The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 27, 2012

YWCA center certification reduced

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — YWCA Enid soon will close the doors on its child care center following a reduction in the center’s certification status by Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

OKDHS reduced the certification level for the YWCA Enid Children’s Learning Center Sept. 8 from two stars to one star, the lowest certification level for child care facilities that “meet minimum licensing requirements.”

OKDHS certified child care facilities are rated: three stars, for programs that meet additional quality criteria and are nationally accredited; two stars, for programs that meet additional quality criteria or are nationally accredited; one star plus, for programs that meet additional quality criteria, including additional training, reading to children daily, parent involvement and program assessment; and lastly, one star programs.

Former YWCA Enid Executive Director Melissa Blanton was notified of the impending reduction in certification to one star in an Aug. 20 letter from OKDHS child care licensing coordinator Jennifer Towell.

The letter detailed “serious non-compliance with licensing requirements” at the day care, including 10 substantiated complaints and eight violations found during DHS monitoring visits between November 2010 and Aug. 8, 2012.

PDF: DHS notification letter

The violations noted in the DHS notification included infractions in rest arrangements and care for infants, toddlers and 2-year-olds; supervision of children; staff to child ratios; and requirements for conducting criminal history investigations for staff and residents.

OKDHS communications manager Debra Martin said YWCA Enid requested the administrative review of the reduction in star rating. A three-member board affirmed the OKDHS finding on Sept. 8, reducing the center’s certification.

The reduction to one star rating carried with it financial implications for the day care.

As a one star facility, Enid YWCA no longer could enroll new children to receive DHS day care subsidies, and DHS reimbursement rates for children already enrolled in the day care would be reduced effective Nov. 1, according to the Aug. 20 letter.

Enid YWCA currently is licensed to care for as many as 69 children in its day care, which primarily serves low-income women and families participating in other YWCA services, such as the crisis center and halfway house.

The rating reduction from two stars to one would carry a corresponding reduction in DHS reimbursement of as much as $1,000 per day, depending on the ages and number of children being served.

Kim Blankenship, YWCA Enid interim executive director, said the reduction in certification level and ensuing losses in DHS reimbursement were not a direct cause of the decision to close the day care, which will cease operations Dec. 1.

“We just decided not to have a day care and to focus on our crisis center and halfway house,” Blankenship said. “The decision to close was very hard, but the day care wasn’t profitable for us and we didn’t want to put money into the day care we could be putting into the crisis center and halfway house. Our first and foremost mission is to help women and children.”

Blankenship said the Enid YWCA board of directors made the decision to close the day care in its Sept. 18 board meeting. It was on that same day Blanton stepped down from her position at YWCA Enid.

Blankenship said the reduction in certification and pending closure of the day care were not related to Blanton’s resignation.

Prior to coming in as interim executive director last Wednesday, Blankenship was YWCA executive director from May 2005 to October 2009, and also served as interim executive director for eight weeks before Blanton began her duties.

Blankenship said she has not had time to review the complaints and licensing violations that led OKDHS to reduce the day care’s star rating.

She said she and her staff have made arrangements with other organizations in town to provide day care services for the approximately 40 children per day being served by the YWCA Enid Children’s Learning Center. She declined to name which organizations will take over care for the children currently enrolled in the day care, and children of future families utilizing the crisis center and halfway house services.

A complete list of Enid day care facilities with DHS subsidy contracts can be found through the OKDHS Oklahoma Child Care Locator at http://childcare find.okdhs.org/childcarefind/.