An eastern Iowa day care center suddenly closed over the weekend and the parents of 95 kids are now struggling to find a replacement facility with virtually no warning. Parents were notified Saturday night that Lit’l Russellers day care in North Liberty had shut down. It was stunning for parents like Chad Wood.
"Our teacher for our daughter was crying when she called," Wood says. "She didn’t know what to do. Those people have been like family to us." The day care’s owner, Jamie Russell, reportedly said she had to close as she couldn’t afford to pay her bills. Former staff member Tabitha Woody says she was afraid this would happen.
"I think Jamie did not run her place right at all," Woody says. "Money, she’d just go and blow it instead of putting it into the day care." A recent surprise inspection by the Iowa Department of Human Services found violations at the center ranging from broken down vans to playground equipment safety issues to filthy conditions.
Rachelle Stewart sent her daughter to the day care and says the place needed a good cleaning. "The carpets were very dirty," Stewart says. "She would come home and the tops of her feet and knees would be black where she had been crawling around on the carpet." Parents also had concerns about staffing levels in the classrooms and access to the building, while one parent said the security was "pathetic."
A D.H.S. spokesperson says the agency did not ask or force the day care center to close. This morning, parents are being allowed to pick up their children’s personal belongings at the center.