Australian conglomerate looks to snap up Alberta daycares

CBC News

Parents with children in daycare are worried about the world’s largest for-profit daycare company’s moves to take over child-care centres in Alberta.

Vivian Turner, manager of the Garneau/University Child Care Centre in Edmonton, received a vague letter from Adroit Investments in North Carolina that reads, “We might have an interest in purchasing your child-care centre.”

The letter did not identify the potential buyer but Turner learned Adroit is linked to 123 Busy Beavers Learning Centres, owned and operated by ABC Learning Centres of Australia.

The publicly traded conglomerate owns 2,500 daycares in several countries. The company earned about $33 million in the last six months of 2005.

In September, 123 Busy Beavers registered in Alberta.

“If the bottom line is money (then) probably staff aren’t going to be paid as well,” said parent Linda Laidlaw. “I’m just always suspicious about a big-box approach.”

In a national survey of daycare workers in Australia by that country’s┬áNational Association of Community Based Children’s Services, the standards at ABC Learning Centres fell far below those of non-profit centres.

“They don’t have enough time to form individual relationships with the children and they can’t provide good equipment and toys to provide stimulating programs for the children,” Barbara Romeril, the group’s national secretary, told CBC News in a phone interview from Northcote, Australia.

CBC-TV reporter Lyle Cott reached an ABC spokesperson by phone for reaction this week and was asked to send questions by e-mail, but they went unanswered.

The letters offering to buy child-care centres in Alberta include disclosure agreements, so it’s unclear how many have agreed to sell to ABC.