PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Parents and families fear they are out thousands of dollars after the daycare they take their kids to has suddenly stopped operating over the weekend.
Northwest Adventure Program has left parents scrambling for childcare after they received an email from staff, saying the owner Lesley Marshall dissolved the company and seemingly disappeared.
Parents started receiving contradicting emails on Friday and into Saturday. Staff said the owner, Marshall, dissolved the daycare then messages from Marshall called those claims “rumors” and said care would continue on Monday.
Then on Sunday night, a final email from a staff member said the program had been dissolved, staff had experienced checks that had bounced and some staff had not been paid for two pay periods.
“I could not in good conscience do nothing,” the employee wrote.
“I took [Marshall’s] word for it, I took her word for it. I thought maybe something went down, maybe they are trying to restructure, maybe they had to let some staff go, but we’ve been ghosted, we’ve been absolutely ghosted,” said Julie Mallory, a parent of a child in the after-school program.
Brendan Knapp said he found out the daycare was closed Monday morning at 1 a.m, sending him scrambling to find care for his child before he and his wife had to work.
“Because of the daycare desert we are in, we had to rely on them for our daycare and kind of trust that people would do the right thing,” Knapp said.
Both Knapp and Mallory report a great relationship with counselors and employees of the Northwest Adventure Program. The program typically picks kids up from school or sets a meeting spot, brings kids to a park or for a day trip to places like Sauvie’s Island and on rainy days, to churches to watch over kids.
For meet-ups and other situations, parents and counselors would be in regular contact, Mallory says.
“They care for our children, and that’s what we the parents are so lucky for, they truly care about our kids,” she said.
Adding to the concern for Mallory and Knapp is a promotional email sent by Marshall on Friday, advertising discounted rates on care for upcoming months and summer camp. Mallory paid thousands of dollars for the upcoming months and Knapp paid $2,800 for summer camp. One parent reportedly paid $7,000 to enroll three kids.
“You want to save your spot, right? You’ve got to save your spot because there are only a limited amount of spots and options available,” Mallory said.
Mallory says Marshall promised to hold a zoom call to confront parents’ concerns and questions, but that never happened.
From Tuesday morning and through the afternoon, KOIN 6 News tried to call Marshall at several numbers, and left a voicemail with her. The phone would ring in the morning, but in the afternoon, it went straight to voicemail. KOIN 6 News has still not heard back.
Then, at 2:47 p.m., parents received an email from Marshall to parents that revealed some, but far from all, answers to questions parents like Mallory and Knapp have.
“Last Thursday I made the difficult decision of needing to step away from my role,” the email reads.
Mallory had been emailing Marshall on Friday and Saturday and had heard nothing of the decision to step away.
The email goes on to say that some employees were willing to support the daycare through the week of November 21, but that a “very disgruntled employee” sent out false information and Marshall said she had been admitted into the hospital. The email, riddled with typos, eventually says that Marshall has a list of families that have prepaid and “that is not something I will be ignoring.”
Both Knapp and Mallory say they feel for Marshall if she is in the hospital, and hope for her quick recovery, though Knapp says this should have been disclosed days ago and NWAP should have some protocols to communicate with families about changes “that greatly impact our lives.”
For Mallory, she says the Tuesday afternoon email offers no answers, little resolution and says the last four days have been “pure chaos.”
“It is so hard to find good reliable care and when you do you hold on to it, we thought we had that. That’s what makes it even more frustrating and fires me up even more because I feel duped,” Mallory said.