Parents rally to save local childcare center

Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 8:16 PM CDT
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IRONWOOD, MI. (KBJR) - The pandemic-induced childcare shortage is hitting many communities across the country hard.

The future of one daycare in Ironwood, Michigan is now uncertain, leaving the parents of nearly 200 children with very limited options.

All Saints Little Lambs Childcare has operated as part of Our Lady of Peace Parish for years.

“Our children thrive here. This place has shaped our daughter,” said parent Samantha Olson.

This week, church leaders announced they would be separating from the childcare center by December.

Employees said the decision would put so much financial strain on Little Lambs, they’ll no longer be able to operate.

“This is the last big daycare in the area that can hold this many kids and staff,” said employee Megan Anderson. “And there would be nowhere for any of us to go. I don’t want to see that happen. None of us want to.”

Parents and children gathered outside of the church between masses on Sunday to protest the church’s decision.

“At this point in time, we have no other options,” said parent Marcus Olson. “Other than one of us must have to stay home, and that amount of income being taken away from our family, we really don’t know what to expect as far as after effects from it.”

This isn’t the first time the community has lost one of their few childcare options.

Parents said earlier in the year, a different Ironwood childcare center closed.

Many of those children and staff were accommodated at Little Lambs.

Without the center, their futures are also uncertain.

“I honestly don’t know what I would do because I’ve only done childcare since I was 19,” said Anderson.

She said she’s surprised to see the church respond this way.

“The church is supposed to be there for people and for kids, God would never turn anyone.”

Church leaders weren’t available for an interview, but in a statement the finance committee said:

Our Lady of Peace Parish and the Diocese of Marquette regrets that the misleading information sent to parents last night regarding the impending closing of All Saints/Little Lambs Daycare which caused pain and stress to many. The communication was sent without the knowledge or input from the Diocese, the OLOP Finance Council or the pastor. The church has never intended to close the childcare but is working to transfer it to operate as a separate entity.

The finance council is currently working with our current director Kim Anderson on the transfer to a separate entity. Our Lady of Peace Parish hopes have an answer by the end of August. If she is willing, the parish will continue to support the childcare as the transfer takes place. Our Lady of Peace is hoping to get this completed by October 31st but if needed we can extend to December 31, 2022, as per the decision of our August 2nd meeting.

Over the past three years the childcare’s rapid growth is more than the parish administration and staff can handle. The parish does not have the staff or the expertise to run a childcare facility. The increase in bookkeeping and payroll are the reasons for considering a separate tax id which would be beneficial for both entities. Currently the church and the childcare can’t have separate bookkeeping under the same tax id. Our Lady of Peace also has concern for the liabilities involved with running a childcare because eventually it would come back to the church and Diocese.

Our Lady of Peace has never expected a profit, requested rent, or charged for the additional bookkeeping and payroll from the Little Lambs Childcare. Money has not been a contributing factor in this decision. Going forward we will request a commonsense lease from the new entity to help support the maintenance of building, so operations can continue.

Our Lady of Peace understand the value of the childcare to the community and to the children that is why we intend to look at every possibility to create a successful transfer to a separate entity.

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