Local News

Need great as dollars shrink

Date: 6/11/2009

Posted by Russell Child Development Center on 6/11/2009

Published 6/10/2009 in Local News




Lying on a Colorado Rockies blanket, 9-month-old Kade Davis takes the hand he's been chewing on and rubs his slobbery fingers along one of his feet, playing with his toes.

It's a Thursday, and York is visiting the Davis family in Garden City. Currently, she's working with the family on, among other things, helping Kade make certain hand signals for when he's hungry, thirsty or wants more of something, such as food or drink. York has been trying to get Kade to place both hands together, making the signal for "more."

While he can do it with help from York or his parents, Tina and James, he's been making more of a waving or scooping signal on his own.

The signaling is meant to ease some of Kade's frustration at not being able to communicate his wants and needs.


Kade was born in September. There was no indication the pregnancy was anything but routine, Tina and James said as York worked with Kade on the blanket.

But when Kade was born, the couple and St. Catherine Hospital staff noticed his ear was misshapen, he had a facial palsy on the right side of his face and he wouldn't eat. After a hospital stay, including two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Kade went home. It wasn't until two months after Kade was born that they had a diagnosis for the problems: CHARGE Syndrome, which the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation states "is a recognizable (genetic) pattern of birth defects which occurs in about one in every 9,000 to 10,000 births worldwide. It is an extremely complex syndrome, involving extensive medical and physical difficulties that differ from child to child."

CHARGE refers to the recognized cluster of features seen in a number of children, according to the foundation, and stands for Colobama of the eye, Heart defects, Atresia of the choanae, Retardation of growth and/or development, Genital and/or urinary abnormalities and Ear abnormalities and deafness.

"We were so overwhelmed," Tina and James said, adding that a string of doctor's appointments — neurologist, cardiologist, audiologist — preceded and followed the diagnosis.

Pregnancy hormones still were going, Tina said, and she was trying to care for her son while at the same time exploring the unfamiliar territory of CHARGE Syndrome.

That's were Russell Child came in, she said, in helping keep her calm and learn to work with Kade, setting goals and trying to set the stage early for what they hope will be a successful life for the infant.

Tough budget year

Earlier this month, Russell Child Director Deanna Berry presented the agency's requested budget for 2010 to Finney County commissioners. Berry and the agency also present to the 11 other counties that Russell serves for the Tiny-k intervention services it provides for infants and toddlers.

Russell is requesting $181,595.33 from Finney County for 2010, up from the $198,800 request for 2009. Finney County's funding contributes to the Tiny-k program.

The entity was part of the group of outside agencies that received a blanket cut of 4 percent last year to keep the county's mill levy increase to a minimum. In 2008, commissioners took Russell's $198,800 request and slashed it to $134,000.

Russell was one of several agencies commissioners heard earlier this month speak of state budget cuts. Commissioner Roman Halbur said after outside agency presentations to the commission that the county more than likely won't be able to make up any of those cuts.

The funding predicament is one Berry still is trying to find an answer to — by federal and state law, Tiny-k isn't allowed to have a waiting list for services.

But as funding sources decrease, Berry said she's left searching for ways to fill the gap. Aside from trying to raise more money, Russell is requesting about $50,000 more from Finney County for 2010 over 2009.

"That $50,000 for us would be huge," Berry told commissioners.

Halbur and other commissioners have stated that funding increases — of any kind unless it's a necessity — aren't likely for 2010.

While Commissioner Dave Jones feels it's still premature to say what the county will be able to fund and revenue it has to work with until valuation and other factors are known, he's also reluctant to pass the funding burden on to local taxpayers because of a shortfall in Topeka at the state level. There are people who are living on fixed incomes, he said.

Some of the mandates at the federal and state levels have either become unfunded or are getting there, Jones said, and "there's got to be some other answer" to make up shortfalls. Some of that answer needs to come from the state, he said.

While there needs to be some tightening of belts financially until the economy improves, he said, the other side is understanding the needs of the agencies requesting funding.

"It's a tough balancing act," Jones said, adding it's one in which unfortunately, you can't please everyone 100 percent.

To try and fill the gap, Russell is looking to tap into some of its about $400,000 cash reserves. The entity will end 2009 in the hole, and in 2010, Berry looks for the agency to spend more than what it takes in. Part of the gap will be left to the reserves.

"We can weather another year, but after that, I don't know," she said. "At a certain point, you're just not viable."

Russell Child's role

The couple is introducing new foods to Kade. He likes sweet potatoes — he'll smack his lips for more. And he'll also get up and go for his sister, Calista, 3, and the kitten. Kade wants to be where they are, the Davises said.

"It's all been pretty overwhelming," they said, explaining Russell came in and helped before they knew what Kade's diagnosis was.

Russell has an employee with an office at the hospital for newborn followup — the staff person immediately started working with the family and then invited York to the Davis home, where they wrote a service plan for Kade and his family to start working with Kade.

York has been with Russell for eight years, essentially coaching families and children through life so they can succeed.

York currently serves about 40 families through direct and consultative services, saying it's nice to watch the children learn and grow.

Russell helps families find the resources necessary to empower them, she said, adding the agency was there for the family before a diagnosis was known and was able to start helping meet Kade's needs.

While it was hard, James said, for him to admit the family needed help, he's glad for the help, explaining he's unsure where they'd be without the service.

How do you think agencies should handle cuts to state funding? Should counties provide them with more support? Talk about it at SWKTalk.com.