Two years ago I was a stay-at-home mom looking for a way to get involved in my community.  I became a member of the YMCA in Bonita Springs, and was so impressed that I decided to become a staff member very soon after joining.  I began working in the Child Watch, caring for the youngest members of the YMCA family, and my two children came to work with me.            Working in the Child Watch was a fantastic experience - over the course of two years, I got to know the members, and watch the children in my care grow and change.  My own children hit many milestones during our time there; they were an infant and toddler at the time I started working.  The YMCA was a positive, fun, and energetic place that we were involved in, and as the boys grew we took advantage of pee-wee sports and swimming lessons.              I became more involved in the YMCA when I developed a Music & Movement program for toddlers in the Bonita Springs branch.  I helped out with special events whenever I could, and have recently been working on more program development as well as managing special events and collecting donations.  Knowing that I can make a difference in my community is a wonderful feeling, especially when it directly effects the members and children that I have come to care about over the past years.            Unfortunately, all of this has had to come to an immediate halt.  The Bonita Springs YMCA (now known as the YMCA of the Palms) has had changes in both it’s executive director and it’s Child Watch coordinator recently.  Some turmoil is to be expected when changes take place, but the number of negative events in this time has been overwhelming.  The event that has me the most concerned, and has led to my resignation as a YMCA employee, has been an incident involving my four year old son.              On the morning of May 29, the new Child Watch coordinator and I had been having a discussion about my son.  She expressed concern that she had heard him cough a few times since we had come in; I explained to her that he has asthma and will occasionally cough, especially during seasonal changes.  I continued that he was fine, there were no signs that his cough required any type of action - it was not consistent, not too often, no wheezing, etc.  He has had asthmas since he was a baby, and I know what signals a problem for him.              During this conversation, I was changing the diaper of my younger son, and the coordinator instructed me to spray a disinfectant spray in the room.  I replied that we do not use the spray in the room with children present; but instead use disinfecting wipes to sanitize the changing area.              Moments later, she chastised me for not using the aerosol spray, and came to the diapering area to spray it herself.  I picked up the can, and read the label to her that stated the spray was only to be used on hard, non-porous surfaces.  It was not intended to be sprayed into the air, nor on soft surfaces such as the changing pad on the table.  I informed her that even if it was intended for these uses, the children should not be breathing in the fumes of the spray, especially children who have asthma like my son.  I very clearly informed her that he can not breathe in the fumes of spray, it is a known trigger for asthma attacks.            She instructed me to give her the aerosol can; I asked her if she was going to read the label.  She only replied by asking for the can again.  Never would I have thought that this woman would grab the can and immediately begin to spray it, but that’s exactly what she did.  There were infants on the floor mat right next to the changing table, and my asthmatic son was standing only a few feet away.  I frantically told her to stop, restated that my son can not breathe that in, and she proceeded to spray a second time.              My son immediately started coughing, and my friend and co-worker who was close by removed him from the area.  The coordinator proceeded to tell me that I am just a young mother who is inexperienced with my child’s medical condition.  She also stated that I had been ignoring my son‘s need for medical attention.  I would think the statements made by this woman would be offensive and disturbing to any mother, but already suffering the death of my first child when she was a toddler made this accusation almost unbearable for me.  To have this stranger insinuate that I would let my son stop breathing before I would attend to his needs was ludicrous, uncalled for, and unprofessional.  Although I was deeply upset, I finished my shift before calling my husband to inform him of what had happened.            My husband met with the new executive director, who was absent at the time of the incident, and voiced his concern about the Child Watch coordinator.  While the statements she had made to me were very upsetting, our true concern was that she knowingly and purposefully put our son’s health at risk when she exposed him to a known trigger for asthma attacks, and exposed all children in the room to a chemical which they inhaled.  It is astounding to me that anyone would spray something as a mother is saying “stop, this will harm my child“.  That the woman who did it is responsible for ensuring the children’s safety is appauling.   The new director, who is a personal friend of the new Child Watch coordinator and the one who gave her the job, called me after my husband left his office.  He stated that he viewed this as the Child Watch staff not liking the new coordinator, and plotting to get her fired.  His main concern was that he had to “take an hour out of his day to straighten things out”.  He later blatently lied to my husband over the phone about the product that was used.  (Not that the actual product mattered anyway as far as our son’s health was concerned.)  The next morning he informed my husband by phone that the YMCA would take no action regarding this incident.              We have since contacted another YMCA executive and have gotten no response.  After learning that nothing would be done on our child’s behalf, my husband contacted an attorney to discuss our rights.  He was advised to contact the local sheriff’s office to make a formal complaint, which we did.  The responding officer advised us to follow up by reporting the incident to the Department of Children and Family Services, which we did.  We informed the YMCA of the steps taken, and still got no reply.            I had to turn my resignation letter in to the Child Watch coordinator’s in-box, because after making me wait for nearly an hour to speak to her she literally pushed my letter back in my face when I approached her and then walked out the door of the YMCA.             My family has great hope that one day the Bonita Springs YMCA will get a coordinator who cares about children, and an executive director who cares about families.  The YMCA’s core values are “Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility”.  So far the people currently holding these two titles have shown none of these values.            Holly Kataras5/31/08           

