#277 In which our hero relates the events of The Great Daycare Debacle (part 1)
Daycare was one of the biggest challenges The Scientist and I had to address early on in the child rearing process. I mean, not just us, most all working parents, but I don’t really care about anyone else’s childcare problems. We don’t have any family in the area (none close enough to sit daily, at least) so we were going to need outside help.
We were told repeatedly that if we wanted quality care we needed to get daycare locked down before we even had children. So, when my wife was seven months pregnant or so, I started to look for daycare. This task fell to me since I was laid off at the time.
We started with the big centers, the KinderCare’s and Child Time’s and the like. We found them to be too expensive. So we started to look for in-home day care. The Scientist had a list of providers that had been vetted to some degree by her employer. So I started there.
Most wouldn’t even talk to me.
That is to say, when they learned that my child hadn’t been born yet, they wouldn’t. “Call back when she is three months old,” was a common sentiment. This, of course, flew in the face of what we had been told about getting everything lined up well in advance.
But a few showed interest, so I went to check them out. One lady had an incredibly small and cramped house, and another wasn’t home when I showed up at our pre-arranged time. Both of them didn’t make the cut.
I interviewed one woman who seemed nice, had a big house with a huge fenced-in back yard, and seemed loving. She was already watching a couple kids, and had room for one more in the fall (when The Scientist was expecting). I liked her, and told my wife that I thought this could work out.
The Scientist went to visit herself a couple days later, and agreed. “Susan” was our new daycare provider!
As new parents, we were freaked out by the prospect of having someone we didn’t really know that well mind our children for five to eight hours a day. But we both needed to work, so we didn’t really have much of a choice.
We liked Susan, and Lily seemed to be doing just fine. She met a bunch of other little kids and developed friendships. In fact, if nothing had changed, our kids might still be happily spending their days with Susan today.
But things did change.
Susan started to get more inquires about childcare than she could manage in her home--Ohio regulates this, and there’s a limit to the number of children who can be watched by one person. In fact, Susan already had an assistant who came in to help her out. It was getting really crowded. So Susan began to think big and branch out into a commercial space.
As coincidence would have it, the church that The Scientist and I attended had some empty rooms in its education wing. These were basically two classrooms that were only being used for storage and the occasional Sunday school. Susan got wind of this and inquired at the church about renting them.
And here’s where it all started to go downhill.
A little background first: this church is a small Methodist church (although the religion really has nothing to do with the rest of the story)--small, that is, in the number of parishioners; the building itself is rather huge (and ugly, it was constructed in the late 60s, I believe; it’s a big grey cinderblock square with an attached bell tower). It’s also an old congregation. The Scientist and I were welcomed with open arms as everyone was happy to see “young people” in the church again. My wife and I were both in our late 30s when we started going there.
We also quickly realized that everyone had their designated roles and didn’t take kindly to anyone trying to rock the boat. How much so we wouldn’t realize until later.
So, Susan sent a letter to the church outlining how she’d like to move her daycare into the empty classrooms. As is their typical process, this letter was shunted to the trustees for consideration.
The trustees, without comment, rejected the idea.
Now, something I didn’t mention was that the church is poor. With a dwindling congregation and a giant space to heat, the bills far surpassed the income. I was puzzled why the church would turn away anyone who came offering money.
Now, I have my theories. The obvious one is that since Susan is black, and the church congregation is wholly white, that someone in the church didn’t think it would be a good fit, to put it charitably. I hope this isn’t the real reason, and I don’t think this church is racist by nature… but I can’t rule out the idea, either.
Another theory (and probably the real reason) is that no-one wanted to deal with what they feared would be additional work to accommodate the day care. The kids would be using a side door that’s not usually used, so in the winter someone would have to shovel and ice that area of the sidewalk; there would be extra trash that would have to be hauled to the dumpsters in back; and, good heavens, can you imagine the noise of a bunch of kids running around in the hallways?
I don't know what made the trustees say no, but no they did say.
This not only puzzled me, it puzzled Susan, too. So much so that she went directly to the pastor for more information. Turns out, the pastor didn’t know anything about it. That is to say, none of the trustees bothered to tell her that a potential revenue source had come knocking, and they refused to open the door.
Now, I should also mention that the pastor at the time had only been at the church for a year or so, and was not very well liked. She had some new ideas that weren’t well received, and her sermons tended to ramble and go long.
But this pastor saw an opportunity to beef up the bottom line and probably--less opportunistically--thought she could reach out to the community, help foster quality child care in town, help a local small businesswoman, blah, blah, blah. But really, I suspect dollar signs were the first thing she saw. I know that’s what I would have felt in her position.
So the pastor pushed back on the trustees, and it got a little ugly. Like I said, everyone had well defined roles in the church, and the trustees didn’t take kindly to this new pastor trying to force something past them. There were meetings and heated words and finally the higher-ups got involved.
The church had a “charge conference,” in which a high-ranking official for the region came in and had a town hall-style discussion in which both sides, pro and con, had time to present their position.
Susan asked me to speak in favor of having the center move into the church.
To be continued.