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Future of Upcountry Center
in doubt after loss of grant

Meg Tully and Patti S. Borda
Frederick News-Post

(4/9) The fate of the Up County Family Partnership in Emmitsburg is uncertain since the Maryland Family Network has cut its $254,500 grant to the family support resource center.

Maryland Family Network's decision will take effect July 1.

In the state budget recently approved by the Maryland General Assembly, funding for those centers was cut by about $379,300.

Linda Ramsey, deputy director of family support at Maryland Family Partnership, said that cut was equivalent to the total state funding for two centers. The network is a private, nonprofit organization that acts on behalf of state and federal funders to provide technical assistance, training, monitoring and evaluation to Maryland's 23 family partnership centers.

Ramsey said the partnership is trying to implement the cut with as little impact as possible.

The network, which passes along state funds, decided to pull Up County's funding because it has had low participation levels for more than a year, she said.

Each family support center is required to serve a specific number of children younger than 3 and their parents every month at a designated intensity level, she said.

"We regret having to take the action. Up County was one of the oldest centers in the network and has many accomplishments in its credit," she said.

It will be up to the Frederick County Commissioners whether and how to keep the Emmitsburg center open, said Margaret Nusbaum, director of Citizens Services, which oversees the county's two family partnership centers.

She said it was unlikely that the board would want to keep it open because it has been underused and the funding is short.

This year, 20 to 30 families have used the services in Emmitsburg, which Nusbaum said helps parents learn parenting skills, achieve educational and job goals, and provide children's educational activities. It is not a day care program, and parents and children must attend together, she said.

"That has been a strong, high-quality service," Nusbaum said.

Commissioners President Blaine Young said he does not support funding the Emmitsburg center without the grant, and opposed funding it this year even with the grant.

The annual operating budget for the Up County Family Partnership site includes the Family Network grant funding of $254,500, United Way grant funding of $29,809, an annual $12,000 donation from the Town of Emmitsburg and $210,331 of county general funds.

The cuts in grants reflect the difficult choices being made by governments at every level, Young said.

"We had the grant. We lost the grant," he said. "We're trying to be prudent so we don't have to be like the state or federal government."

The county took over the Up County Family Partnership program in January 2009. The county provided 10 staff members, executed a lease for the facility with the Town of Emmitsburg, installed and maintained technology infrastructure, and replaced two minivans for use by the center. Nusbaum said some staff members are full time and some are part time.

The commissioners will consider the future of the Emmitsburg program during an open worksession on Thursday.

"The full board will have to weigh in," Young said.

Representatives of the Maryland Family Network attended budget hearings but were not able to get the funding restored. As a result, the state loses programs, and families and communities will lose services, Ramsey said.

The funding to the centers was first cut in the governor's fiscal 2010 budget, but was restored with federal stimulus money.

With that money gone, the state was not able to find another source to boost the grant funding.

Takirra Winfield, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, said the cut a small percentage of total funding for the centers reflected the same type of cuts seen in many other grant programs in order to maintain a balanced budget.

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