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Posted on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Parents express frustrations during closing of Community Hospital Children's Center

By Ben Freed

Chelsea parents are becoming increasingly frustrated with what many of them view as an evasive and uncaring attitude from the Chelsea Community Hospital regarding the closing of the hospital’s Children’s Center.

“It’s all smoke and mirrors,” parent Dania Dunlap-Hurden said after she heard that a meeting for parent feedback originally scheduled for Wednesday night had been canceled.

Nancy Graebner, CEO of Chelsea Community Hospital, said the meeting was canceled because its purpose was to answer questions about a transition of the center’s operation to Gretchen’s House, which will no longer be happening.

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Chelsea Community Hospital has recently announced it will be canceling its childcare program.

Lisa Allmendinger | AnnArbor.com

Graebner said that Gretchen Preston, who founded the Ann Arbor-based child development company, has reached a resolution with the Chelsea community schools to operate the before and after-school programs that previously were run by the hospital.

However, there is not yet a replacement for the daycare portion of the center, which was housed at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ and currently is scheduled to close Sept. 30.

Heidi Reyst has a toddler and a pre-schooler currently enrolled in the Children’s Center that will close soon. She said that many Chelsea residents will be forced to look outside the city for childcare.

“If there were fifty families with children there, all fifty will not find a place in Chelsea,” she said. “This will cause the kids to lose their peer groups.”

Reyst said while she understands this was a business decision, she does not understand why parents were not consulted.

“We would all have preferred to pay more and stay where we were than to be uprooted,” she said.

Dunlap-Harden, who also has two young children at the center, said there have been offers from community members to donate enough to offset the operating loss of the programs. Graebner said while these efforts are generous, the hospital does not want to run multiple fundraising campaigns at once.

“With a health system of our size, we have defined philanthropic projects and campaigns,” she said.

“We already have a campaign underway, and we don’t want to have a competing campaign with one already in progress. We have to be careful that we aren’t duplicating our efforts and overburdening the community.”

Multiple parents said that their biggest grievance was what they felt was a lack of communication from the hospital.

“The community wants the program saved, the hospital does not want the program anymore,” Dunlap-Hurden said.

“But that’s not the source of the conflict. The source of the conflict is the way the hospital has gone about getting rid of the program.”

The original letter sent to parent on July 11, stated the program would close on August 31. Graeber said the hospital has extended the daycare through September to help parents find new locations for their children.

“With those extra weeks, that’s a 10-week transition period,” she said.

Graebner said that while it is regrettable to have to cut the program, in todays economic climate, keeping any program not breaking even is difficult for the hospital to manage.

She added that Gretchen’s House still is exploring the possibility of finding a location in Chelsea for a new early childhood center. Dunlap-Hurden said there is another group doing the same thing.

“Many of us would like to see a non-profit program continue if possible,” she said.

“And there’s potential to open up another non-profit entity that would be the children’s center. It would be non-profit based and would have ties to the hospital and ties to the wellness coalition and different organizations in Chelsea. That idea has been tossed out there and there are a number of people who would explore the possibility.”

Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2

Comments

Heidi Reyst

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 3:06 a.m.

The parents of the children were not consulted prior to learning of the closing. At a meeting with CEO Graebner, the parents overwhelmingly indicated they were in favor of paying higher rates to keep the center open. Graebner made the decision to close the center, with an ill conceived plan, no back up plan should Gretchen's House not come to fruition, and with little regard for values of a community like Chelsea.

John Hritz

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Graebner: "while it is regrettable to have to cut the program, in todays economic climate, keeping any program not breaking even is difficult for the hospital to manage" Dunlap-Harden: "We would all have preferred to pay more and stay where we were than to be uprooted" The implication is that the parents were willing to consider a higher payment but I have no idea how far the two parties are apart. Reluctance to meet with the parents suggests that the hospital didn't want to offer this service regardless of their cost objection being met. That said, there is still time to increase the cost for the service and extend the transition period. As for the comment on the phone book having lots of listings for child care, they may only have a few openings a year as children age out. Being in the phone book is not a good indication of excess capacity.

a2citizen

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

"...She added that Gretchen's House still is exploring the possibility of finding a location in Chelsea for a new early childhood center. Dunlap-Hurden said there is another group doing the same thing..." Is there a particular reason Gretchen is unable to or does not want to use the existing location, St Paul's United Church of Christ.

