Day care raids leave parents worried


by Adam Walser

Posted on March 28, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 28 at 6:36 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It came without warning for families in Kentuckiana 18 day care centers have been accused of fraud, some shut down and now those parents are scrambling looking for a place for their children.

It is the result of a year-long investigation and come Monday, even more parents could be impacted thanks to new guidelines adopted by state lawmakers.

New guidelines go into effect that will make it more difficult for families to qualify for subsidized child care in Kentucky.

In the meantime, hundreds of families will likely have to find new day care centers for their children, since the state has begun the process of shutting many centers down.

On the day after the state revoked the licenses of 18 Louisville day care centers for alleged fraud, the impact is being felt.

At some centers, the doors were closed. At others, employees continued to operate after filing appeals.

“It’s crazy what they're doing. We really don't know,” an employee of Tyler’s Daycare Center on Dixie Highway said.

The centers the state intends to close all allegedly defrauded a child care subsidy program by inflating enrollment figures.

We first told you about the problem last year, when Heavenly Angels Daycare owner Lavonia Lewars was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $200,000 from the subsidy program.

We reported last July that ABC Village, one of the centers closed,  was under investigation for enrolling large numbers of Somali children who never attended the day care.

“Some of these folks, we said to the Division of Child Care in 2009 and said there's a problem here and you need to deal with this. They've been open since that time and there are some very serious allegations being made about them now,” said Susan Vessels, Director of Community Coordinated Child Care or 4C’s, which helps local families find affordable daycare.

We also reported on safety issues involving some of the same centers closed by the state, including at Big Happy Family, where we caught employees overloading a van. 

In the long term, the crackdown will likely help prevent future fraud.

But the simultaneous closure of all the centers has raised new concerns for hundreds of families.

“This is completely putting families in a state of panic. Because all of a sudden, what are they supposed to do? Where are they supposed to go?” Vessels said.

The subsidized child care budget is being slashed by $80 Million starting Monday, meaning it's likely that many other child care centers will have to shut down in the coming months for financial reasons, rather than for violations.