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Update on Ohio Day Care Center and Breastfeeding Discrimination

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, February 26, 2007

While things are still moving forward full speed, I wanted to post an update on the situation going on here in Ohio where the child care chain City Kids Day Care has been discriminating against breastfed children. (If you're just catching the story, read the original post about City Kids Day Care.)

First, some updates on the past few days...

Robin has decided that she would like to move forward with a lawsuit against City Kids Day Care. While she has no interest in profiting financially from this incident, she would like to file a discrimination suit that would help push toward new legislation or guidelines in Ohio that would keep this from happening to other moms. (A lawsuit against Wal mart by Ohio mothers that were harassed for NIP is what led to the passing of our own breastfeeding in public bill a few years ago.) She is still seeking out legal representation and I'd invite Ohio attorneys to contact me if they have an interest in taking on Robin's case.

Next, I've sent emails to all of the organizations that Ms. Elam claims to be a member of on the City Kids web site. I've heard back from one organization (which asked not to be named on the blog) and they told me that they have no record of Ms. Elam being a current member and that they also could not find her in the database for the past three years. I also attempted to check City Kids Day Care's listing on the Better Business Bureau, but they are not listed as members.

A Lactivist reader dug up some interesting data on the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services site. The site lists any compliance issues that an Ohio Child Care center is having. Here are a few of the compliance issues listed for City Kids from their inspections late last year.


During the inspection, it was observed that toilets were not being flushed after each use in the Borders restroom.

During the inspection, it was observed that children were not being properly supervised, in that the staff members in the little professors classroom were sitting at the table and the children were placed in the back of the room in an area where the could not be seen by the staff members.

In review of the employees' records, it was determined that criminal records checks were requested, as required, several months ago however, the results had not been received from BCI&I for those persons listed on the Employee Record Chart.

At the time of the inspection, it was observed that a medication, sunscreen, was within the reach of children in the Nickelby room.

During this inspection, the following food preparation items were observed to be in need of cleaning: unclean refrigerator the foil is not covering the rusted shelves which food/milk containers are sitting on top of unclean front/side of the cabinet.

During this inspection, it was observed that proper diaper changing procedures were not followed as a staff member placed the child on the floor after a diaper change then touched a toy without handwashing her hands which contaminated the toy.


The safe handling of breast milk sounds like the least of their problems to me.

Having spoken with Robin via email, she is also in agreement that a nurse-in at the City Kids Day Care center would not be the best course of action for the cause. It's important that we remember that the point of Lactivism is to fight for, and protect, children. Nurse-ins at retail outlets or places of public accommodation do not put children directly in the "line of fire." I think it's very important that we consider the potential disruption that a nurse-in at the day care center might have on the (innocent) children that attend that center.

As such, what we're looking to do is to build a state-wide list of interested moms so that we can plan a LARGE nurse-in at a public location (perhaps the state house) in an effort to push for new guidelines or legislation that would make it illegal for day care centers to discriminate against breastfed children. This gets the same point across, still cites City Kids as the catalyst for the nurse-in, but protects the children that attend that center. (Again, drop me an email at jennifer at thelactivist dot com if you are interested...)

With all of that said and done, I also want to alert you to another incident with a day care center in Michigan. Katy Kramp is a mother that has just pulled her two year old son out of the Rainbow Child Development center in Plymouth, Michigan. Katy had long nursed her son at drop-off and at pick-up to help ease his transition into the new environment. However, this past January, she was told by the staff at the center that she could no longer nurse him in his room. Katy's best guess is that someone complained about the fact that she was nursing her son in the toddler room and the center reacted by claiming she could now ONLY nurse in the infant room. They cited Michigan's day care regulations which read:

(b) The center shall have a designated place set aside to accommodate mothers and their children who are breastfeeding.

Apparently they've chosen to take "a designated place" quite literally and were demanding that they had now set a designated place and Katy could ONLY nurse her son there. Katy (and myself) firmly believe that the spirit of that guideline is to make sure that day care centers provide nursing mothers with someplace that they CAN go, not to force mothers into that one specific location.

