Richland day care owner critical of state

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 28, 2013 

The owner of a Richland day care recently closed for safety and operations violations said state officials used superficial concerns to shut her down and created problems for the families she serves.

The Washington Department of Early Learning forced Debbie Stacey to stop operating Aunt Bee's Honeycomb Child Care. A 13-page letter provided by the state outlined various problems recorded during inspections since the facility opened in mid-2011, including allegations of unsupervised children, missing records and food safety issues.

Stacey said she will not appeal the state's decision because of the cost to hire a lawyer. She said her day care wasn't the most recently updated and renovated but that she served a primarily low-income group of families who appreciated the steps she took to care for their children.

"I really don't think paper towels in the wrong place or a spider web on an exit sign or weeds on the playground is a good reason to shut us down," she told the Herald.

The letter, delivered to Stacey on May 17, said the state was closing the day care and denying its request for a full operating license because of repeat violations. Food safety, cleanliness issues and how staff interacted with children at the facility were among the most mentioned problems.

The center's preliminary license allowed it to care for 39 children.

Stacey said most of the concerns cited by the state were minimal. She said the cost of operating the day care meant there wasn't always money to update furnishings but it was clean. Staff would sometimes vent about frustrations with some children, but not when around the children.

Stacey said it would cost her $5,000 to hire an attorney to appeal the state's decision, money she said she cannot spare. She could proceed with an appeal on her own but said she'd be at a disadvantage against the state's lawyers.

State officials said they also had allegations of children being abused or neglected at the center that they will investigate. Stacey said she has not received information about the allegations and denies that any child has been abused or injured while at her facility.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;

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