WATCH: Around 25 Langford parents have been left in the lurch after a daycare franchise owner vanished with their deposits. Unable to get in contact with head office, parents were left scrambling to find answers and alternative care for their kids. Kori Sidaway has more.
When Lucy Faulkner and her family moved from Ireland to Canada, she knew daycare would be hard to find.
“Everybody had warned me when we arrive in Victoria that child care was really difficult to come by,” said Faulkner.
So, when she found the soon-to-open Willowbrae childcare centre in Langford, she happily handed over a $1,000 deposit and waited for August’s opening day. But, it never came.
“They said the franchisee has all the money, and we don’t know where he is, he’s uncommunicative and we’re not in a position to refund people because we don’t have the records,” said Faulkner.
Twenty-five other parents should have had their children enrolled in Willowbrae, but the building is surrounded by caution tape, rooms are unfinished, and parents were left wondering where their money went.
According to Willowbrae affiliate and BodyBreak owner Hal Johnson, the Langford location owner Fei Shi allegedly disappeared with parent’s deposits and fired the locations director, leaving everyone in a tailspin.
“The fact is that Willowbrae didn’t know what was going on. But they’re going to be doing a deep dive at head office because the parents should have been notified right away. Even we don’t know what’s going on, just to say ‘don’t worry your money will be refunded.’ But I also understand, that as a parent, it’s not all about the money. Your child is the most important thing you have,” said Johnson.
Since this morning, Willowbrae has begun to offer refunds. While Faulkner is relieved, she feels it’s too little too late.
“I think the trust is gone,” she said.
“We’re not talking about a franchise that’s selling coffee, we’re talking about a franchise that’s taking care of your children, the most precious things in your life,”
Johnson says they’re looking to get the Langford location up and running with a new owner and the same director, as fast as they can.
In the meantime, Lucy has found alternative childcare but says she won’t forget this introduction to child care in Canada.