Here's what Katy had to say about her attempts to nurse him in the "new" location.

They wanted me to nurse him in one of the two infant rooms. This did not work for us: The babies and new toys were so distracting that he wouldn't nurse. And the point of nursing at this point is to ease the transition at a point where transitions are difficult. Going into his room to drop off his stuff, then going to the infant room, then back to his room, then facing him wailing as he realized that he'd missed his chance for milkies - it just made an already tight routine nearly impossible.

When she attempted to nurse her son in his classroom again, the staff of the Rainbow Child Development center responded by evacuating the children from that room.

When I asked Katy if this was a center specific regulation or a chain-wide regulation she responded:

I had a hard time getting a clear answer on this one. The director gave me the impression that it was a state decision that had nothing to do with her (though I am pretty sure the state wouldn't pick the rooms for her.) The regional director said that it was that location's decision, but that it was consistent with the policies in other locations.

Angela over at Breastfeeding 1-2-3 did a great job of putting together contact information for all relevant parties. So I'd ask that you once again get your fingers out and prepare to do some typing (or dialing) to share your thoughts on yet another day care center discriminating against a nursing mother.

You can contact the director Mary Buchin by email at: Plymouth@RainbowChildDevelopment.com or by phone at
(734) 455-2761. Rainbow Child Development Centers has locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and New Jersey. To contact the national management, call (800) 90-LEARN or use the on-line contact form.


Please help continue to spread the word. Keep those emails and phone calls rolling into City Kids (get the contact info from the original post) and start sending calls and emails toward the Rainbow Child Development Center as well. Contact your local news sources, national news sources and your state representatives and share with them the need to put new guidelines or legislation in place that would keep this from happening in your state. (Remember, unless you live in Louisiana, there are no laws keeping day care centers from discriminating against breastfed children.)

Word is spreading quickly about this incident, showing once again the power of nursing mothers and the Internet. Conversations are going on at the Mothering forums, The Baby Wearer forums, Baby Center and the MSNBC message boards. It's also starting to show up all over the blog world including a mention at popular parenting site Babble.

I had an email from Robin just a bit ago and she told me that she was interviewed by Channel 10, the CBS news affiliate in Columbus this afternoon and the story should run on the 5pm news. It ran on the local Fox and ABC affiliate last Friday, but the video clips have not been uploaded to the web site.

On the note of news coverage, I've also been in touch with some national reporters that have some interest in covering this. If any lactivist readers have run into similar problems with day care centers not wanting to deal with breast milk, please email me at jennifer at thelactivist dot com. Between Robin and Katy we've got the start of an interesting national story. If I could find a few more moms in different states that have run into similar problems, I'd like to add their names to the list of contacts.

Labels:

  1. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 7:53 AM |  

    thanks for the update. i hope it does get national coverage! i have a feeling there's a lot of discrimination going on re: breastfed babies and daycare that never gets brought to light.

    i wrote some more about it on my blog, including a bit of humor with pics of "biohazardous" boobs and babies. ;) check it out.

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 8:00 AM |  

    LOL!

    Though you didn't leave us a direct link Amy...geeze...save the lazies from all the work would 'ya? ;)

    Here ya go folks...

    Biohazardous Boobs!!

  3. Anonymous Aradia Paganus | 9:54 AM |  

    If it hasn't been done already, someone ought to make a directory on Breastmilk-Friendly day-cares.

    Any volunteers? :*

  4. Anonymous Alexis | 5:13 PM |  

    breastfeeding is also under attack in developing countries like the philippines, where many women can ill afford to buy infant formula, much less pay for more doctor's visits, medicines and hospitalization that artificial feeding causes. mike brady of baby milk action gives an excellent summary of the recent tug-o-war between the govt and milk companies:
    http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/
    and just yesterday the un special rapporteur on the right to food gave a statement entitled "UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR APPALLED
    WITH THE DECEPTIVE TACTICS OF MILK
    COMPANIES IN THE PHILIPPINES". you can read it at:
    http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/3035D668F9E92329C125728F00294A69?opendocument
    i hope you can include our cause in your blog. we aren't getting much local news coverage because -- surprise, surprise! -- the milk companies are the main advertisers in media. thank you!