Middle America

Sat, Jul 28, 2012 : 10:33 a.m.

The church should start paying taxes.

a2citizen

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

Oops, just read the original article: "...However, the church declined to host the program under new ownership, according to the July 11 letter..."

a2cents

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

It's interesting to see how car-centric the responders are... the issue is in Chelsea, not Dexter, not Ann Arbor. These comment people need $10 / gallon gas. (Maybe they enjoy the phone & texting time?)

goldenrule

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Why have the other daycare centers not responded? I don't understand why they would not defend the programs they have as well. The Children's Center is not the ONLY daycare available in Chelsea. Well respected centers like Rainbow Center, Avila, or Little Friends have maintained quality care for many years. There is also Kidsland located in Dexter that is not far from Chelsea. The huge disappointment is for the kids that were able to stay before or after school at North Creek Elementary for childcare. That was ease for many working parents as well as the kids being with classmates they knew from school. I would hope these people complaining about the closing of ONE daycare would look at the many successful options also offered in Chelsea.

Will Warner

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

I was going to say that if there is such demand for child care, the market will meet it, but I can well imagine that the regulation of that service is crippling.

Will Warner

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Well, that's a relief, clownfish. It sounds as if the market has already solved this problem.

clownfish

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

yellow page online lists 236 child care facilities in or around A2. How crippling could those regulations be?

mixmaster

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Scio township just granted a $4.9 million tax abatement for a highly profitable corporation easily capable of paying the taxes. Cuts to those in need are easy. Making those at the top pay their fair share is much harder.

Middle America

Sat, Jul 28, 2012 : 10:31 a.m.

Asking "those at the top" to pay their fair share of taxes is not asking them "to pay for babysitting someone else's kids" - it is simply asking them to pay the same tax rates as everyone else.

ferdcom

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

Why should "those at the top" be made to pay for babysitting someone else's kids?

mommaof2

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

There is an alternative option in Chelsea one that provides quality care in Chelsea in a day center setting. One with a low student /teacher ratio. I am impressed enough with the center that my daughter travels from Ann arbor to attend. I just don't want the Article to assume that residents of Chelsea have to travel outside of Chelsea that is not the case at all

Mike

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

I can't blame the hospital for closing something that is not sustainable. Regarding Brimble's remark about the Univiersity of Michigan hospital, they do receive taxpayer funding to help run their hospital. It's always nice to be able to receive taxpayer subsidized daycare when you don't have to personally pay the true cost along with other benefits the U receives that they could not offer if they were truly market driven and all of us taxpayers didn't chip in. In the old days there would have probably been people and entreprenuers that would have seen an opportunity and filled the void. Today we have such onerous regulation and paperwork not only from the childcare side but from the building regulation side that it isn't economically feasible for the business to operate profitably and the parents who would have to pay what it costs to be able to afford it on stagnant wages. Welcome to the new "normal" to go along with our steady unemployment rate and over regulated businesses. More to come................

brimble

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

While I can't speak to the question of whether the UM child care centers receive any general University (ie. tax-derived) funds, I can say that the cost of having a child there is in line with the private Gretchen's House daycare chain. There is no "discount" for UM employees; they pay full-freight.

clownfish

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Which regulations regarding child care facilities would you like to see rescinded? # of adults/child? Licensing of care givers? Food safety regulations?

bluehoo

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

U/M receives taxpayer funding for the school function and the hospital some compensation for indigent care, but my understanding is much of the hospital budget has to operate under the same conditions as any private or non-profit hospital. A problem, since we depend on training hospitals to provide appropriately trained people for all hospitals. And you should check about the budget/funding for the child care center before making assumptions--as the operating costs were pretty much self-funded last I was involved.

brimble

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 10:30 a.m.

Yesterday's article on Parent's Magazine ranking of Ann Arbor as among the best places to raise a child cited a methodology which includes, among other factors, availability of day care. The U of M Hospitals has a first-rate child care center, serving families with children from infant through preschool. The closing of this center is a genuine loss to both Chelsea. Perhaps Ms. Preston will recognize the opportunity to open a new center in the area to replace what the hospital so unfortunately seems not to value as important.