After nearly 30 years in business, a Spokane home daycare has been shut down by the Department of Early Learning and the owners say they have been unfairly targeted be the state.
Liz and Gib Kocherhans have been running a daycare center from their Five Mile home for more than 30 years, but an on-and-off battle over a small pond in the front yard has ultimately resulted in the closure of the day care.
It's a beautiful pond tucked discretely into the side of their Five Mile home. It's also one of the reasons the state is closing the Kocherhans in-home day care.
"It's a power struggle," Liz Kocherhans said.
Last Wednesday the state showed up at the front door and told both parents and the daycare provider alike the license was suspended. Parent Shelly Gleason wasn't the only one surprised.
"I couldn't even believe it. I don't want any other child care. We love the Kockerhans, they are grandparents to our children," Gleason said.
According to state documents, the Department of Early Learning informed the Kocherhans in 2009 that the pond was dangerous to children and needed to be drained. They did, it but later filled it back up saying there was no way kids would fall in. Liz Kocherhans says she didn't think the state would close her down for it.
"I knew it would lead to conversation," Kocherhans said.
DEL said inspectors thought differently of the pond.
"They're the people who are out inspecting these sites everyday and they determined it was accessible to children," said Kara Klotz with the Department of Early Learning.
There were also disagreements over the safety of playground equipment and stairway doors.
"I won't mention names but the supervisor was not truthful in her representation," said Kocherhans.
Parents felt the pond and daycare were safe.
"It's never been an issue and the backyard play area, never an issue either," said Gleason.
While they appealed certain write-ups, the Kocherhans knew some of their actions would cause ripples.
"The safety of children is paramount to our agency and all of our licensers and we're charged under state law that children are safe above all else," said Klotz.
The Kocherhans said they're just fighting against a department trying to close them down no matter what.
"I know. I don't believe, I know there is an effort, there is legislation that has gone through. We know what their plan is," Kocherhans said.
That plan by the DEL, according to Liz Kocherhans, is to rid the state of in-home daycare in favor of larger corporate style daycare centers. The DEL says in no way is that the case and points to programs like ECEAP, our state's preschool program for low-income families. The federal Head Start program also operates in Washington.
The Kocherhans now have 28 days to appeal the license suspension.