Day-care firm concerns locals providers

Kate Skye, Trail Daily Times

Big-box day care could be the next trend in B.C., according to a Vancouver-based child-care advocacy group.

The Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. released information last week that a foreign-based company was trying to buy up small day-care centres across the province.

“We are deeply concerned that community-based child-care providers throughout B.C. are being bought out by a foreign multinational corporation,” said Rita Chudnovsky, spokesperson for the coalition. …..

Sue McIntosh, manager of the Child Care Resource and Referral program, said she hasn’t heard of any of the 40-plus Greater Trail or Castlegar centres she supports being approached about a buyout.

“I am hugely concerned,” she said. “The quality of child care is going to go right down the drain. How can you make a profit on our children – our future?”

Family day cares are classified as for-profit, but they don’t make any money, she said.

“Big-box day care is going to put profits first.”

In Rossland, Leslie Paul is the chair of the Golden Bear Children’s Centre. She isn’t aware of staff at the centre being approached.

“But I have certainly heard about the issue,” she said.

Part of the push for big centres to move to B.C. is because the provincial government recently announced it was reinstating its major capital funding program for new child-care spaces to be developed and the criteria for who can apply has become much broader, Paul said.

Chudnovsky said the buyout offers started in mid-September, just two weeks before the provincial government announced the new $12.5 million capital funding, which is available to groups running for-profit programs. The new major capital funding has a Nov. 30 deadline for applications.

One Lower Mainland child-care provider said she received a buyout offer mid-October from Adroit Investments, a firm that lists 123-Global on all its correspondence.

“The buyout of my child-care centre could be completed in as little as three weeks I was told,” said Susan Harney. “Adroit Investments sent me purchase information forms and a non-disclosure agreement by email immediately after I was in contact with them, it was rather shocking,” she said.

Big, for-profit centres would have no connection to the community and no local accountability, she added.

Paul said she heard that nurses at the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital have been contacted by email.

“They were asked if there was a day-care centre at the hospital, would they use it.”

It is not clear if the query came from a large corporate group.

ABC Learning Centres Ltd., was founded in 1988 by Eddy Groves and is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange as a highly-profitable company that recorded net profits, after tax, of $52.3 million on total revenues of $293 million in 2005.

Child-care activities are calling on both the federal and provincial governments to provide more publicly-funded, non-profit quality child-care spaces, “Not some gigantic child-care warehouse operation,” Chudnovsky said.

But the real dilemma is that parents need choice, Paul said.

“At Golden Bear we are getting at least one call a day from parents wanting to get on our infant-toddler wait lists. Some parents who are still pregnant are applying.” ….

Paul is from the U.S. and is familiar with corporate child care, but didn’t have her children until she moved to Canada and so never used them.

“I know in the States there are lots of workplace and corporate child care centres,” she said. “Employers want to keep their workers happy and productive but it’s a hard situation in B.C. I wish parents could have choices and I would hate to see what we have now destroyed.”