Commentary: When one strike against day care is enough to say 'you're out'
FARGO—When is one violation bad enough to put a business out of business?
It seems we have our answer right here in Fargo. Whether you have sympathy for the owner, like her personally or believe she took the proper corrective action after the fact doesn't much matter. Sometimes, one mistake is just too costly.
One strike and you're out, if you will.
We're talking about the case of Curious Kids Childcare, a business owned by Michelle Roeszler that operates on busy 19th Avenue North in Fargo. The North Dakota Department of Human Services revoked Roeszler's license after a late April incident during which three toddlers under the age of 2 got out of a playground gate and wandered toward 19th Avenue, the four-lane road that travels past Fargo North High School, the Fargodome and Hector International Airport.
No staff from the day care saw the children and the kids were stopped at the edge of the road by passersby. A driver of a car stopped to block traffic, worried the children were going to walk onto 19th Avenue.
The story came to light when a mother of one of the toddlers wrote to The Forum defending Roeszler and making the case her license shouldn't be revoked. The theme seemed to be that Curious Kids wasn't the first day care to let kids wander off unsupervised, Roeszler runs an otherwise good day care and she immediately fired the staff responsible for the mishap.
Aside from the obvious whataboutism of comparing other violations to Curious Kids, all that might be true—although it's unlikely a day care that lost track of children under 2 would still be in business. An 8-year-old walking away temporarily in a park is a little different than an 18-month-old walking toward 19th Avenue.
The state—defined as big, bad, overbearing government by those who choose to see it that way—is being painted as a villain that is over-regulating somebody out of business. The fact is the Department of Human Services clearly laid out its case in documents it sent to Roeszler.
DHS regional representative Monica Goeson, who sent the revocation notice to Roeszler, declined comment through a spokesman. But the department passed along the revocation notice, which was dated May 29.
In it, DHS cites state law as to why Roeszler's early childhood services license is being revoked and then provides the "factual basis for revocation."
Basically, it came down to poor staffing and negligence on the part of staff that was present. Roeszler, as she has openly admitted, was out of town when the incident occurred on April 27 and left the day care in the hands of staff members that included an 18-year-old supervisor and employees who were 13, 15 and 16.
"We have no qualifications for the staff that she had put in charge of the child care," the DHS report said.
Other nuggets in the notice include:
• Cass County Social Services visited Curious Kids shortly before the toddler incident after a report that staff was having bonfires with children at the day care. The county addressed the issue with Roeszler, who in turn had parents sign letters of support to continue having bonfires. The Fargo Fire Department visited the day care to explain the dangers of young children being near an open fire and notified Roeszler it would not issue a burn permit for the day care.
• Two witnesses reported watching the toddlers make their way from the day care to 19th Avenue, which took 10 minutes. One car stopped to block traffic as the children neared the street. Traffic was stopped and cars were honking, so one witness ran across 19th Avenue to the children and another person helped get the children back to the day care.
• When the witnesses got the kids back to the day care, two staff members had their back to the street. Staff did not realize the children had been gone. When told about the incident, one mother said it was no surprise because her 5-year-old who attends Curious Kids had shown her how easy it was to open the gate, even with a bungee cord on it.
• When interviewed, four of the five staff members said they'd been with the children but were unable to give an exact count of the number of children outside (only approximating between 17-25). The 18-year-old supervisor expressed frustration with younger staff for not listening to her or supervising the children.
"Curious Kids Childcare is not meeting the standards established by the department," DHS explained in revoking the license.
Hard to argue, given the severity of the violation. Sometimes, one strike is all that's deserved.