JAY — A new home daycare is opening up in Jay, and it’s name is Turtletopia Childcare. Located between Route 4 and Route 133, Turtletopia is a fully licensed in-home daycare provider that is certified in both first-aid and CPR and offers a play-based learning environment with access to an outdoor play area, arts and crafts, nap time and more.

Turtletopia Childcare’s flyer, with business hours and contact information. Submitted Photo

Turtletopia is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and services children age two and older. Turtletopia also provides lunch and snacks, with owner Tabitha Witherell stating she is finishing up programs that will ensure she is serving healthy food to kids.

“I am just working on the final details,” Witherell shared in a phone interview with the Livermore Falls Advertiser, “like getting set up to accept the subsidy program and the food grant programs, so that I can make sure I’m serving the kiddos healthy meals.”

A UMF graduate, Witherell said that has been taking care of kids for most of her life, and it started with babysitting her younger siblings.

“I loved working with kids,” she shared. “I’ve always taken care of kids. I am the second oldest of five, and my older brother was much, much older, and I’m much older than my three younger siblings. So, I helped take care of them quite a bit growing up, and then I just kind of turned into the neighborhood babysitter.”

Despite being the neighborhood babysitter, Witherell took her career in a different path. With her educational background in developmental disabilities and mental health, she spent 10 years working mostly with adults, with three years spent working at a school for children with autism in Maryland.


Witherell, along with her husband and firstborn child returned to Maine and settled back into the Jay area to be closer to family. The day they moved into their newly purchased home, Witherell discovered she was pregnant with her second child.

“So, I spent the year doing comprehensive case management,” she shared. “And when it got closer to time to deliver, I had been looking for childcare for a while. Childcare is pretty sparse in Maine right now.”

Witherell added the Maine Child Care Affordability Program, which was renamed from the Child Care Subsidy Program and signed into law in July of last year, broadens the eligibility of parents based on their income, with the Office of Child and Family Services anticipating rules to be effective Spring 2024 to increase eligibility for child care subsidies from 85% of the State’s median income to 125% of the State’s median income.

“So, there is a lot of financial help for parents who want to work and need childcare,” Witherell said, “but there’s not a lot of daycares right now.”

When she was factoring how much she would be spending on her newborn along with her four-year old, Witherell was looking at more than $400 in childcare costs. This led her to one conclusion.

“All I could think was, I’ve taken care of kids my entire life,” she said. “I love taking care of kids. There was a big part of me that really really missed the structure of the classroom, being in the classroom, designing little projects, doing little things with the kids, getting to know the kids.


“My heart was longing to be back with children,” Witherell added.

Witherell’s husband took care of the renovation work as they prepared to turn the first story of their home into an in-home daycare facility, which according to Witherell is much different than a childcare center.

“As someone who has worked in childcare, and worked in the field, and had my oldest child in three different daycares,” she stated, “I’m looking to kind of rewrite the narrative on in-home daycares.”

Witherell says her approach to in-home daycare is to create a safe and secure environment that puts mental health as the priority.

“This is just my opinion,” she shared, “based on my history in the workforce and my history with developmental and mental health adults. Right now, between the ages of birth and five, one of the biggest things that they need developmentally is to know that their needs are being met.

“Developmentally,” she continued, “it’s very important for them for their mental health later on in life to have these kind of securities on their basic needs, even if it’s not just food, sleep, clothing, whatever. If they’re feeling big emotions that day and they don’t know how to express it, then maybe they just need a little extra love that day.”

Witherell is currently the only care provider at the facility, but she has a five year plan in place where she hopes to continue expanding. For those interested in Turtletopia Childcare email Witherell at Turtletopiachildcare@gmail.com or call at [681] 209-4286.

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