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Funding issues behind local head start decreasing enrollment

Heartland Head Start in Bloomington serves hundreds of families in McLean and Livingston Counties but due to changes in their funding, they will now be decreasing their enrollment.

The program will go from 309 to 275 meaning that 34 families will not be able to access their childcare and transportation services. The non-profit also helps parents find employment based on their individual needs.

“No one lost their services so it’s a transition of those going to kindergarten we’re just not accepting that many back, but we did lose four staff because of that as well. That was a difficult decision unfortunately but when we’re trying to make ends meet and not getting new dollars something had to give,” Heartland Head Start Executive Director Karen Bruning said.

The 34 spots will not be taken from families already in the program they will simply not be replacing the spots of the children moving on to kindergarten this year.

The program is mostly federally funded with some help from grants and local businesses. The United Way of McLean County was one organization donating to Heartland Head Start but Bruning does not anticipate money from them this year.

“It’s another example of dollars getting tighter and money coming through to social services and not profits and many of them are cutting services,” she said.

CEO and President of The United Way of McLean County, David Taylor, empathized with the program’s funding issues.

“We can certainly relate to a drop in funding. When we faced that challenge, we had to make some difficult decisions as well, and as others experience that impact, we can appreciate that anytime there is change, it’s hard,” Taylor said.

“Their mission certainly fits with our youth and family focus. Our board and staff are working tirelessly to raise money, and as those efforts bear fruit, it’s certainly feasible that they may receive funds in the future. We’re seeing excitement with donors around efforts that are targeting systemic rather than strictly program-based approaches.”

With more changes coming to the state like the increase in minimum wage Burning says there is still work to be done.

“We’re going to have to be creative as an early childhood system as to how we’re collaborating our dollars so that many of the families and children that are neediest are getting the services that they deserve,” she explained.

If you would like to volunteer, donate resources or money to Heartland Head Start you can visit their website at or call (309)-662-4880.

Stephanie Rodriguez

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