is a state program that operates through local agencies to promote and serve healthy early-childhood development. Durham's Partnership for Children is the local Smart Start affiliate, and contracts with Child Care Services to administer the Smart Start scholarships.
“Unfortunately, funding was just not available to continue all of the families served,” said the Association’s statement. (link below) “Smart Start funding had been cut. State subsidy funds had been cut. Durham’s Partnership for Children faced an expanded population of vulnerable children.”
Those are the same reasons the Association gave in November. In a report released this morning, however (http://www.nccivitas.org/2011/childcare-subsidy-goes-bust-kids-go-home), Civitas claims that the association's overspending used up almost two-thirds of the budget in the first half of the fiscal year 2010-11.
"Serious questions remain," the Civitas report says, "as to how such a serious structural deficit could have gone unnoticed or unreported." Civitas claimed its report was based on unspecified "internal documents" but also said it had been unable to get detailed information from the association, which claimed its records are not subject to the state open-records law.
In response, the Association said it follows requirements for program and fiscal audits and reports to funders and the state auditor. “CCSA has consistently been awarded a clean bill of financial health.” It also claimed that Civitas investigator Henson “used aggressive, inappropriate and threatening tactics to bully CCSA” to supply him with information.
Zimmerman said the state Partnership for Children knows of no mismanagement and that regular examinations of the association's performance gave no indication it was not operating properly.