On Wednesday the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, or DCFS ordered a day care center in Belvidere to close. Belvidere Early Learning Center had to immediately terminate operations after the last child left Wednesday night. This comes just a month after a worker was accused of sexually assaulting a child.
Seventeen-year-old Samuel Feffer was arrested and charged with two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. Feffer was a teacher's aide at the Belvidere Early Learning Center. Belvidere Police say they have finished with their investigation and have not found any further victims.
Now DCFS is accusing the center of disregarding licensing standards and wants to revoke its license. The Belvidere Early Learning Center is the only day care Melissa Myers’ four-year-old daughter knows. Myers says she has heard rumors that center might have disregarded ratio violations. She says DCFS is overreacting by closing the center.
Myers says, “I have never seen anything that would bring alarm to me. I have never come across anything that would make me think my child wasn't safe here."
DCFS was closed on Friday in order to honor Lincoln's birthday so 23 News did not get any answers. Even at the day care no signs were put up to inform families what is going on. Just one of the many frustrations parents of the 104 children at the center are experiencing.
Myers says, "I don't think shutting down the only day care center in Belvidere and to what I consider a loving environment for my child is answer."
Parents like Myers have been trading on and off taking care of their displaced children. With what is appearing to be a permanent closing at the Belvidere Early Learning Center parents are scrambling to find a new provider. In Boone County the only other day care center is The First Step which currently has a short waiting list. The Child Care Resource and Referral Center at the YMCA in Rockford has been assisting families with their search.
Director of Child Care Solutions, Margaret Hallin says “We've had about 18 calls. I think parents are taking their time and trying to reassess what they're options might be."
Hallin says though this is abrupt it is very serious matter when DCFS orders a day care center to close. Hallin tells 23 News, "It's never happened in the 13 years that I have been here. It was a very big surprise to me."
For any parents that want to check up on their day care provider, the state has a violation hotline. The DCFS day care information line is 1-877-746-0829.