New daycare opens, with some objections
MONTOUR FALLS—The Schuyler County Child Care Coordinating Council opened a new daycare facility called My Place: A Play and Learning Center in Montour Falls, Feb. 1.
My Place is a $304,764 project the council had been planning since 1992. Debbie MacDonald, executive director of the Schuyler child care council, explained the facility currently has 10 children enrolled. My Place was opened to be able to offer additional child care services that the council said were not currently available. MacDonald said, “the center will provide a wide range of child care services to children from six weeks to 12 years old including care during non-traditional hours, drop-in care, care for mildly ill children, and weekend care.”
However, some area people are concerned about it. Jody Saunders, owner of Little Wildflowers Daycare in Montour Falls, said there are some family child care providers in Schuyler County worried there might be a conflict of interests in the council running the center.
A meeting was held Wednesday, Feb. 15, organized by the New York State Office for Children and Family Services (OCFS) in regards to the complaints they received. Representatives from the Schuyler council, My Place, and the family child care providers were all present. Kristina Hansen, a former daycare provider, said there are around 28 child care providers in Schuyler County. She explained the majority are informal or family care, but there is also Head Start, Schuyler Nursery School, and universal pre-kindergarten programs at Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour.
The child care council is an organization tasked with providing referrals to available child care providers in the county to families. That is where care providers have concerns. Saunders said she is worried the council is unfairly referring parents to My Place over other care providers. She added that she made a call to the council recently and asked as a parent about care options. She said she only received information about My Place.
MacDonald said the issue of conflict of interests was addressed by an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) report from November of last year. She explained the ARC awarded a $150,000 grant to the project. The ARC’s report said, “determinations that the project did not reach the level of unfair competition and controls over the referral process were noted as key factors for ARC grant approval.”
Saunders countered that the ARC is not the agency in charge of overseeing the council’s operations.
“SCCCCC utilizes a national database that automatically generates a list of child care providers to meet the parent’s individual needs. The database meets required quality assurance standards of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). The board and staff of SCCCCC have put in place additional controls to address the potential conflict of interest,” said MacDonald.
She said the council has to give the names of at least three available care providers to inquiring families. She explained the referrals are based on the family’s needs: location, hours of care and age of children. The council also then encourages families to visit the referred daycare locations. MacDonald added that the OCFS monitors child care councils by making “blind shopper” calls to make sure referrals are offered appropriately.
Hansen said another concern she had was the cost to maintain My Place and cover the rent. MacDonald said in addition to the $150,000 grant from ARC, additional donations came from Corning Enterprises, Visions Federal Credit Union, Inergy, and several anonymous donors. She explained the council was able to “dedicate $50,000 from their cash reserves to the project—these funds were received from additional training revenue, sales generated that had compiled over the last 20 years—beginning from its date of creation.”
Hansen added that while her Evergreen Early Learning Center is no longer open, she said she tried to expand her services to include toddlers. Hansen said the council did not help. MacDonald said this is not true.
Saunders said she left the Feb. 15 meeting disappointed. She said providers like herself were told not to speak and any questions they had were submitted on written cards. She added those questions were selected to be read by a moderator.
“There’s no state regulation saying (the council) couldn’t (operate My Place),” said Hansen. “It doesn’t mean they should.”