Queens daycare shuts down suddenly, leaving parents scrambling

LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens (WABC) -- A Queens daycare was shut down by the health department after officials discovered issues with documents pertaining to staff background checks.

The Learning Experience branch in Long Island City sent an email Tuesday informing parents of the closure, many of whom learned they had nowhere to send their child the next day and were left scrambling to find contingency plans.

In the email, the daycare says the issues were discovered by its own employees carrying out a routine audit of all employee files.

The email states "that some employee documents appeared to have been either altered or fabricated, most likely by one or more former employees."

The company notified the New York City Department of Health on Thursday.

The Learning Experience says "we must 'temporarily' pause our childcare services" and "we are recommending that (parents) secure childcare elsewhere for the foreseeable future."

The facility had 162 children in its care.

"We are aware of the situation caused by a local franchise," a spokesperson for the Learning Experience said. "We take all occurrences very seriously and will work closely with state regulators to address any compliance opportunities and resolve any outstanding concerns. Our highest priority is to ensure the safety and care of our children, staff and the communities in which we operate."

The health department released its own statement:

"The Health Department is entrusted with protecting the health and safety of our littlest New Yorkers. When inspecting this program on 2/14 and 2/18, we found multiple serious violations, including problems related to staff background clearances and lack of qualifications - and closed the program. We are working with this program to make sure that these violations are corrected and that they provide a safe and healthy environment for the children in their care."

Here is the full text of the letter sent to parents:

Dear Families of The Learning Experience of Long Island City:

The NYC Department of Health has just informed us that we must "temporarily" pause our childcare services to our students at the Long Island City location.

We want to be completely transparent with all of you regarding this issue. It was discovered on a routine audit of all employee files by our Field Operations team some discrepancies in these files . As a result of this inspection, we discovered that some employee documents appeared to have been either altered or fabricated, most likely by one or more former employees. We immediately engaged professional forensic audit investigators to assist in the discovery process as we continue to review files. In accordance with applicable state regulations, we were required to notify the regulatory agency of our findings and did in fact notify them on February 13, 2020. We have had an extensive team working to resolve this matter expeditiously; ultimately, however, while we have diligently worked to reproduce accurate and authentic files of the staff we were notified by the NYC Dept of health that until the files are reviewed by the state, we are simply prohibited from operating a full center when some staff members do not have complete files.

We recognize the burden and inconvenience this places on each of you, and for that we sincerely apologize. We will continue to work diligently and cooperate with the NYC Department of Health and the authorities to resolve this matter as soon as possible. We will provide you with as much transparency as permitted and keep you updated as often as possible. As an organization, we have always chosen to do what is right over what is easiest, in order to ensure the health and safety of your children, and that will continue to be our number one priority.

Since we do not have a clear line of sight into an exact reopening date, we are recommending that you secure childcare elsewhere for the foreseeable future. We are optimistic that we will have more information within the next week, and we will send out an update as soon as additional information becomes available to us. Our number one goal is to reopen all rooms as soon as possible, depending on how quickly the NYC agencies will work with us. Of course, we will credit your account for any days in which you paid tuition but were unable to attend due to this unfortunate situation.

Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to speak to me or one of our team members who will be available for you at the center.

Thank you,

Sincerely,

Jennifer Murray
Vice President of Operations, East Region

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