The parents of 61 children in West Palm Beach will have to find new daycare centers by the end of the month. The Early Learning Coalition board voted unanimously Monday morning to uphold a decision to strip funding from the Advanced Children's Academy of Palm Beach.
The dramatic move by the coalition stems from numerous "repetitive and degenerative" violations at the center since October. The violations cited by the Palm Beach County Health department, which licenses daycare facilities, included everything from shoddy record keeping to issues with employee background screening and overall lack of competence. However, little had been done to improve conditions at West Palm Beach facility which cares for 61 children, the majority of whom receive state and federal funding.
"There never seemed to really get corrected, there was always another violation- another violation," said Michael Napoleone, vice chair of the board.
Then on December 13, 2012 an employee from the center, Georgia McKenzie, dropped off two children, ages 8 months and 2 years old at the wrong home. The employee agreed to drop off the children as a favor to the mother who did not have transportation.
"Any of those violations could have lead to a more tragic outcome. There really seemed like there was no choice but to terminate funding," said Napoleone.
"There is sadness," said David Cruz a volunteer employee of the center and child advocate. Cruz also served as the center's spokesperson Monday morning.
Lorraine Day, the center's owner, sat quietly beside Cruz.
"To see that they were stripped of their funding truly saddens me and it disheartens me," said Cruz following the vote. "However, I felt more time could have been taken to simply look at our case and see what improvements have been made. But again, we completely understand wholeheartedly where they are coming from," Cruz said.
Since 2011, the Advanced Children's Academy received more than $150,000 worth of state and federal subsidies. Cruz said they will remain open for as long as parents want to bring their children to the school. When asked how the center can remain open without the funding, Cruz replied, " With the grace of God anything is possible."
The Early Learning Coalition and Family Central will start notifying parents of the news immediately. They will work together over the next several weeks to find eligible children new schools.