150 Grand Ave. Defiance, OH 43512 419-782-4343

Close to Home

Happy children make happy families.

Awards & Accolades


Close to Home Childcare Center and Preschool is accredited and rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Ohio that covers 24 counties and over 1.5 million consumers. Close to Home has been nominated 3 years in a row for the Torch Award and won it in 2016. The Torch Award recognizes companies who display an outstanding level of ethics and integrity in all their business dealings. Companies nominated and awarded are noted for generating a high level of trust among their employees, customers and local communities.


Our Director, Darline Clemens, received this award for her outstanding achievements in her field, and demonstrating exemplary service to her community and society.


We proudly contribute to many area advisory boards, including: Four County Career Center Early Childhood Education program, Northwest State Community College Early Childhood program. We also provides tours, practicums, observations and internships to Defiance College, Northwest State Community College, Bowling Green State University, and several other organizations.


Our Philosophy

Happy children make happy families.

Our philosophy at Close to Home Childcare Center is to provide a safe, fun and engaging learning environment. We are an education focused childcare center that assist children in our care to be engaged learners. Our proprietary curriculum is described by Dr. Fred Coulter, Associate Professor of Education at Defiance College as a “Radical Curriculum and every pre-school program should be doing this type of education!”

Our History

Over 15 years of quality

early childhood education.

Close to Home Childcare was founded in Defiance, Ohio in 2004 and are currently located at 150 Grand Avenue across from Defiance College. We serve families by getting the pleasure to team with them to care for their children when they are working or attending school. We know that each child is unique, and we take that approach in our education and care of the children.

Our dedicated, certified, and trained teachers foster a love of learning and exploring in every child. We have served thousands of families over the years and they continually recommend us to their extended families and friends. We just celebrated a class reunion with some of our graduates who are now in high school. Our director was overwhelmed by the compliments these teenagers receive from their current teachers. Close to Home feels honored to have been a part of their early lives and assisting in their learning process. That is what keeps our teachers, staff and administration striving to provide a safe and caring environment, that feels like home, and for children to be engaged learners. This is achieved with age appropriate curriculum that changes daily and weekly so the children are engaged in new experiences.

Choosing a Center

Selecting a Childcare Center or Daycare Center is not easy, yet one of the most important decisions you will ever make for your child(ren). Just know the rewards for your effort will pay off! Selecting a safe and nurturing environment is critical, but don’t forget the curriculum. Research shows that most of a child’s learning starts in infancy and the early years so finding a “high-quality” program is important to ensure your child is beyond kindergarten ready. Look to see if the center is EXCEEDING the standards by the State of Ohio or just meeting the standards.

Click here for a questionnaire form we have provided to assist you in the process.

    Top 5 Things to Evaluate:

    1. Are children engaged in learning and what curriculum, if any, do they use and why is it the best? Has this curriculum ever been evaluated?
    2. Do they have a strong family partnership? Do they have testimonials from families?
    3. Is the focus on the whole child (emotional, intellectual, social and physical).
    4. What are the safety standards of the building – are they sharing the space with other people or groups. This is very common, so find out the policies they administer during the day to protect your child. What’s the plan if there’s an emergency in the building? Is the place so large you child could be easily forgotten? Do they have closed-circuit cameras that are being monitored by childcare staff.
    5. Look at the classroom/playground – do they have games, toys and how do they incorporate “Engaged Learning”. In other words, are the children actively participating through play and having new experiences that engages and excites them to want to learn more?

    The final question to ask is: While you’re at work or school, will you feel at ease knowing your child is in this setting?

    Our Exceptional Educators

    Close to Home Childcare Center and Preschool is one of the premier childcare centers in Northwest Ohio for over 15 years, due in part to their amazing staff. The combined staff at Close to Home Childcare Center and Preschool has over 150 years of experience in early childhood care and education and are highly trained, talented and certified. Equally importantly, they are passionate about building a strong foundation so your child can achieve a bright future.

    Our educators undergo constant career development and certifications so they can provide the most advanced educational experience to every child entrusted in their care.

    Our teachers have a strong sense of community and parents love the engaging and innovative programs that change daily, so your child becomes an engaged learner.

    Darline Clemens, Director

    Darline has a nursing degree and received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Master’s degree in Business and Organizational Leadership both from Defiance College. She opened Close to Home Childcare Center and Preschool in 2004, which won the mid-sized business Better Business Torch Award. In 2016, Darline was awarded the Defiance College Alumni Achievement Award. Her service to the community includes her membership in the Defiance Rotary Club, where she has held numerous local and District level offices. She serves on the advisory board to two Early Childhood Education programs, as well as other volunteer programs.

    Lori Olinghouse, Administrator

    Lori is one of our administrators and has been with Close to Home for nine years and has more than thirty years’ experience working with children including Youth for Christ, children’s ministries, and nineteen years as a swim coach for the YMCA. Lori has been married thirty-eight years, is a mother of four and has six grandchildren. Her goal in life is to impact the lives of those around her for the better and has a passion for education.

    Catherine Knapp, Pre-K Teacher
    Catherine is a pre-kindergarten assistant teacher and school age teacher. She graduated from Four County Career Center. Catherine states she has always enjoyed babysitting. “Growing up I knew that I wanted to make early childhood education my longtime career.” I will be furthering my education in early childhood starting next year
    Tammy Bennett, Infant Teacher

    Tammy has over 20 years of experience in childcare and loves working with infants. She loves this stage because this is the year they develop and change the fastest. Many parents know Tammy in the area as she has probably rocked, cuddled and nurtured one or all their children.