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:14 AM |  

    I am looking forward to becoming much more involved with this after I finish the Bar on Thursday. I'm not sure which is more shocking to me - the City Kids story or the one you just mentioned where a center asked a mom to not breastfeed in the classroom! Regardless, I agree that this is an issue that should be dealt with on a larger scale rather than focused on City Kids exclusively. I'm on board for a nurse-in and/or speaking with media. I am not yet licensed, but very willing to do any research etc. and help find a good atty. match. (as a side note, the director of City Kids husband is a fairly prominant atty. in the area). I'm likely studying tonight, but I am reachable any time Thursday afternoon and after.

    Beryl

    Beryl

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:08 AM |  

    As someone that works with child care providers on a daily basis (I work for the local child care resource and referral agency) I would like to say that this is uncommon, but breastfeeding women face this type of stuff all of the time. Not this blantantly, but plenty of women face the "please don't nurse here" mentality.

  7. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:40 PM |  

    I’ve been following your blogs closely this week. My concern as the mom of an infant at City Kids is that Robin, you and whoever else is jumping on the litigation bandwagon seem to have your goals confused. Is your goal to promote legislation that will protect the general rights of breastfeeding moms in Ohio and elsewhere? Is your goal to get City Kids to change its policy on storage of breast milk? As a breastfeeding mom, I’ll be the first person to sign the petition to my state leaders promoting our rights to feed our children in public etc. But bringing suit against City Kids and/or Patty Elam, in my opinion, doesn’t serve any purpose other than to put at risk numerous kids who are cared for at City Kids, teachers who need their jobs and are caught in the middle, and quite frankly me as a working mother. If you were suing Goddard or another big chain for discrimination it might have a major national impact on the development of childcare center policy, but in this case I think you’ll put a small operator out of business defending a discrimination case with little far-reaching impact. The local media coverage and apparent cyber-smear campaign will probably go far toward changing the policies of this center and send a wake-up call to others. Is City Kid’s current policy on breast milk storage narrow-minded and ill-informed…Definitely. Is City Kid’s proposal to store breast milk for a fee discriminatory…Maybe. But bear in mind that this is still America and you still have the “choice” of going to City Kids or enrolling in one of the other numerous downtown child care centers. I find it unfortunate that in our society people increasingly feel a need to rely on litigation to squabble over rights vs. entitlements vs. privileges when many times, it probably isn’t necessary.

  8. Blogger Jennifer | 12:50 PM |  

    Well see, there are several issues at play here, so I'll try to respond to all of them.

    1.) To the best of my knowledge, no lawsuit has been filed yet, Robin is simply looking into her options. I would imagine (and I could be wrong) that Robin would probably be happy to avoid going that route if CityKids would refund the excess fees, change their policies, etc... The reality is that she WAS discriminated against because her child was breastfed and I don't think it would be unreasonble to request that the fees be refunded.

    2.) Yes, City Kids has the right to make their policies. This is America. But guess what...that means we also have the right to let companies know when we don't like their policies. I find it a little scary that someone would think our right to protest only exists if we're taking about a large corporation. So when small businesses make bad choices we should just ignore it?

    3.) From my conversation with numerous moms, it's not as simple as simply switching day care centers, especially if you are taking about an infant rather than a child. I've spoken to many a mom that could only find one or two centers that would even take their infant and that found out that one or both of those centers would not accept breast milk.

    This gives a breastfeeding mom two options...give their child what they feel is an inferior food OR, quit their job. As a working mom I'd assume that you understand that the latter is not always a feasible option. Besides, why should a mom have to quit her job just to give her child the best source of nutrition available?

