An Open Letter to the Lakewood Vaad

To the Lakewood Vaad, I opened a daycare 2 and 1/2 years ago in Lakewood, called Peek-A-Boo Childcare. There are many such daycare centers in town, and until recently many of us had State of NJ authorization to operate as “license exempt”. We were exempt from State licensure as we each belonged to schools, which are exempt from any licensing requirements.

18 months ago, the federal government implemented a rule change, revoking this exemption. We were notified that we had 18 months under the new rules to secure a license, which required that we meet all the rules in the 150 page licensing handbook, which is filled with tough and often complex rules, and which are often interpreted in different fashions by different state agencies. For example, even if Office of Licensing would agree to let you have a handicapped ramp, or to not be directly on a main floor, CHS might say that under their rules you cannot have such a ramp and must be directly accessible from ground level with no ramp. These rules forced the many childcare facilities to redesign and construct new or improved facilities which would then be inspected and mandated to pass various code inspections. The new rules required that rooms have to have specific amounts of square footage per child, and they have tremendous restrictions in regard to outdoor activities. The new rules required that we leave our long term facilities and construct a specialty new building at great expense, and in a very short time frame.

We hit the ground running, looking for schools that might have extra space on their main floor. We could not find such and instead acquired a warehouse and redesigned it entirely, planning construction, and racing the clock the whole way along.

To meet the deadline we hired a special license coordinator, who reached out to the state, he submitted our building plans, as they requested, but never heard back, we did all necessary finger prints, and background check, for all employees, only to meet more red tape, and the list went on of delays.

3 months ago, while we already deep into construction, we hit the ultimate roadblock, bomb, a prior usage of the building in 1999, triggered a certain environmental review, which added a whole new facet to the construction. We had already hired Trident environmental, who specializes in daycare codes for NJ, but we now had to hire another specialty company, called TTI, and the clock was ticking. Finally, we got the go-ahead, that all areas seemed clean. There was about 4 weeks left until our opening day of September 5th.

We cleared the requirements of the Office of Licensing and of CHS. We then encountered a new last minute obstacle: TTI, the second company who deals with the Department of Health, sent us an email that DOH is insisting that we check for Radon, and that to do so we have to close the building up for 3 days, and then when they finish the testing, they will write their reports, which can take up to a week, and only then can they send their final report to DOH. DOH would then send down their own inspector, which are scheduled only on Thursdays, and DOH notified us that they are backed up due to staffing shortages.

Then the Vaad stepped in.

Words are inadequate to truly express our gratitude for what the Vaad did for us and the children and their families who rely on us. We were left with one week before opening day, and the Department of Health wasn’t even scheduled yet to come inspect our facility. We were behind a minimum of two months of red tape to getting our license to open. We, together with the children registered faced disaster, likely missing the start of the year, and severe loss as the parents would certainly find other providers, leaving us with no income for this entire year.

The Vaad got involved, nonstop. They spoke to the various agencies, and explained the situation. They reached out to their contacts and were able to expedite the entire process. They told us clearly that they cannot help us avoid any rules nor secure waivers, but will go all out to encourage the State agencies to be supportive and to help us across the finish line. In just a matter of three days, they got all the reports in, inspections by each agency done, and got the Office of Licensing to approve us to open on opening day.

We were made to feel that the Vaad would do anything possibly, and we really got quick results. I am ever grateful to the Vaad, and to Senator Bob Singer’s office, who too really stood behind us, his constituents, to help.

To all those out there in the community I would like to express: I have seen firsthand the koach hatzibur. The Vaad, which relies on citizen engagement and active voters who care, got the impossible done. I thank you all out there who are part of this great Kehilla for helping us avoid a severe loss and for allowing us to open a great child care center for the children and their families. Those families will have parnassah, as their children are in beautiful and safe environment – thanks to the Vaad.

With our wishes to all for a Kesiva V’chasima Tova

Ephraim Lipa and Chayala Nussbaum, and the whole Peek-A-Boo Childcare family.

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  1. Glad it all worked out in the end. It must have been so aggravating and frustrating each step of the way but don’t forget that all this aggravation was from H-shem- it was all min Hashamayim and it was with great siyata D’Shmaya that the “Vaad” was able to help you. Always remember that when you’re going through a rough time and everything seems helpless. Think “Ein Od Milvado” with great concentration and you’ll see hatzlacha. Figured I’d add my two cents since I didn’t see any mention of H-shem in the post.

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