Children's House daycare closes without notice in Park Forest, parents say

February 18, 2013 3:35:03 PM PST
Parents found out a Park Forest daycare was closed Monday morning as they went to drop off their children.

Many parents say there was no warning that Children's House, 94 Orchard Drive in Park Forest, would be closed. They arrived Monday morning to find the doors locked and the daycare workers outside.

"My daughter is crying her heart out. Very upset. [She's] been here since 3 or 4 months," Marcus Price, parent, said.

The owner, Phyllis Ward, was not on site and those inside the facility who refused to identify themselves would not comment.

The daycare center's director said she found out the location was closing Monday morning when she could not get inside. The locks had been changed.

"They gave us a notice saying they were shut down because of low enrollment, mismanagement," Anita Raspberry-Strong said.

The owner of the building was also surprised.

"I got a call from my staff, saying that there were people here moving out," James Matanky, Matanky Realty, said. "We've been talking to Ms. Ward. . . I don't understand what she's doing."

Matanky says the business is several months behind in rent despite a recent payment from the state.

"She got a payment of over $64,000 on Thursday because we were able to track that with her business employment number, and none of that came to us yet," said Matanky.

Parents, who were left without child care, and employees, who are now without jobs, struggled to find a place for their children.

"I am going to look into other daycares, probably near home, because I live in Chicago, so I travel," said parent Atina Wheatly.

Wheatly isn't sure where to take her 3-year-old daughter now.

"I live in Chicago. I drive 30 minutes to work every morning, and 30 minutes home every night," Wheatly said.

Robert Wright arrived at the daycare expecting to drop off his 2-year-old son for the day only to find the facility closed.

"Daddy daycare - not the movie - reality, but it was just a shock to me because I was all geared up to go to work," said Wright.

The sudden shutdown was upsetting to some.

"It's just crazy that these kids have to go through this for no reason," said daycare teacher LaTonya Allen.

The closure affects roughly 87 children who attend the daycare, including Nicole Cobbins' 8- and 5-year-olds.

"First, she started cutting down the hours of when they were going to be open and all that kind of stuff, and then she started firing people without giving anybody the heads up about what was going to happen -- she knew what was going to happen and didn't give somebody a chance to prepare for what was going on," said Cobbins.

The Children's House is privately owned and licensed by the Illinois department of children and family services. The daycare's website lists other locations in Chicago and Markham - which remain open for now. Reportedly, employees at the Markham location were notified Monday that the Markham location will close in seven days.

Many parents did not go to work Monday because the facility was closed.

The employees of the Park Forest location say they are hoping to work out something with the landlord to take over the location and reopen soon.

ABC7 reached out to the owner several times Monday but received no comment as of Monday afternoon.