Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day Care Disaster

Friday started out as a totally normal day.  I dropped off Carter, joked with the director about how she was wearing white pants around all those kids, and went on with my day.  Craig went to daycare in the afternoon for the Father's Day ice cream social, and brought Carter home.  We ran off to dinner right away, and I never had a chance to check Facebook or email.  When I finally settled in for the night, I brought up Facebook and my jaw dropped.  The assistant director posted a vague but disconcerting status, and it wasn't until I looked at the comments that I figured out what had happened.  The daycare ownership (our center is one of four) fired the director, who had been there over 25 years.  From his perspective it's because she showed resistance to some of his (bad) decisions, but if she (and her 25+ years of experience) had concerns, I think they're at least worth noting. 

Everyone, parents and staff alike, were devastated.  We had no complaints about anything at the center, so letting her go seems extreme.  The comments on the initial post from the assistant director were pretty crazy, and eventually all of the activity moved to a private message.  Messages were popping up every 20 seconds from one person or another.  On Sunday I was enjoying our family time in Buffalo and decided to check my messages, and suddenly I found myself scrolling back frantically trying to figure out what happened.  Turns out the assistant director must have made a comment to the owner that prompted him to tell her that she was no longer welcome at the center.  She could basically take a job at a different location or quit.  So she left.  So now the top two people were gone, parents and staff were even more up in arms, and everything seemed to be falling apart.  I was very upset and was probably a bummer to be around the rest of the day. 

Things have gotten no better in the past few days.  First there were a couple staff members that refused to sign a ridiculous gag order, so they were sent home.  The gag order threatened their jobs if they were caught saying anything about the happenings to anyone, including each other.  How they expect a bunch of people to not discuss such a major upheaval that completely impacts their daily life with each other or even parents (who, clearly, will have questions), I have no idea.  The way it was written was completely unreasonable!  So, with all of the shakeups, there have been issues with their ratios, problems with kids not getting medicine, and even a baby that got the wrong bottle.  It's been a mess.  Everyone is upset, parents are pulling their kids, and the new management is completely ridiculous.  It's been awful.

For the time being, we're hanging in there.  I clearly do not approve of the changes the ownership made, nor how those changes were handled.  The one new person I've met is the girlfriend of the owner, and she is really fake, which gets on my nerves.  Beyond that and the other issues I've already stated I don't have any other specific bones to pick with the new folks (unlike some parents), but I trust the long-time staff members' opinions so I know we could be headed for trouble.  But as much as I hate giving this guy my money, my priority is my kids, and for now I want them to have whatever consistency they can get.  Four people may be gone, but there are still a number of teachers there that my kids know and love.  And I know they love my kids back.  Quite frankly, until they're all no longer there, I'm very hesitant to pull them.  Same with their friends--if they're all gone, there's less reason to stay. 

I totally get that a lot of parents don't like the management, don't like the upheaval, and don't like everything that's happened since.  Some parents have more reasons to be upset than others, for sure.  If my kids medication was missed, I'd be pretty ticked.  If my baby got the wrong bottle I'd be REALLY ticked.  And maybe then, on top of everything else, I'd leave.  But for now I trust that my kids will still receive the same care they did before from the teachers they love, so until it becomes an issue we'll stay.  In addition, the more people that leave, the greater the chance that those teachers will be laid off, and I'd hate to see that happen when they need to keep that paycheck coming.

The remaining teachers are all pretty miserable, but they're there for the kids and doing everything they can to keep things as normal as possible.  They're venting privately and documenting everything, because there have been a lot of violations since the new regime took over.  I think the hope is to make a case against the new people with the regulatory folks.  I don't blame them, as they're upset and frustrated at how much more complicated things just got and how the new management seems to have zero regard for the rules.  I'm not sure what the end goal is here, though, since I'm not sure what the benefit is to them aside from bruising this guy's ego.  If they get shut down they're out of work (though they assured me they'd be available to watch the kids during the day--ha!), and if they get a lot of violations people won't come there and eventually it will close.  I think they're all hoping to be out of there before disaster strikes, but the whole thing is just sad.  I hate to see them hurting and I don't particularly like some of the high schoolish behavior I've seen from everyone involved.  In the normal corporate world, this stuff happens all the time (speaking from experience, obviously), but I'll admit it is a little different when involves someone beloved by a bunch of change-averse little kids.  Ultimately, regardless of who's right or wrong, all I know is that we had a nice, stable childcare situation for us and the kids and it is now a giant, messy question mark.

