Monday, September 25, 2006

Be careful where you leave your kids

Normally I don't write about too many personal situations on this weblog, because I know that readers want to read about my take on what is happening in our State, our country, the Church, and the world and how that might affect my life. You have come to know a bit about me and my wife from things I have mentioned here, but nothing too deep-largely because Nicole is very much aware of the fact that people read what I write every day, and she wants to keep a veil of privacy between our home life and my public involvement for as long as that is humanly possible.

I'm going to break those rules a bit today, however, because Nicole wants people, especially parents concerned for their kids, to be made aware of her recent experience.

Nicole recently worked at a daycare in Dandridge called ABC Dayschool. She took a job there because she loves children and has plenty of experience working with kids. Anything to do with children is right up her alley, especially since she dealt with children with problem behavioral issues in her previous role with Knox County Schools. Nicole expected her first few days to be difficult-she did not expect to work between ten and eleven hours a day, often without a break.

In her very first day on the job, she worked six and half hours and received no break. She got one the next day, but worked over ten hours-she was only supposed to work eight. In six days of work, Nicole only received the break that is mandated by State law twice. That wasn't the worst of it, however. She witnessed her supervisor falsifying her timecard to say that she got a lunch break, right down to writing Nicole's initials on the card. Nicole put in days that were well over ten hours and would return home exhausted.

How is that dangerous to the children at ABC? While Nicole was there, two new people were hired. At least one person began work their first day at 6am, and left the daycare well over twelve hours later. Nicole doesn't know whether that person (or the other new folks) got breaks as prescribed by law, but if her experience is any indication, they likely did not. Employees were exhausted, and many simply walk out. I would encourage parents in Jefferson County not to leave their children at ABC Dayschool. The place is badly understaffed and the employees are overworked to the point of exhaustion. When you are dealing with papershuffling, that is a hassle that can be overcome. When you are dealing with other people's kids, it can be dangerous to the safety of both the children and the staff-mistakes and work left undone from such a state could cause injury or worse.

Nicole didn't want to walk away. She showed up every day and stayed until she was told to leave. She did so even believing that she was eing taken advantage of. When she did get a break one day and had to leave because of a family emergency, she did the right thing and notified her supervisor-who wasn't going to let her leave-despite the fact that she had done everything that was asked of her. Nicole told her that she had to go, she had no choice, so her supervisor would simply have to fire her. "I will not fire you" she was told, "but if you go don't come back tomorrow." Nicole intended to return as normal the next day-and her tenure ends in a dispute over whether she quit or was fired. I'll take her side in the latter, because I happen to know that she has never quit a job in her life.

ABC exploits the labor of hard-working employees to an unfair degree and does so in a way that is dangerous to the children under their care. The appropriate authorities have been notified, and nothing may ever come of it-but Nicole wants people to know that if they need to keep their kids in a daycare, they should insure that the establishment is well-staffed and the employees are well-respected. ABC is not that place.


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