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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:01 AM I am so sorry that this person is rude and didn't care about you sons. I hope for the sake of all those kiddos that they fire her.

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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:01 AM WOW you handledthat verywell i would of snapped

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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:01 AM I'm sorry this happened to you. I would be livid. My daughter went to the YMCA on her school campus before and after school. They seemed to be doing a decent job. Thank goodness.

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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:03 AM

That is just stupid. It's common knowledge in the daycare business that you are not to use aerosol cans. We were not even allowed to use them when the children were not present in the one where I worked. There are sprays you can buy, or you can use a bleach water solution. Obviously that woman in untrained in caring for children. I can see why he hired her (not).       

And training or not, to do something that someone else is telling you is dangerous to her child with blatant disregard for his health is wrong. I would have left right then if I were you. Is the child care program at YMCA not required to be licensed through the state like any other day care? If not, then maybe they should be.

 Keep on passing the word around, espcecially in your area. Let other parents know and they can keep an eye out for their own evidence of wrong doing.

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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:09 AM OMG! I am so sorry that is had to happen to you. No words can express what I am feeling right now. I am so thankfull that nothing major happend you your son or any other child in that room. I hope she doesn't hurt another child. If I were in your place I would have punched her, keyed her car, and do me best to get her fired!! Kodo's for you keeping your cool.

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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:10 AM

I woulda punched both of em in the face.  I am a member of the East GreenBush, NY YMCA and if anyone there did that they would be fired.  It is a shame that adults feel the need to try to intimidate one another like that.  You could always call the news, FOX news LOVES STORIES LIKE THESE.  Expose them for the bastards they are!!!!!!

If i can help out in any way let me know!!!!!


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Jun. 1, 2008 at 11:14 AM At least you were there and know what happened!  I am sorry this is absurb. That women is mental.

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Jun. 2, 2008 at 7:58 PM

Well, I used to be the old child watch coordinator of that department (NOT THE NEW ONE)and never were we allowed to spray the disinfectant spray when there are children present in the area (AS the can states its not be inhaled as it can be hazardous to ones health).

My last days at that YMCA where probably the worst days in my working expirience ever. The New Executive DIrector clearly has no human skills what-so-ever, being that I expirienced a very troubling situation with him which I will not get into.

 As I still keep in close contact with "MY LADIES" and members of the YMCA I have heard nothing positive has come about with the new CHILD WATCH coordinator and it breaks my heart thinking about all those years of hard dedication are just going down the drain.  It sounds to me that she's has done more damage to that place in less than 3 weeks and hasnt stopped to think about whats really important -THE CHILDREN.

 I have known Holly for about 2 years and my work expirience with her has been very pleasant. SHe is great with the kids and the parents and truly understands the YMCAs core values. Hopefully something will be done about this matter.

 My first years at the YMCA have been just awesome my family and myself have come to truly love that place and its a shame that the department has shifted toward the wrong direction.

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Jun. 3, 2008 at 10:55 PM

OMG, I am floored yet not shocked. These days you hear more and more horrible, scary stories about the childcare in this world.  And we as mothers are supposed to return to work after giving birth and hand over our very most precious thing in life, our CHILD to these people.. These people who are miserable at the job they have.  Who do not come to work to CARE for our children.  Its just another day at a job to make money.  It makes me sick!  I have 3 kids of my own..One who also suffers from asthma, so I feel for you and your family greatly.  I was and still am lucky enough to be home to raise my children and keep them out of that kind of enviornment.  I wish you the best of luck in fighting this.  If the YMCA can not employ intelligent, caring, skilled people to watch and protect our children for us, then they need not have that option available.  Simple minded people will continue to do harm. And if you were not there who knows what may have happened to your son or to another child/infant.

Good Luck!!

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Jun. 5, 2008 at 8:00 AM


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