KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The owners of a Kansas City, Kansas daycare say the state delivered a powerful punch to their business, and now they worry about their future. The Pandarama Daycare has been in the heart of downtown KCK for almost four decades.
The owners are now battling the Kansas Department for Children and Families to keep their business going. They say they will lose their DCF contract next week, which is a major blow to their business.
Thirty-seven years ago, Morris and Carolyn Sipple opened Pandarama Daycare, which was a dream come true for the couple.
"I said it would be really nice to have a childcare facility," Carolyn said.
Fear and frustration have now gripped the Sipples. It's because they say on June 20, DCF sent them an unexpected letter saying Pandarama’s contract would be terminated in 30 days.
"Our biggest fear is we're gonna have to lose a lot of our customers, long-time customers," Morris explained. "We have a lot of parents that are low-income and depend on our services."
The couple says since 1976 they've had a contract with DCF to provide daycare services to low-income families, who are eligible to receive childcare subsidy benefits. Currently, Pandarama serves about 100 children. The contract the daycare is losing will cut about $300,000 from Pandarama's yearly budget.
"That's 60 percent of our income is gone and they just tell us this with no reason. We're gonna have to cut out maybe 60 percent of our staff,” Morris said.
Ida Jones is one of many parents who received a letter telling them that Pandarama will soon no longer be a DCF provider.
"I really don't know what I'm gonna do at this point," she said.
Jones' four-year-old daughter is enrolled at the daycare.
"They have a really good education system going on here. They're really great with my daughter. I love it here, so me having to scramble to find something else, actually it's saddening," she said.
Six months ago, the Sipples joined a group to block the Kansas Department of Corrections from putting a parole office with sex offenders near their daycare.
"My suspicion is it's retaliation," Morris said.
A DCF spokesperson said she cannot comment on a specific case. In April, during a random state inspection, an inspector cited several violations at Pandarama including: Employees arriving late and children not in their designated spots.
The Sipples call the violations groundless.
"We're doing everything we can to fight this," Morris said.
The Sipples' DCF contract ends next Tuesday, July 22. The couple has hired a lawyer in hopes of getting a formal hearing with the state.