Child care centres struggle to survive

Katie Bartel, Chilliwack Progress

K A… knows first hand the impact of full-day kindergarten on early childhood educators.

The director … has felt like she’s been living on the edge all year.

Since September she’s been losing $300 a month per child for the seven kindergarten kids in her care that are now attending full-day kindergarten. That’s $2,100 a month; $15,000 to date.

“It’s a really scary time to be in the daycare industry,” said A, whose centre is at … one of the first schools in Chilliwack to start full-day kindergarten last September,

The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development announced last week that it would be allocating $1 million of one-time funding to licensed group child-care providers…. Of that, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope will be receiving $23,000 to be shared amongst 22 licensed child-care providers.

But it’s nowhere near enough, said A, who was allotted $979.

“I’m losing $300 per child a month, but wow, they’re giving me a whole $900, how lucky.”

When full-day kindergarten was implemented at 14 of the 20 elementary schools in Chilliwack last year, many group child care providers were forced to change the fee rate for kindergarten kids from the top-rated full-time care to before- and after-school care.

Not only has it strained centres financially, it’s also put a strain on before- and after-school care programs.

… Care Centre in Sardis has a year-long wait list for its after-school program. Many of the kids on the wait list have been coming to the centre since they were toddlers…

“It’s put huge strains on us,” said…, who was allotted $712 of the grant….

In her 20 years as a licensed child-care provider, she said she’s never seen the industry so bad.

Child care centres are closing because of the financial strains and certified, quality staff is becoming harder to find.

“You keep plugging along for as long as you can, but at some point it’s just not viable anymore,” said O.

The future doesn’t look promising.

The B.C. Ministry of Education is actively looking at implementing junior kindergarten options for three- and four-year-olds, which would inevitably drop the child-care rates for that age group, leaving just infants and toddlers in the full-time care rate. But because infant and toddler care require so much more certified staffing it’s not cost effective.

If the ministry goes down that route, “I’m going to lose my business,” said A.