SHELBYVILLE -- The sudden closure of at least three Shelbyville daycare providers after visits by an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services licensing representative has left some parents scrambling to find child care.

The DCFS representative visited the unlicensed providers Friday, and parents using the providers said they then shut down, leaving them without child care this week.

DCFS spokeswoman Alissandra Calderon said Tuesday three homes offering child care had been investigated and were found to be “over capacity,” exceeding the number of children that can be cared for without a state license.

Calderon said no one was home at a fourth home the DCFS visited, all the visits having been prompted by an “anonymous complaint.”

“Without a license, someone in their own home can only care for three children under the age of 12, including their own,” said Calderon in an email. The rules are more relaxed for a relative’s children, and Calderon said a full explanation can be found at the DCFS website.

“All the homes that were contacted indicated a willingness to apply for a license,” Calderon added.

Parents with care needs said they need a safe place to place their children right now, though.

“It’s awful,” said Megan Donnel, whose 18-month-old twins lost their babysitter because of the closings. “Not only do I lose someone that I trust and depend on, my children lose their caregiver that they love."

With only one licensed daycare center, most child care in Shelbyville is done in private homes with parents finding their sitters through word of mouth, parents said.

“You’ll hear that someone has an opening for one child, but in my case, I have two,” Donnel said. “Families should be able to stay together.”

Teachers Travis and Brittany Pierce have a preschooler and are expecting their second child later this month. Although they still have child care, they are worried.

“In a community like ours, your babysitter becomes like family,” Brittany Pierce said. “The idea that children could lose the people they love and depend upon on a daily basis makes no sense.”

“We have friends and family around us, but this is still a worry,” said Travis Pierce. “What about the families who don’t have that same kind of support? If they don’t have anyone else they can call on, what’s going to happen? Will they be able to work?

"It’s a problem that could affect the entire community.”

Donnel said her babysitter had provided daycare for more than 30 years.

“This is someone I know and trust,” she said “Now they (DCFS) are saying I have to find someone else immediately. I think there is something wrong with a system like this.”

One Shelbyville church is trying to help displaced children by providing child care at the church. Pastor John Curtis of Cornerstone Community Fellowship said volunteers will be providing the free service for as long as needed while parents make other arrangements.

“After I heard about the closings on Saturday, we talked about what the church could do,” Curtis said. “We already offer free babysitting nights, and youth programs. When your neighbor has a need you help them and that’s what our congregation decided to do.”

Donnel said parents would be taking their case to legislators about rules they say are too restrictive in a smaller community with limited options.

“If you’re using child care, you want it to be someone you can trust,” Travis Pierce said. “Someone you can really, really trust. You don’t want that person you’ve worked so hard to find to be taken away from your child with no notice. It’s not right.”

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