Family looking for refund after Overland Park daycare abuse allegations

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — After a FOX4 investigation, an Overland Park family pulled their child out of their daycare and now want a refund.

FOX4 first told you about the Learning Experience earlier this month after parents claimed abuse and neglect. The daycare denies that.

Mike Vietti said when he saw the initial report on FOX4 he had to pull his child out of their care. Now, he says their corporate office told him they aren’t responsible for the money he paid, and haven’t responded to multiple attempts to reach them.

“Step up and do the right thing,” Vietti said.

Vietti said finding a daycare for his baby boy was a lot of work. He felt good about the Learning Experience and signed him up in August. However, two months in he started to notice changes, and then he saw our report.

“I saw the story that you had reported on and almost immediately the thought was we can’t continue to send our child there,” Vietti said.

Parents alleged neglect and physical abuse. Nine families have filed reports with the Overland Park Police Department. Both the Kansas Department of Children and Families and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are investigating.

The Learning Experience’s corporate office told FOX4 they terminated the owner of the franchise because he did not meet their standard of care.

Vietti pulled his child out the beginning of October but paid for the full month. The Learning Experience requires two weeks notice to remove your child from their care according to Vietti. He says they paid for the first week and are asking for the final week of payment.

“When we said we were pulling our child their response to that was we can’t give you a refund for the services you’ve paid for and will no longer receive – that’s entirely up to the owner who has now effectively been fired from that position,” Vietti said.

FOX4 reached out to the Learning Experience about a refund for Vietti multiple times but did not receive a response at the time of this article.

“It’s the Learning Experience at the corporate office placing the burden on the families who have just gone through this traumatic experience and just saying – go figure this out on your own,” Vietti said.

A big issue with the claims against the Learning Experience has to do with staff that were overworked and possibly aggressive with children. KDHE reported several times there were not through hiring practices for the facility. In a FOX4 report, a former employee claimed she was hired on a Friday and working in a room with children the following Monday. She says she was not formally interviewed.

Cindy Lehnhoff the Director of the National Childcare Association says staffing in daycares is a struggle nationwide. She says the Learning Experience did the right thing by removing the franchise owner.

“We are not able to attract or keep qualified staff in our licensed childcare centers,” Lehnhoff said.

According to a recent survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, four out of five daycare are understaffed and 87% of them said it was due to low wages being offered making it difficult to recruit staff.

“They can make twice the money and have much better benefits. And COVID definitely made the situation worse. I call it — it’s a perfect storm. We lost about 1/3 of our workforce in licensed childcare,” Lehnhoff said.

She said some people simply left the industry, others could be paid more working for a school district for higher wages and benefits. Others are staying home with their own children. Some of it is due to the pandemic, but she says this has been a growing issue for the past decade.

Vietti says for the money he and other parents paid for a high quality of care it’s not clear how parents tuition was being allocated and it clearly wasn’t going to the staff.

“Where does that money go? I don’t know other than to say it’s clearly not going to the staff. If it had been you might have seen higher quality teachers in that facility,” Vietti said.

FOX4 reached out to the Learning Experience’s corporate office four times on Monday in regards to Vietti’s issue but did not hear back.

According to KDHE, on October 19 the facility did not have a director in place. The daycare’s building is for sale and has been before the first allegation came to light.

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