Crisis in child care: Tofino without infant/toddler care as provider awaits license

Julia Prinselaar, Westerly News

… D’s child care service, run out of her Tofino home, was ordered to cease operations by the Vancouver Island Health Authority this month. …

A has a 15-month-old daughter, one of 16 children … cared for — many on a part-time basis — out of her home. …

Earlier this month L was notified by the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) to cease childcare operations.

The order stems from October 2010, when L was informed by VIHA of non-compliance with provincial childcare legislation because, without a license, she was caring for more than the legal limit of children.

L claims she was unaware she needed a license for what she was doing.

“There’s a need for child care in town, so why can’t it be?” said L. ….

Until last week, L was providing child care to children who are too young to enter Tofino’s only licensed group child care facility.

The Community Children’s Centre accepts children starting at 30 months old. It has a capacity of 18 and has about a dozen children under 36 months old on the waiting list.

At any given time, L cared for six or seven kids throughout the day while operating four times a week. …

“I waited around all day,” she said, for a VIHA licensing officer who might have come to inspect her home.

Part of the licensing process L has applied for involves a home inspection, but VIHA cannot specify when exactly authorities will arrive — only that L must not be caring for more than two children when they do….

Now closed, L awaits another inspection from VIHA.

Local parents who use L’s service say they don’t know where to turn in the meantime.

In a response…  Anya Nimmon, spokesperson for VIHA, wrote in an email to the Westerly:

“The safety of children in care is obviously a top priority and anyone providing care to more than two children who are not related to them are required to be licensed by the province… However, this is a case of a facility operating without a license.”

“Children in rural and remote communities are equally entitled to the protection and public assurance provided by the legislation.” …

Sally Mole, director of parks and recreation for Tofino, is no stranger to the local child care dilemma.

Mole says she was “desperate” to find care for her children more than a decade ago, in 1998.

“I had nothing,” she recalls. “I actually hired someone who I’d never met. It was just awful.”

District staff say they recognize the need for local child care services.

“I think it’s always been stretched pretty tight,” said Tofino mayor John Fraser.

Gord Johns, Tofino municipal councillor, agrees.

“The dilemma that D and the parents she services have just recently brought a long standing need and issue to the surface in the public domain,” wrote Johns in an email to the Westerly.

“It’s important that we keep families in our community, and with the high cost of housing we need to continue to do whatever we can to retain young families.”

However the challenge remains to employ qualified personnel. …

Currently there are no employees at the Community Children’s Centre in Tofino with these qualifications. …