To the outsider, it appears that the Newell Children's Center has closed its doors but Board President Phil Roberts wants people to know that service has been temporarily ceased. There is a difference, he said.
"The Children's Center is not being dissolved. At this time we have stopped providing service so the board can restructure," he told the Pilot Tribune.
Shutting the doors was not an easy decision, he said, but it was necessary.
The staff and director (totalling about seven jobs) and parents were informed Sept. 24 that services would only be provided through Sept. 28.
"We're in completely a different situation than other places that have closed," he said. "We don't have a ton of debt. Everyone was doing everything right. All things were working well. It's the overbearing regulations and the economy that caused this to happen."
The licensed facility is governed by regulations such as food served, ratio of kids to staff, state pay.
"Once there is a regulation, it never goes away," he said, pointing out that there are "10 times as many regulations" as when the facility opened in 2004, and many of them are proving costly.
He added that the Newell Children's Center is not unique - day cares across the state are faced with the same issues of trying to keep up, and many have been closed down.
Many community members have supported the center by not only utilizing it but by contributing to fundraisers - but economics have gotten in the way of corporate contributions.
Now that service has stopped, Roberts, said, people who may have taken it for granted are realizing what an important part of the community the center was.
The school district is also taking notice as the center has provided before and after school care for those children whose parents go to work early and get home in the late afternoon. Efforts are being made to work out an alternative, Roberts said.
"This can be a positive thing."
Many phone calls have been received and many meetings have taken place since the day care was suddenly suspended, and people are stepping up to ask what else they can do to help.
The situation has taken a toll on the board as well as the parents who have had to scramble to find new care providers for their children. He wants people to realize that the board is made up of volunteers who are unpaid. They are dedicated to the center and want nothing but the best for it and the children but keeping the doors open could have created more of a financial burden that could ultimately have doomed the center for good.
There is no time line, said Roberts of how long it will take before another decision is made.
"We can afford time to make changes and not be rushed into things or make a hasty decision." It's easier in the long run, he said, then being forced to close down. "We're ahead of the game. We need to explore options."
No fingers are being pointed to anyone or any past board members; Roberts feels there is nothing that could have stopped this action from happening.
"We want to be optimistic," said Roberts. "This doesn't mean we won't be here in the future."
Originally, the idea for the center came about at a town meeting where community members revealed a concern for "quality childcare."
For families with small children who are considering a move to a new community, one of the drawing points may be a day care facility. The building which houses the center, which once belonged to the Masons, contains separate rooms for infants (ages six weeks to age 2) and toddlers (ages 2-3)/pre-schoolers (ages 3-5).
The center has received high reviews from state agencies since it opened.