Parents disagree with revocation of Virginia woman's child care licenseLisa Wright acknowledges her house can be cluttered. That can happen, she said, when you’re caring for up to a dozen children. The Minnesota Department of Human Services sees the matter differently.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Lisa Wright acknowledges her house can be cluttered. That can happen, she said, when you’re caring for up to a dozen children.
“You can either have your house spotless or have kids,” the Virginia woman said this week.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services sees the matter differently, citing a long list of violations as the agency revoked her family child care license on Aug. 3. The order followed a temporary immediate suspension of her license issued on May 17.
Wright, 58, has the right to appeal, but said she won’t.
“This is ridiculous,” she said. “I’m done.”
At least a couple of parents who trusted their children to Wright said the state overreacted to faults that weren’t central to giving their children quality care.
“My children genuinely loved her, and she genuinely loved them,” said Niecie Strand of Virginia, who has two daughters, ages 5 and 8. “That was important when they were in child care. I wanted them to feel like they were at home.”
Jill Schuchard of Angora said that when she and her husband’s job assignments took them away from Virginia, they kept making the 60-mile round trip one day a week so their five children could stay with Wright.
“We truly love her,” Schuchard said. “She is awesome with the kids, and the kids really enjoy her. We were all heartbroken when this happened.”
But the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Department listed 17 violations when investigating a complaint about the home, which was licensed for up to 12 children.
The revocation order also charged Wright “pulled a child’s ear and grabbed and pulled a child by the arm as a means of behavior guidance” and failed to report a serious injury to a child.
Wright said the child wasn’t injured, he had a seizure. She said she has not had a single accident in her house during more than 20 years of offering child care. And she took umbrage at the allegation about pulling children’s ears and arms, saying any such actions were playful. “We play, but that’s not how I get someone to behave,” she said.
Wright acknowledged she had a broken gate leading to her basement when inspectors came, but said she never allows children to get in that part of the house. She also had fallen behind on upkeep of her home because of back problems and arthritis, she said. But she never shortchanged the children under her care, said Wright, who referred to the children as “my kids” and their parents as “my parents.”
“I put my kids first,” Wright said. “If I’ve got a kid that’s not feeling well, I’m going to do that before I do the dishes. My kids are happy. Every one of my kids was happy.”
Strand confirmed that her children were happy at Wright’s, although she initially had some concerns when she switched to Wright six months ago after her previous child care provider closed.
“I had apprehensions,” Strand said. “Her house wasn’t dirty, but it was cluttered. I wasn’t sure if this was going to work for me. Within a week it was wonderful. I’ve never had my children bond with anybody in such a way.”
Strand, who works as a paralegal during the day and a waitress in the evening and recently started law school, hasn’t been able to find anyone to replace Wright. So she brings her daughters to work with her during the day and relies on friends and family during her waitressing shifts.
“Lisa was willing to take my kids whenever I needed it,” Strand said. “She was more like a grandparent.”
Although the violations cited against Wright caused her some concern, Strand said after questioning her daughters she was convinced they hadn’t been in an unhealthy or dangerous situation.
“Her house wasn’t immaculate, but it was never in any way that I saw dangerous,” Strand said. “I’m not going to say that what happened was good. I’m confident that my children were protected.”
Schuchard has child care for her children, ages 1-12, but she said they miss Wright. “She just had a way with them,” Schuchard said. “All the kids ran to her. They always fought over who got a hug first.”
Wright had her license revoked one time before, on Dec. 11, 2008, when the state cited use of corporal punishment and failure to provide a safe, hazard-free environment. She won back a conditional, two-year license on Jan. 15, 2010.
Schuchard said she wishes Wright would appeal the latest ruling.
“I think it’s ridiculous that they’re spending so much time and energy making so much out of this,” Schuchard said. “They’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”