Rochester parents speak out on fraud claim against childcare center

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(ABC 6 News) – In July, a Rochester child care center lost it’s funding from a state assistance program due to a clerical error.

The owners of Quality Kids Child Care have since filed an appeal with the Minnesota Department of Human Services over this funding loss. The 35 families who used the center have been struggling since to find new child care options in the city.

“This was really hard on a lot of us, it was mainly hard on our kids,” said Nashauna Johnson-Lenoir, a mother of three who used to have her kids at Quality Kids.

Johnson-Lenoir lives a busy life. She runs a local youth organization, Journie, has returned to college and is greatly involved with her kids. But the loss of having Quality Kids as an option has caused her to get a second job, and she’s not alone.

“Everybody just had to find other solutions. Some found some, some didn’t. Some people lost their jobs. Other people don’t have transportation to get around and find other daycare resources,” said Johnson-Lenoir.

The loss of funding has stressed her family and all the others involved, and the lack of communication from the departments of human services has been frustrating. The biggest challenge has been the lack of notice and Minnesota DHS giving all the families very little time to find alternative options.

“They say that we don’t have to notify you if somebody is being suspected of fraud. You don’t have to tell us what the fraudulent situation may be but you can at least give us some sort of notification,” said Johnson-Lenoir. “The fact that you don’t notify families when you’re going to take away their food, you’re going to take away their housing, you’re going to take away their medical services. These are all resources that are important.”

All the families that had their kids going to Quality Kids Child Care Center this summer are BIPOC families.

Many of them don’t have the connections or trust within the community to go to other daycare as Johnson-Lenoir claims there’s a long history of discrimination toward BIPOC families.

And she believes the real problem comes from people who made the decision that have never had to live the experience of what she and other families go through on a daily basis.

“If you don’t have experience being homeless, if you don’t have experience about not having food insecurity. You cannot relate to the people that you are serving,” she said.

ABC 6 News did reach out to the Department of Human Services for comment on this story. They said they would be sending one by the end of the day Thursday, which will be included in this story.

Update: a condensed version of the statement from the Departments of Human Services on their investigation into Quality Kids Child Care Center.

The Department can provide only limited information related to the recent action except to say that as of July 20, 2023, the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) has stopped paying Quality Kid Care Center, Inc. under Minnesota Statutes, section 119B.13, subdivision 6, paragraph (d). We understand and are empathetic to the difficulties this causes for families and the urgency they face when finding a new child care provider. While the center is not forced to close due to this action, we understand their need to make business decisions regarding their finances.

Generally, temporary payment stops stay in place until either DHS or another law enforcement agency finds there is no longer enough evidence for the payment stop, DHS determines it will not pursue further administrative remedy under Minnesota Statutes, section 245E or section 256.98, or all legal proceedings related to the alleged misconduct are concluded. DHS has authority to issue temporary payment stops as provided in statute, and specifically in 119B.13, subdivision 6(d).

An employee at Quality Kids Child Care Center also spoke with ABC 6 News sharing there is a hearing between ownership and DHS on October 23 about the appeal filed by Quality Kids.