A couple of days ago I got an email from the daycare that said this:
The mornings are becoming a very bad experience for the children in our care with Lily. She is hitting, spitting, and grabbing continually. I am not able to afford to have one staff member caring for her alone. My staff feels that Lily needs one on one care at this point. I know she is being observed this week, but I'm not certain of scenarios that could work. Please think about it, and would you like to meet with me soon to discuss possibilities?
Appreciated,What went through my mind was, "they're going to try to kick her out of daycare." I was instantly on alert, instantly imagining my defense, instantly anticipating the ways in which the daycare was going to justify kicking my little girl out of their facility. I started searching through Department of Welfare (which governs daycares in PA) websites and Pennsylvania law sites, and ADA questions and answers. And then, assuming the worst, but hoping for the best, I responded:
"I'm not certain what you're talking about. This is the first I've heard of any problems. Has this been going on long? What are you suggesting? What steps have already been taken?
I don't agree that Lily requires one on one attention. She absolutely requires the attention of staff, and the understanding of her behaviors, but not one on one.
Can you explain a little about what your expectations are for staff at morning drop off (not just with regard to Lily, but with all the students)? I'd be curious to see if my observations of what goes on dovetails with your expectations for the kids' care.
Additionally, please let me know what your path forward is.
Jim"The way I saw it, she was preparing to meet with us to explain why she didn't feel her daycare was the best fit for Lily, or the other kids, for that matter. What I had read suggested that she was required by law to make 'reasonable accommodations' for a special needs child. There had been no written documentation of any issues, though we were aware some of the staff had complained about the spitting. If there had been hitting, we'd received no accident or incident reports to sign (which is procedure).
The daycare staff can be. . . inattentive. I wanted her to lay it out there. I wanted to know what it was the staff was expected to do, because having dropped Lily off to the "before care" program for the past six months I was pretty sure I knew they weren't doing it.
That is my biggest problem. Lily can be a hand full, for sure. But she's a hand full that the daycare has been dealing with for the past two years. They know her. And while I don't agree that she requires one on one attention, I do know that the staff needs to. . . how shall I put this delicately. . . get off their dead asses and attend to her (and the other students') needs.
We exchanged a couple more emails. The response I got this time seemed even more ominous to me:
Let's just meet. Friday afternoon? Let me know if that works for you two.
~J---"To me, that was the equivalent of saying. . . "I have bad news, and it's best that I deliver it in person." But that was me, planning for the worst and hoping for the best. I sent her an email arranging for a 6 o'clock meeting, and prompting her as to an agenda, whether she needed us to bring anything, and whether it would be just her.
She responded without the agenda, indicated it would just be her, and asked if there was anyone from staff we wanted to see.
This made me feel better. J--- is not the most sophisticated daycare director. I feel fairly confident that if she was approaching a family with a special needs child and informing them that they were booted, she'd bring someone with a little more gravitas. Maybe that's wishful thinking on my part, but if it's just her. . . I feel like "we got this".
My wife gets limited free legal consultation as a benefit at work. I had her contact an attorney to talk out our position prior to the meeting. The attorney seems to have been less than useless. She had a difficult time understanding our situation, and spent most of the time playing devil's advocate, explaining the daycare's position, rather than explaining our rights in this circumstance.
I feel like I'm as prepared as I need to be for this meeting. I've armed myself with enough information to feel like we can't be kicked out without at least the daycare making an attempt to solve the problem, and we have a couple potential options to explore.
As for our "rights", at first blush it appears that the daycare's ability to kick us out hinges primarily on two things: 1) whether Lily's attendance represents a threat to the safety of staff or the other children (if that's their case, they have not documented it to us, so I feel confident their. Even with documentation, Lily's biting, or pushing has historically been limited to cases where her hand is being grabbed and she's being compelled to go someplace with someone, or someone is getting too close to her face and she feels threatened. She has never gone out of her way to hurt someone.) or 2) whether Lily's attendance requires an unreasonable accomodation (hiring of dedicated staff, purchase of expensive equipment, etc). J--- might suggest that because she cannot hire an additional staff member to provide Lily with one on one, that means Lily has to go. My argument is that she does not need one on one, just less inattention on the part of staff.
The icky part of all this is that if in fact they want her out, and I fight the good fight, and lawyer up, and make things hard on them, and they take her back. . . what are the consequences for Lily? Nobody would ever do anything to get back at us through Lily, right? Right?? Is this the proverbial, sending food back to the kitchen and getting spit in your soup? If we have to fight to keep Lily in this daycare. . . do we ever want to keep Lily in this daycare?
Regardless I feel like there's some bargaining room here. I'm less stressed. I may leave this 6 o'clock meeting a total basket case, but I feel pretty good going in right now. We also talked to our wrap provider to see whether a TSS could be assigned to Lily for the brief time she's in the before school program, and for the brief time after kindergarten when she's in the after school program. If that's the case, J---- will get her one on one, and not even have to hire her. But we're still looking at that.
Regardless, we'll figure something out, and if it is the worst, well then we're prepared, and if it is the best. . . well that's just gravy.