Many of you have read on social media this week many things about Appletree Kids and many of you have questions or concerns. Hopefully, within the confines of confidentiality agreements, I can answer some of these questions or concerns.
1 - Yes, there is a rather lengthy "roasting" of Appletree Kids on a Facebook group page.
It is impossible for me to address everything that is posted, but I will say first - that Appletree Kids began on September 1, 2006. From what I can tell on the 400+ comments, that at least a third of them are referring to the previous center, the previous owner, and coming from parents and staff that attended that child care center.
Then there are probably another third of them coming from terminated staff members. Without going into details, I will say that yes – Appletree Kids does have a high turnover on 30% of our staff. The other 70% of our staff have been with Appletree Kids 2-10 years. Now, the reason we have such a high turnover on that 30% is because we expect a lot out of our staff, for unfortunately, very little pay. We also are very quick to terminate staff that we feel do not treat the children well, are not a good fit with us, or influence the center negatively. Because we are so quick to terminate these staff – which we feel is in the best interest of our children and families – it creates animosity between “us and them”. Unfortunately, since we are bound by confidentiality (and good business practices), we would never expose the reason we terminate staff to parents, which leaves us in a defenseless position when the terminated staff is then free to spread whatever version of the situation that they like.
Then the other third of comments are coming from disgruntled families. For some of the families that I recognize on the comments, I know that they are angry because of either us en-enrolling their child, or expecting payment for services on outstanding tuition bills. For some the families I do not recognize, it is possible that they have legitimate concerns, but since they were never brought to my attention, there is no way for me to respond.
And for other families, there are just situations that we have tried to handle, tried to come to an agreement, and in the end just could not. In 10 years of business, there are times where we have failed to provide to a family what we would like to have been able to provide to a family.
2 – The accusations on Facebook are that we let children out of the center and did not tell the parent. This is probably the biggest concern of parents. So I will tell you that yes, we did have two children go out of the front door – with a teacher with them to bring them back inside. The children were never unsupervised or in danger. However, the children were on “unlicensed property” (only the inside of the school and the playground are licensed, which means that is the only place the children should be) – since the children were on unlicensed property, our state licensing department did give us a deficiency and cited “Supervision” as the cause. The reason behind that being if we supervised the children better – then they would not have gotten that far. And they are correct.
Can I address Supervision for a minute? The definition of Supervision by our state licensing department is “Watching 100% of the children 100% of the time”. We strive to do this in a manner that the parents can afford for us to do this. Parents definitely want us “watching” their child. That is the easy part. But, we are also required to teach the child, clean the child, feed the child, soothe the child, discipline the child, keep the child safe, etc. – for multiple children at a time. We do all of this because this is our job, and this is what our families are paying for. But in our efforts to keep costs as low as possible for our parents, we follow the state regulations for child/staff ratio. Which means, for example, in a three year old class – that is 13 three year olds and 1 staff person. In my opinion, that is a lot of three year olds for one staff person, and I know most of you would agree with me. As a matter of fact, 99% of complaints are due to the fact that parents want more staff in the classrooms so we can have better supervision. And I agree!
Can I address the cost of each staff person per class for a minute? It is a proven formula for all child care centers across the nation that it costs AT LEAST 50% of tuition for staff costs. Which means, if you pay $140/week – at least $70 of that is going straight to your teachers payroll. And that is for the one teacher in that classroom. And we just all agreed that having more teachers would be better... but at what costs? Are parents willing to pay an additional $70/week to have twice the teachers? Or an additional $140/week to have three times the teachers?
It is an extremely difficult path to navigate – trying to keep parents costs to where they can afford to go to work, and giving the parents what they want to pay for. I would love more teachers per classroom – like I said, that would solve 99% of complaints and fix 99% of problems – but at the cost of tuition, we would have no children enrolled because parents could not afford it. Catch 22.
And on a complete side note, this is all assuming that there are enough people qualified in the work force to do this job. It is a very hard job and our staff work for very low pay (again, to keep your tuition costs down) – but they do it because they love these children, and those people are hard to find.
And on another side note, this is assuming that all the children we "watch" are able to function in group care. We do not provide one on one care for children, but yet we find ourselves providing one on one care to children who need more attention, have behavior problems, or have separation anxiety. When we drift to one on one care – that could possibly leave the other children in the classroom under attended. However, our mission statement drives us to love these children and our because of our compassionate personalities, we find it very hard to turn these children away because we are unable to meet their needs. Again, this falls into the question of hire more staff, raise tuition? Or start un-enrolling children. Of course, when you un-enroll the child you just add to the “angry group” of parents on social media. Catch 22.
3 – The accusations of Facebook of allowing children to hurt other children, parents not being notified when something happens, dirty diapers/children going home, etc etc. Let’s just group all of this together and what I will say is that yes, mistakes do happen, but no, we do not tolerate deliberate “mistakes”. We are not perfect, far from it, and I will be the first to admit that. It is why I believe so much in operating with transparency, with integrity. We have cameras that parents can watch. We have an open door policy and I invite any parent to spend the day with us. We self report to the state, and to you, all of our faults – which might be why our faults are so much more “out there” than other centers, it is because we do not hide behind them, we scream them out loud.
Bottom line is that confidentiality and good business practices prevent us from defending ourselves to the fullest. However, our doors are always open. I am at Appletree Kids almost every day, my office is only 100 yards down the road, my cell phone number is posted on the front door, I am always available. But yet, there are very few parents that get with me, instead turning to social media with their concerns instead of turning to me with their concerns.
4 – What I’m asking you is for your cooperation. If you have issues, bring it to our attention. Get involved with your child’s care. Watch the cameras. Come to the school when we have parties. Volunteer to spend time helping in classrooms. Work with us, not against us. We are partners in this, please be our partner.
As always, I am available at:
337.888.3140 – office number
Jennifer Conner, President & Executive Director