Governor's Budget Proposal Could End Child Program

Governor's Budget Proposal Could End Child Program
By: Tony Hensley
Drastic times call for drastic measures, a program helping thousands of parents and children could be axed from Missouri's spending.
Missouri governor Matt Blunt wants to cut millions from early childhood special education. That's a program serving thousands of southeast Missouri children with special needs.
“If the budget is cut and we receive zero funding for the Missouri First Steps Program as of July 1st. will cease to exist and every child receiving therapy at that time will cease to exists." Nancy Hale, First Steps Regional Director said.

Statewide, the First Steps program costs 23 million dollars. It serves 17 counties in Southeast Missouri and helps more than 8,000 children between the ages of 1 and 3.

"We're getting stronger everyday." Mitch Kinder said.

Almost 6 months old and absolutely adorable, Ella Kinder is a bouncing blue eyed blonde full of life. But, her parents' joy is tempered by their daughter's diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Julia Kinder says, “When we first brought he home we were devastated to learn that our child wasn't perfect and you sit and wonder what you are going to do or your worry because all you hear about is all the thing's she will not be able to do."
First Steps gave the Kinders hope, Hope that may be dashed by state budget cuts. Mitch Kinder said, “The first night I couldn't sleep actually. I went up stairs and wrote letter to the Governor, Lt. Gov. and Representatives. I couldn't sleep all night thinking about it."
Losing sleep worrying about Ella's future without first steps. Julia Kinder says, “She has 5 therapists. They come for an hour each week. She has speech developmental, occupational, feeding and physical therapy.”
First Steps not only helps children suffering with disabilities but parents too. Julia and Mitch say they're taught how to pick up and hold Ella, how to play with her and deal with their emotions.
“This sounds a little drastic I'm sure. But, we would consider moving because that's how critical this is for the rest of her life. I mean if she doesn't learn now to crawl, sit, walk and feed herself then what is she going to do for the rest of her life. So, we would have to make a decision quickly what our options are." Julia Kinder said.

Missouri Legislators will decide whether to cut First Steps. If they follow Governor Blunt's request the money will end July 1st.