FARGO – This spring, three toddlers got free from a child care center here and wandered off, reaching a sidewalk next to a four-lane street before a stranger corralled the kids and brought them back.
Now the center faces losing its license and closing – something many of the parents are vehemently against.
Curious Kids Childcare at 1101 19th Ave. N. in Fargo had its license revoked in June due to the April 27 incident. But the center’s owner and several parents, whose children go there daily, say the revocation is too harsh a consequence.
Owner Michelle Roeszler said she isn’t denying the facts of the incident, but is contesting the revocation. Roeszler, who was out of state when the incident occurred, said other child care facilities have experienced similar situations and received a correction order.
“Typically, the severity of the incident determines whether or not a license is revoked,” said Monica Goeson, regional supervisor of Early Childhood Services with the North Dakota Department of Human Services.
Goeson said the license of Curious Kids Childcare was revoked because all three children were under 2 years old, the staff were unaware of the kids’ disappearance, and a stranger had to keep the kids from going into the street.
Maribeth Joraanstad, a parent of one of the three who got out, said Roeszler met with her personally to explain what happened and what the next steps were to make sure something similar didn’t happen again.
To Roeszler’s credit, Joraanstad said, she even reported the incident herself to the proper authorities. Roeszler also fired four employees who were working when the incident happened.
Another parent of one of the three children, Christine Schulz, said by April 30, Roeszler had taken steps to fix the issue, including keeping a physical tally of the number of children and making changes to the gate where the kids got out.
Joraanstad said she felt the license revocation was too extreme and that even firing the four staff members was too harsh. “The situation that occurred is not OK. It should never have happened, but we have confidence in Michelle,” Schulz said.
Schulz said she knows of other local child care centers where kids wandered off farther than the sidewalk and the centers only received a correction order, adding that she wouldn’t send her children to Curious Kids if she felt it was risky.
The center’s license is set to expire July 21. Roeszler said her application to renew her license was denied because of the pending case.
After the July 21 deadline, Curious Kids Childcare cannot operate without facing fees for not having a license.
To the parents, it means finding a new place to send their kids.
Roeszler said she and her staff are helping parents find alternatives and that she has a prospective buyer looking to move into the space and operate a similar child care center.