Big-box child care for B.C.?

Matt Kieltyka, 24 HOURS

Controversial big-box child-care could be a reality in B.C. if an Australian company has its way.

Child-care advocates are sounding the alarm since learning an investment firm called Adroit Investments LLC has contacted local child-care operators in a bid to buy them out.

The Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. traced the company back to 123-Global and A.B.C. Learning Centres, a private Australian child-care corporation that’s gotten flak in several countries for monopolizing child-care and providing minimal services to cut costs.

Rita Chudnovsky, the coalition’s spokesperson, says that the company has now set its sights on B.C.

“This is not the kind of child care we need,” she said. “Everywhere [A.B.C.] has gone, it’s raised parent fees and left communities with specific needs underserved. They only care about the bottom-line. Our children shouldn’t be used to generate profits.”

Chudnovsky says child-care operators began receiving takeover bids in mid-September, just before the provincial government announced it would begin to subsidize private child-care providers.

“We have trouble believing this is a coincidence,” she said. “We’re still waiting for the government to respond.”

Meanwhile, some child-care providers approached by Adroit wonder if they will be able to compete.

“We’ve known about them for years,” said Susan Harney, operator of Country Grove Children’s Centre in Langley. “They build up what they call critical mass and put other programs out of business.”

Harney has already rejected Adroit’s advances and wants others to do the same. “Our child-care system is not for sale,” she said. “The focus needs to be on providing good service, not making a profit.”

A phone call to 123-Global was not returned by press time.