The Canadian Record (Canadian, Tex.), Vol. 118, No. 16, Ed. 1 Thursday, April 17, 2008 Page: 4 of 36
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THURSDAY 1 "7 APRIL 2DDB
THE CANADIAN RECORD
Why is the YMCA day care program closing...
BY LAURIE EZZELL BROWN
WHEN THE CANADIAN AREA Fam-
ily YMCA's board members and ad-
ministrator decided to close its five-
year-old licensed child care pro-
gram, they faced the same issues
that plague other local businesses
today: high employee turnover and
constant staffing shortages caused
by a competitive labor market, ris-
ing utility and nsurance costs, and
a budget stretched to the breaking
point. But the final death blow was
dealt by the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Services
(DFPS)—the agency designed to
protect the very children who are now the victims of its burden-
When the day care program's
doors close on May 30, many of those
children will be left without a place to
go while their parents are working.
Rachel's l ittle House—this commu-
nity's only other licensed child care
program—was already bursting at
the seams when the Y's decision was made, and quickly filled
any available slots as stranded families; scrambled to find alter-
The waiting list to which many were consigned will be just
that—a waiting list—until funds are raised to build a larger
Little House with nearly twice its present capacity. That ef-
fort—which was already underway when the Y decision was
announced—has thus far brought in only about a third of the
needed $1.3 million in funds.
What brought the YMCA and the families it serves to this
precipitous point, though, was administrator Lael Kirkland's
efforts to make an aging facility, originally built to meet much
different needs, conform to state regulatory requirements—
something akin to shaping the foot to fit the shoe.
DFPS regulations require that children n the li-
censed day care program be segregated from those
in the licensed after-school program. It also requires
that all of those children be segregated from the gen-
eral population of children—participants in what the
Y calls ts neighborhood recreation program. Those
children are not involved in a structured program, but
flock to the Y after school to play basketball or ping
pong, to get help with their homework, to get an after-
noon snack or drink, to be with their friends unt their
parents' work day ends.
That is, after all, what the Y wTas first intended to be:
a community center for Hemphill County residents—
young, old, and in-between.
The licensing-exempt neighborhood recreation pro-
gram provides a less supervised option for older school-
age children. With parental
consent, they are free to
come and go at will. The Y
is required only to maintain
m inimum ratios of staff who
have received basic training
and subm itted to background checks,
and to meet basic health and safety standards.
The problem arises when exempt programs like this, and
regulated programs like daycare and afterschool, end up be-
hind the same four walls. The rules for separating the two pro-
grams are onerous. They must be in separate buildings, oper-
ate in separate areas of the building, or use the same building
at different times. They must use separate outdoor areas or the
same outdoor area at different times. They must have separate
caregivers, or caregivers who do not provide care to more than
one program at the same time.
The interpretation of those rules is even more burdensome.
The neighborhood rec and licensed child care programs share
the same lobby, hallway, bathrooms and gymnasium. Attempts
to provide temporary, movable barriers to keep the two popu-
lations from mixing were deemed i nadequate because the chil-
dren could still hear and see each other—a regulatory no-no.
As a result of those requirements, bathroom breaks have
EDITOR'S NOTE: If the iceberg has a tip, this is it. For the last three
days, I have lived and breathed day care—not an altogether pleasant
sensation. Having done little else this week, however, I'm forced to ad-
mit that these two reports have only touched the tip of the iceberg. For
all of those to whom I've spoken, there are others whose voices have
not been heard, though I hope these few are representative of many.
The day care crisis has only begun this week to walk through the
front door of our homes and businesses and slap us upside the head.
The fallout from the YMCA's decision—warranted or not—will last
far longer, and cost far more than we can calculate today. This much
is certain: The economic vitality of this community, and the health,
education and welfare of this community's youngest citizens, is at
stake. And Canadian's day care crisis provides the truest and tough-
est test in years of who we are, what we are made of, and what we are
willing and able to do to solve what is without doubt a community-
wide problem. —LEB
become unduly complex. After-school care givers routinely call
ahead to the front desk to request that the lobby and hallway
be cleared. Only then can the children be herded en masse to
the bathrooms. Similar procedures are followed when children
from either program go to or from the playground, which is lo-
cated at the end of a long hallway lead ing to the gymnasium.
Since being informed that the programs were noncompliant
last spring, Kirkland and the board have made several efforts
to satisfy the DFPS requirements, but all
have failed. The agency's suggestion to keep
the Y doors closed to children in unlicensed
programs until 6 p.m. was rejected by board
members, who felt the Y's original purpose as
a community center would be compromised.
"What do we tell those kids when it's cold
outside and it's raining outside and this is
where they can get a snack and have some-
one help them with homework?" said YMCA board president
Jackie McPherson. "What do you do? Meet them at
the door and say, 'I'm sorry, you can't come in until af-
ter 6 o'clock.'"
YMCA board members also approached the Little
House about a possible partnership between the two
day care centers, McPherson said. "It didn't matter,"
she said. "It wasn't just no. It was hell, no."
"I think if we had gotten positive feedback months
ago," said Y board member Colby Waters, "it might
have been possible to make modifications. I think
there's folks n this town who would have supported
Other attempts were made to convince school of-
ficials to start an all-day pre-K program that would
offer an alternative for some parents. Those attempts
failed until recently, when the Y's plans to close the day
care facility wTere announced. School trustees on Tues-
day approved a motion to provide four half-day pre-
Kindergarten classes a day free of charge to all stu-
dents, and to realign elementary and middle schools to
free up classrooms for that purpose.
"We got to the point that the only way our child care
situation was going to get fixed was it had to become a
problem," Waters said.
Further complicating the board's efforts to keep the licensed
day care program intact was the knowledge that it represents
the Y's single greatest expense. Over half of thel6-member
staff needed to run Y programs is assigned to day care. Strict
student to staff ratios must be maintained, whether the children
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Brown, Laurie Ezzell. The Canadian Record (Canadian, Tex.), Vol. 118, No. 16, Ed. 1 Thursday, April 17, 2008, newspaper, April 17, 2008; Canadian, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth252700/m1/4/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Hemphill County Library.