Parents want state to investigate working conditions at Shawnee daycare

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SHAWNEE, Kan. — Parents are speaking out about a Shawnee daycare facility FOX4 first told you about last week.

Former employees claimed difficult working conditions and an overcrowded facility. But owners say it was bad employees and not the daycare’s fault.

Now parents are firing back, saying they want to see the state step in.

Accidents can happen at daycares and families FOX4 spoke with understand that. However, they say it’s the policies and the way the facility handled problems that made them walk away.

Happiness is contagious for 9-month-old Taysum. His parents enrolled him in Happy Tots Daycare in Shawnee for the summer.

“The experience was great at the beginning,” Taysum’s father Tyler Reynolds said.

But not long after he said Taysum came down with RSV. When they picked him up to take him to the doctor, he said the owner thought they were picking up a different child who tested positive for COVID-19.

“This owner had no protocol in place for her daycare where she’s in charge of young children and a lot of them, it scared me,” Reynolds said.

He said the COVID plan changed and changed and then changed again.

The owners of Happy Tots did not respond to calls and texts about what their protocol is or how it was created.

Blakely’s mom, Devynn Boehm said she may never know what happened to her daughter.

“I continued sending my daughter there after knowing something was not right. Having that regret as a mom, it sucks,” Boehm said.

She said her daughter came home from Happy Tots one day with blood on her face and bruising around her nose.

Bohem said the daycare didn’t take it seriously.

“I expressed my concern to the owners and for them to tell me that I didn’t have any facts to back it up, called me a liar, that never happened , they have cameras,” Boehm said.

She reported the incident to the state and said it is still investigating.

In a previous statement Happy Tots told FOX4 “the safety of the children comes first and we do not compromise that.”

“This daycare and many other daycares need to decide, OK, am I going to truly put effort toward educating my employees and am I going to put money into that?” Boehm said.

According to a survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, four out of five daycares in the United States are understaffed.

Nearly 80% of people surveyed said low wages contributed to the lack of quality employees.

“it’s pretty disappointing to me that they’re not valued more by way of compensation,” Reynolds said.

According to two former Happy Tots directors, employees were offered $11 an hour without benefits but the company would not comment on their compensation.

Bohem said the kids are the ones who suffer.

“You’re going to give them the proper amount of income that you’re worth,” Bohem said. “Being a daycare provider is not easy. You are around kids all day long. I can’t do that but you’re going to give them $11 an hour, nobody is going to want to come and work.”

FOX4 has made multiple efforts to speak with the owners of Happy Tots on the phone, through email and text. But each time they’ve declined to be interviewed or have their side heard.

FOX4’s Sherae Honeycutt also reached out to the state several times about the status of any investigation into Happy Tots but did not hear back.

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