That Time My Kid Was Kicked Out of Daycare

4 years ago

When I had my son in 2009, I was lucky enough to have an employer that offered backup daycare (a full time center, in the building). Employees were offered 20 days per year to use the emergency service free of charge. I returned to work when he was 10-weeks-old. My employer was nice enough to allow me to have more days since I needed to return to work and was on a wait list for a daycare near home. There was a delay with the center I'd chosen, and I wound up having him at work in the backup space until he was six-months-old.

At six months he started at the center near home. He stayed there until he turned one when we decided it wasn't working out. We didn't find another center until he was 16 months. Oh, how he loved it. He looked forward to it, often asking on weekends to see his teachers. I still have one of the daily communication sheets on which a teacher wrote "Z is a joy to have in our classroom."

When you hear that someone's child was removed from daycare you immediately think the child was a menace, right? The child threw things or the parents didn't pay or something else unpleasant? Well, I'm here to tell you that that's not always the case. Based on income, our family qualified for a discounted child care rate. For the first year he was there, we paid one amount. When we were due to re-certify, it was determined that we no longer qualified for the discount. Unfortunately, we weren't given any notice about that decision, just a letter in his cubby dated for that day that stated his last day was that day. I'm sorry, but WHAT?

How was that not something that needed to be discussed in person? Why weren't we phoned when that determination was made? If we opted to keep him there, our payment would jump an additional $400/month. But where else was he supposed to go, especially on such short notice? It was difficult, but we started paying the new amount.

Safinatun Najah Montessori Kindergarten

We also filed an appeal. I am nothing if not a learner. I used every bit of applicable legal jargon I'd ever heard in over 10 years of law firm work. There was a hearing in front of a judge. There was testimony and paperwork and three months later, we won the appeal. We were due a refund of the overpayment for three months. Surprisingly (by which I mean of course it's not surprising), the daycare claimed we hadn't ever paid the increase. We located all but one receipt to prove otherwise.

Losing the appeal makes the daycare director angry. Angry daycare director makes us uncomfortable because she stops speaking, only stares at us when we drop off and pick up. Boy's jacket is lost. He starts crying at drop off and is crying when picked up in the evening. I have never once suspected he was either physically or verbally mistreated, but I think he was ignored. I think the manner in which he was addressed changed. Adults were gruff and not as happy to see him. Him, with the parents who made them check their books. Him, with the parents who exercised their right to question a decision. Him, with the parents who drive a nice car, have a well manicured lawn, who are never unkempt. Surely they make more than their pay stubs show. They don't fit the stereotype of parents in pajama bottoms dropping their kids off for breakfast. Poor people look a certain way, act a certain way. They must be lying about their need.

It wasn't long before another letter was in his cubby explaining that he had been removed from the center (effective that same day, of course). When they claimed we hadn't paid the increase, then said they couldn't find ANY receipts, my husband went to speak with them. The letter described his visit as threatening. Blame the black man. Classic.

Because that one receipt wasn't found, we settled for an amount lower than what we'd overpaid. I still sometimes want to go by, but I'm not sure why. To have them see me and know that my boy is thriving in a "real" school setting? I don't know what type of closure I'm after but I imagine a scenario where the director apologizes and I accept but I also call her a petty heifer.

For weeks my boy asked to go to school. There were six weeks until the regular public school opened and he started the pre-K3 program. Nearly every day until then, he asked for his former teachers. I get their wanting to punish us (I don't really), but they hurt my son. There is no scenario I've been able to imagine that involves my being able to tolerate that. He's doing well in school so I'm trying not to dwell. His education is free now so I'm trying not to dwell. We told the truth, we exercised our right to prove the truth, and we prevailed; I'm trying not to dwell.

If I see the director at the mall I will try not to dwell, but I cannot promise that I won't kick her in both shins.


Photo Credit: amrufm.

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