Downtown Eastside program loses childcare spaces — Province says change gives parents greater choice

Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier

The restructuring of a program that assists some of Vancouver’s most vulnerable children will eliminate at least 68 special needs childcare spaces in the Downtown Eastside, says the board of directors of the Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre.

Board member Judy McGuire says the decision doesn’t make sense. “This is not about Ray-Cam,” said McGuire. “This is about the 68 kids who all of a sudden will have no support.”

On April 1, provincial funds once given to Ray-Cam for group support of its 77 special-needs children will be redirected to provide one-on-one care for nine kids. Should any of the nine leave Ray-Cam, the funding will follow the child.

McGuire said until now, Ray-Cam has used the money to support the most children possible—with the blessing of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The ministry provides almost $2 million a year to Vancouver Native Health Society through its Supported Child Development Services, which in turn funds the special needs program at Ray-Cam. The ministry also provides, on average, $120,000 annually to Ray-Cam for operating costs and another $47,000 per month in childcare subsidies to assist low-income families.

The change in funding concerns the Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE), a non-profit focused on the well-being of aboriginal people living in Vancouver and with offices at Ray-Cam and at W2 on West Hastings Street.

ALIVE executive director Scott Clark said the provincial government must take responsibility for the actions of lead agencies like Vancouver Native Health Society. “It’s incumbent these agencies consult with the community and Vancouver Native Health didn’t do that, but they’re allowed to make these unilateral decisions,” said Clark. “That’s where the ministry is falling down.”

Clark said there are many questions ALIVE and Ray-Cam can’t get answers to, such as who decided to cut the contract with Ray-Cam and what information was evaluated in that decision. …

The Ministry of Children and Family Development responded to the Courier’s inquiry with an email that reads in part, “Nothing has changed with regards to the funding being provided to support the children in Ray Cam’s childcare centre… What has changed is that the Vancouver Native Health Society is moving to an individualized funding model for the nine children who require the Supported Child Development Program. This gives families the right to choose where they want their children to receive services—it attaches the money to the child not the centre.…