Celebrated daycare ordered to close

Someone doesn’t want Lilian McCuaig to run a daycare. Her Curious Buddies Day/Night Care and Pre-School is closing today.

Someone doesn’t want Lilian McCuaig to run a daycare.

Her Curious Buddies Day/Night Care and Pre-School is closing today. McCuaig believes it’s because someone in government targeted her.

 “They’re hurting my dreams,” she said.

“It’s not fair. I’ve used up my life savings to start the daycare.”

Parents of 44 children will have to find new spots in an already tight daycare market.

The daycare is shutting down because of violations that are already fixed, said McCuaig, who’s worked in the daycare industry for four years.

She opened Curious Buddies in November 2007 with an interim daycare licence.

When she recently went to obtain her permanent licence, Family and Children’s Services in the Health and Social Services department told her she couldn’t have one.

Curious Buddies had too many problems to remain open, she was told.

Her infractions included a couple of missing menus, incomplete cleaning records, a child running with a juice-filled cup and some problems with a bathroom’s renovation.

She had used a different method of attendance keeping, but switched following the government’s request to change.

When the government inspector gave her a checklist of violations to fix, McCuaig followed it.

But a follow-up inspection didn’t improve the situation, despite the complete checklist.

“The inspector said, ‘I’ve seen (the improvement). It’s done, but I want them in writing,” said McCuaig.

Ali Lightfoot’s two boys can’t get enough of Curious Buddies.

“They absolutely adore the place,” said Lightfoot.

“Everyday the oldest asks if it’s a school day.”

Jerome, three and a half, and Aaron have been attending Curious Buddies three times a week since the end of March.

The daycare couldn’t be any cleaner or more loving than it is, said Lightfoot, who’s aware of the past problems at Curious Buddies.

“I’ve never seen anything of concern,” she said.

The infractions are too light to be concerned about, especially compared to the horror stories she’s collected from her friends who have left children at some other daycares, she added.

Lightfoot’s friend filed complaints with Family and Children’s Services after finding her daughter neglected at another daycare in the worst way.

The fully-potty trained child was walking around with dried feces on her backside.

“And this place is still open!” said Lightfoot.

It’s definitely a curious situation, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

The Liberals have, through government information requests, found nine other daycares in the Yukon in non-compliance with regulations.

All of them remain open, despite the quarter-inch thick stack of documents outlining the violations, said Mitchell.

Curious Buddies was not on the list.

Some violations are similar to those at Curious Buddies, others are worse — like unsanitary conditions and poor lunches.

“Why is (Curious Buddies) treated differently?” he said.

“Does the department truly believe the health and welfare of the children are at risk in this daycare?”

Inspections are routine for daycares, but McCuaig once had three visits in one week and two in a month.

The normal schedule, she said, is once every three months.

Ongoing noncompliance not unusual for daycares and other daycares have small binders filled with checklists and infractions, said McCuaig, who moved to the Yukon from Nigeria in 1999.

Curious Buddies already received a one-week extension so parents could find alternatives for their children.

“If there a true belief that children were in danger, they wouldn’t have let it remain open,” said Mitchell.

He has spoken with parents and staff from Curious Buddies and is visiting today.

Other Liberal staffers have visited already.

Yesterday, the daycare was visited by New Democrat Leader Todd Hardy.

“I was impressed by Lilian McCuaig’s sincerity, commitment and dedication,” wrote Hardy in an open letter to acting Health minister Patrick Rouble published on page 10.

“I was equally impressed by the cleanliness, brightness and spaciousness of her daycare.

“McCuaig has invested a considerable sum of money renovating, decorating and furnishing the space to create a child-friendly play and learning environment.

“I can see why so many of the parents who send their children there leapt to her defence in the media when your department said it was revoking her temporary licence for failing to comply with some health, safety and administrative regulations.”

The Liberals have heard similar praise, said Mitchell.

And McCuaig has addressed most of the issues that have been raised.

The government should be working with the daycare to iron out any remaining problems, said Mitchell.

A week’s notice is not enough time to find alternative care, said Lightfoot.

“Children’s services is actually doing a disservice to children,” she said.

She put her kids in daycare to start socializing with other children.

“They made friends here, they adore the staff and talk about them all the time,” said Lightfoot.

“It’s unfair to constantly move children around. It’s unsettling.”

Finding another place like that will be impossible, she added.

“I would rather chose not to work than send them to a place I don’t trust.”