City under childcare crisis

Brock Campbell, Dawson Creek Daily News

The childcare crunch in Dawson Creek was revealed on Monday when local childcare workers met with School Board 59 Monday to ask for the board’s endorsement of a proposed plan for publicly funded early childhood care.

“Waitlists are tremendous, and if they (parents) do find childcare it costs $165 per child. Imagine if you have three children under five, you’re looking at $600 to $700 a month per childcare,” Heidy Kux-Kardos, a local childcare co-ordinator told the Board.

The endorsement request was for the Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning, which calls on the provincial government to bring universal childcare to British Columbia.

She said the current childcare system as it is now is currently broken. Kux-Kardos explained that families are burdened with the high-costs of childcare, as well as the difficult task of finding care altogether.

The cost of childcare has gone up 233 per cent since the 1970s, she noted.

“We all know there is a child care crisis in B.C.,” said Kux-Kardos. “Only about 20 per cent of children [in the province] are in childcare when 100 per cent should be in childcare.”

Kux-Kardos explained that what is needed in B.C. is an integrated-system that combines early learning, and care for infants, much like the proposal before the Board.

Katherin Charbonneau, president of the Dawson Creek Early Childhood Educators of BC (ECEBC), and program co-ordinator for South Peace Child Care Resource and Referral, explained the level of the childcare shortage in the South Peace.

“Parents are coming in everyday asking for spaces for their children, and I do have to give them the bad news sometimes. There aren’t a lot of spaces available, there are some but not for every child,” said Charbonneau who works to help parents find day care spots for their children.

Many of the 17 local day care facilities – which serve children from birth to 12 years old – are either full or only have one or two available spots at a time. Group daycare facilities – which can accept children as young as 30 months – are limited by staffing requirements.

If adopted by the Ministry of Education, the plan would alleviate much of the pressure on families by incorporating early care learning into the public school system. The present system primarily caters to children aged five and up.

The proposal plans for parents to contribute $10 a day for a full-time program and $7 a day for part-time services.

In terms of public funding, the Human Early Leaning Partnership .. estimates that further operating costs for a universal early care and learning for children under the age of 6 years old would cost $1.5 billion a year.

In recent years, the province has implemented full school day kindergarten for five year olds, and has plans to incorporate a kindergarten program for three and four year olds. However, critics have argued that full day care is required.

From the School Board’s perspective they are obligated to follow any early learning plans the Ministry of Education intends to adopt, but in the meantime are capable of endorsing proposals such as the one presented to them on Monday.

The Board will meet sometime before next month’s regular board meeting at which point they would announce their decision.

…”We are aware of some of the issues, we certainly are aware of child poverty and lack of proper facilities. Especially in the North we know we don’t have a lot of daycare and a lot of folks can’t afford daycare.”…