    Having spoken to Robin I can assure you that her number one priority is to see this center's policy changed and to ensure that other centers also accomodate breastfeeding moms without discriminating against them. I think the potential here is in bringing this practice to light (because it's not just CityKids that does it) and putting an end to it through consumer feedback.

    Robin is simply exploring ALL of her options (law suit, court of public opinion, new guidelines for child care centers, new legislation in Ohio, etc...) to decide which is the best route to take.

    Tell me again why that's wrong?

  9. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:27 PM |  

    What everyone seems to forget about is that everyone in the Country already suffers from discriminatory practices, be it a small business or a large corporation or the US Government being the one doing the discrimination.

    Your Federal Taxes pay a lot of damage awards in EEOC cases against various Federal Government Agencies, Military and Offices. Additionally, the US Government has to hire attorney's who handle these cases on behalf of the Government. In addition, after an EEOC is filed against the Fed. Gov. it takes year and thousand's of dollars of tax payer money to process the claim, review the claim, and come to a final determination on the claim before it is even filed in Court.

    There is no reason that a small business should be able to avoid punishment for discrimination because it is a small business. That in and of itself is discrimination itself - discrimination against big business.

    I am sorry if it causes a small business to shut down, but to say that because they cannot afford to pay legal fee's or an award of damages w/o closing down is reason to not sue is not fair. It is not fair to the person that they discriminated against and it is not fair to those other businesses who don't get the benefit of "not being sued because they are not small enough or have too small of a revenue to afford it".

  10. Blogger K | 2:14 PM |  

    Hate to say it -- but I cannot fatham a legal basis for a discrimination claim. Not under the current law.

    I hope RObin has creative lawyers. But I hope more, that City Kids changes their policy.

  11. Blogger mombyprofession | 8:04 PM |  

    I used to work for Rainbow Child Development Centers and Tutor Time Learning Centers in Michigan, and I was discriminated against both times.
    At Tutor Time, I refused to leave my 2 young children for a 4 day conference 2000 miles from home and was fired because I would not attend. I offered to pay for an extra hotel room and pay for my childrens' and husband's flights so they could be with me, but was told I couldn't do that.
    At Rainbow, I was forced to go to a mandatory 4 day conference and was not permitted to leave at night to go and nurse my 3 mo old baby, even though there was "down time", where people were drinking and partying. I offered to provide a child care provider for him, pay for the extra hotel room, and to attend all classes as required, and asked to leave when events were done for the day so I could go and nurse him. I was told I could not leave the conference for any reason. I was not in a financial situation where I could afford to be fired or quit, so I had to go. I cried through almost the whole conference. Thank God my son nursed with no problem when I got home. The kicker was- they let people leave the conference to go shopping and buy booze, but I was not permitted to leave and nurse my baby. Nice, huh?

  12. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:43 AM |  

    She should be thrilled that they would designate an area for her. I worked in childcare for over five years and never had a problem with mothers coming in to breast feed or come visit their children, in an infant classroom. Once the child transitions to the toddler classroom, there is a lot more going on and it's hard enough to keep a promising routine with eight two year olds without the distractions of mothers coming in and taking one of the children off to the side and do something else with them. Of course this would be a distraction for the children. So you mean to say that being in a room with sleeping babies in their cribs and children who don't talk or walk would be more of a distraction than a bunch of toddlers running around? I'm sure the toys in the infant room are not new to her child either, since he had to move up from that room and has seen and played with them day in and day out. Get your child some new toddler toys if he is so engaged and distracted by infant toys that you need to cause such a fuss to a whole center. At that age at a day care, the children are learning independency and how to feed themselves. I'm sure this is not the only thing these parents have caused a fuss over. Find a babysitter or somewhere that's not a big corporation where you can make up your own rules.

  13. Blogger Den | 7:14 AM |  

    At the present time, the majority of young moms either have to work to make their living or want do build a career and need someone to take care of their children. As a rule, they hire nannies. However, it is so hard these days to find good nannies. Proper child care is a must but so hard to find. On this great site www.pissedconsumer.com you will find lots of complaints concerning the issue.

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