    Heather Burkhart, Infant Teacher

    Heather is one of our infant teachers and she has been with Close to Home for over 8 years. She has over 15 years of experience taking care of “little one’s” and takes great joy in helping them develop and reach their highest potentials. Outside of work, she loves to spend time with her husband and 2 children.

    Lauren Combs, Toddler Teacher

    Lauren is one of our toddler teachers and been with Close to Home for 9 years. She also has 4 years of experience working with and assisting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Lauren has a passion for helping children develop and grow in confidence and kindness. Outside of work, she enjoys attending baseball games and taking trips with her husband and their two sons.

    Allison Willitzer, Toddler Teacher

    Allison has been with Close to Home for 6 years in the toddler classroom.  She earned her Associate Degree from Northwest State in Pre-Kindergarten Education.  She was raised as an Ayersville Pilot but as Close to Home moved to Defiance, she followed.  Allison enjoys reading, watching TV/movies, and being with my family which includes my mom, Terri, and my three sisters- Emily, Amanda, and Abby.  In her spare time she enjoys rooting for her favorite football team the Jacksonville Jaguars or her favorite hockey team the Tampa Bay Lightning.  

    Amber Goins, Wee School Teacher
    Amber graduated from Four County Career Center in their early childhood education program. She is the Tiny Tot teacher for Close To Home childcare center and preschool. Amber has been trained in all areas of the center and can assistant teach in all classrooms. “I love teaching all age groups and especially my Tiny Tot kids ! “
    Michelle Byrne , Pre-K Teacher

    Michelle Byrne was a medical student assistant and has her STNA. Michelle was an assistant teacher in the toddler room and has worked her way up to be lead teacher in the wee school classroom. Michelle states “I love to help the children learn and grow!”

    Loren Davenport, Administrative Assistant & Teacher

    Loren is our Administrative Assistant and has been with Close to Home for over 3 years. Loren is currently in college pursing a degree in Early Childhood Education at Defiance College. She has a passion for working with children and strives for all children to know just how much they are loved!

    Jessica Rhamy, Tiny Tot Teacher

    Jessica is an infant teacher at Close to Home. She has been employed over 3 years. She has wanted to work for Close to Home since she was little girl! Jessica loves Close to Home and when she is not working, she is attending Northwest State Community College and is working towards a degree in nursing to one day become a pediatric oncology nurse. She is the mother of a little girl and has 3 dogs.

    Barbie Rhamy, Preschool Teacher

    Barbie has been teaching preschool for 30 years and has been with Close to Home for over 10 years, and obviously loves her job! She attended the University of Toledo and Cincinnati and studied Early Education. She has been married for 22 years and has a daughter in college and a son who is a senior in high school. Barbie enjoys spending time with her family and three dogs and is proud to announce she has a granddaughter.

    Angela Stennett, Wee School & Preschool Teacher

    Angela is a teacher at Close to Home and graduated from Bowling Green University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She is inspired by the creativity and joy of her students whom she holds deep in her heart.

    Cheznie Keber, Toddler Teacher
    Cheznie is an assistant teacher in the toddler room and has been with Close To Home for a year now. She graduated from Tinora High School and went to Four County for Early Childhood Education in 2021. She will be continuing her education at Defiance College for Early Childhood Education and Intervention Specialist.

    What Our Families

    are Saying

    Our infant smiles the moment he sees his teachers and our preschooler ends each day recounting all the fun things he did at school. We are grateful for the wonderful staff at Close to Home – they’ve become an important part of our family’s life! – Barnes-Allen Family

    As for many parents, finding someone to give our child the kind of quality care we wanted, was one of the hardest decisions we had to make. The curriculum is outstanding, which not only prepared our son for kindergarten, but made learning FUN; the way it should be. We couldn’t be happier with Close to Home and I’m glad they’ve become part of our family! – Yocum Family

    Close to Home is a warm, wonderful environment where we truly feel each and every caregiver has genuine affection for our daughters. It takes a village, and we credit Close to Home with reinforcing kindness, manners, pre-K readiness, and even potty training! – Sliwinski Family

    Words cannot express the feelings that we as parents had when making the correct decision on childcare for our little ones.The staff is friendly, trustworthy and our children not only have fun but learn as well. We would recommend Close to Home to families like our own; busy schedules and the need for reliable care every day. – Sizemore Family

    Communication with teachers is easy and they’re willingness to work around our schedule is wonderful. Our son has learned so much while attending and we are excited to watch him grow more through the years! – Hindall Family

    The love and support given by Close to Home was unmeasurable. They helped raise and develop our child like he was one of their own and for that we are forever grateful. The communication we received from the teachers by far exceeded our expectations. Anthony graduated from Close to Home beyond ready for early Kindergarten. Thank you, Close to Home, we will forever call you family! – Fritz Family

    We joined the Close to Home family three years ago when our first born was just 12 weeks old. It’s clear that every member of the staff cares about our children and that the teachers are focused on keeping them safe and happy while supporting their development. Even more clear is how much our children enjoy their experience. Our infant smiles the moment he sees his teachers and our preschooler ends each day recounting all the fun things he did at school. We are grateful for the wonderful teachers, administrators, and support staff at Close to Home – they have become an important part of our family’s life! – Barnwell Family

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    Contact Us

    150 Grand Ave.
    Defiance, OH 43512


    Monday - Friday
    6:30am - 6:00pm

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