Last Updated Oct 7, 2013 7:52 PM EDT
(CBS News) BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - It's been a week since Danielle Smith told parents at the George E. Pipkin Learning Center that their Head Start program was closed.
The government shut down before Oct. 1, when it was scheduled to send grant money to Connecticut and other states to fund the Head Start early-learning program for children from low-income families. So far, more than 7,000 children in six states have been affected, according to the National Head Start Association, and thousands of employees have been left without jobs.
News of the closure hit parents at the Pipkin program hard, said Smith.
"My parents were crying, they were confused," Smith said. "I had parents who told me, 'I'm going to lose my job if I don't have child care and I can't go to work.' They were asking for help and we couldn't help them."
The shutdown has affected 300 students at the Pipkin program. It's also cost Smith her job as a family counselor, and she doesn't know how long she can last without a paycheck.
"I honestly don't know. I'm struggling," she said.
Smith said she knew there was a possibility that the government might shut downbut said, "I really thought the politicians on both sides would come together and realize that this was going to affect millions of people."
At the 13 programs in Bridgeport run by Bill Bevacqua, 1,000 children have been locked out. Bevacqua said he's also had to issue 313 layoff notices to employees. He wonders how they will get by.
"They don't have alternatives to turn to," Bevacqua said. "It's going to get cold soon. They're going to have heating problems, the lights have to stay on, the landlord wants his rent."
Smith said she wants to look for work, but she can't. Her young son attended the Head Start program at Pipkin.
"Not only can I not go to work, I don't have child care for my son either," she said.
Smith said her son is upset that he can't go to school.
"He's missing his teachers, his lessons," she said, wiping away a tear. "It's just sad."
The National Head Start Association has received $10 million from philanthropists Laura and John Arnold to temporarily reopen some of the programs.
But as many as 87,000 children across the country could be affected if the shutdown drags on to November.