I've given Jacob a head's up on what's happening, trying to keep it non-political and just tell him what he needs to know, but I did tell him that if he sees anything out of the ordinary or anything that makes him uncomfortable, to please let me know.  I need him to be my eyes and ears, particularly with tensions so and with so many people around that we don't know.  I get plenty of updates from the teachers in the background, but I want to know if he sees anything that bothers him...because if it bothers him, it bothers me.  He was a little worried about going today, and he's worried about everyone leaving, but I assured him that for now there are still people there that he likes, and hopefully it will be fine.  In the meantime we've looked into a couple other options for him specifically, but now that I don't have a close relationship with the management, I don't know how difficult it might be to pull him out for a week here and there or to pull him out completely.  It's such a bummer all around.

I know the hope is that the two former directors will get together and open their own center, at which point existing staff and parents would flock to them.  I don't doubt that that could happen, but I have no idea how long it might take.  They'd have to find a place, acquire all of their equipment and supplies, get all of their licensing and other approvals in order, and have all of the money to make it happen.  That's a lot.  And Carter's memory is still pretty short term, so I don't know if he'd remember everyone enough by then to make it all worthwhile.  I mean, I'd trust their management way more, but yeah, it's complicated.  In the short term there are a couple other places for us to check out, but chances are they're going to cost more and won't be as convenient.  If at some point we have to switch, I sincerely hope we can go somewhere with a familiar face or two to ease the transition.  But ugh...I get sick just thinking about it.  We had to do that change once with Jacob and it was very stressful for all of us. 

The thing is, a daycare should be like a family.  They should consider each other family, and we in turn consider them as an extension of our family by entrusting our kids to them every day.  I didn't grow up with the daycare thing, and I'll admit I was really skeptical of it all going in.  I had a bad stereotype of daycare kids and the business in general, and our first daycare showed me how wrong I was.  I don't think I realized the full impact until Jacob started hitting milestones and they were as excited about it as we were!  And it really hit me when that daycare shut down and the teachers were so crushed about not being able to see the kids every day anymore.  I ended up becoming Facebook friends with a number of them, and they're still the ones wishing Jacob a happy birthday or liking photos of him.  We run into some of them once in a while, and while Jacob doesn't remember them anymore, it's still so nice to know how much they cared about him.  It took a while to get to that point at the new daycare (having a difficult kid can do that), but once people started seeing Jacob's quirky fun side, suddenly they all loved him and we bonded over the challenge of handling him.  And then when Carter came along and was the sweetest baby ever, they were completely sucked in.  We got to know teachers we missed out on the first time around, and we had deep connections all over the center.  It's been so wonderful to have such a loving, stable situation for the kids, and now that's just....gone.  It's such a great thing when you can have so many people that love your child.  It truly is like an extended family...contrary to the owner's insistence that it's just a business.  Shows what he knows.  He's clearly not someone who should be in a business that involves children. 

Tonight we had a covert get-together at a local playground so we could all just talk and vent.  The kids played and the adults let it all out.  We got to see all of the ex-staff and hug them and talk about the injustices.  We were there for over two hours and it was such a fun time.  Of course, we're all so sad about everything, but it's clear we're all behind the staff (and ex-staff) 100%.  The turnout was amazing.  We took over the playground.  Dozens of kids, tons of parents, even an additional former employee or two, all brainstorming about how we're going to get through this.  Even the ones that are leaving are still working on some things behind the scenes, and who knows where it will go. 

We're just incredibly bummed that things went so bad so fast, and can only hope the kids weather the storm for now.  We may have to make a switch down the road, and maybe it will even be a good character-builder for them, but it's such a sad thing to know we had such a good thing going and one idiot managed to ruin it all.  My kids deserve better than to have a dishonest, disloyal, business-minded jerk making decisions that impact them.  But for now it's more important for them to be with the people that have nurtured them for years, because those relationships mean more than anything else at a time like this. 

No comments: