Parents may be relieved to learn that new child care spaces could soon be available in the Columbia Valley.
In an attempt to help parents find child care for their families, the Province is supporting the creation of approximately 1,700 new licensed child care spaces under the third phase of the Child Care Major Capital Funding Program.
“These new spaces are part of government’s commitment, under the B.C. Early Years Strategy, to create a total of 13,000 licensed child-care spaces across the province by 2020,” said Surrey-Panorama MLA Marvin Hunt on behalf of Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux during a recent sod-turning celebration at Wind & Tide Preschool and Child Care Centre in Surrey.
The decision to help facilitate the growing demand for child care options in B.C. was welcome news to some of the child care operators in the Columbia Valley.
Staff at the Eva Joseph Family Centre, which manages the Little Badger Early Learning Program at Akisqnuk First Nation, are happy about the announcement, but say that the Columbia Valley still faces challenges when it comes to interviewing, screening, hiring, relocating and retaining Early Childhood Educators.
“I read this and it’s fantastic news, but the problem is that it doesn’t attend to the need that we have a shortage of teachers,” said Carrie Rickards, general manager of the Eva Joseph Learning and Cultural Centre. “It’s great to produce funding for new child care spaces but the real issue that we’re having in this area is the fact that we need qualified teachers and operating costs (are high), so it’s great to offer new spaces, but it doesn’t serve these issues.”
With 18 vacant Early Childhood Educators (ECE) positions in the East Kootenay region, the East Kootenay Child Care Task Force (EKCCTF) anticipates families will be facing significant challenges to find child care.
The EKCCTF released the results of the first phase of East Kootenay Child Care Needs Assessment on October 16th. In the assessment, it was noted that it’s difficult to retain qualified staff at community-based child care programs and hiring qualified staff at the appropriate wage forces programs for children to close.
In fact, the East Kootenay region has the highest number of vacant early childhood positions in the interior of B.C., according to the EKCCTF.
When asked what she would like to see, Ms. Rickards replied: “more support for operating funding and education of teachers and supporting of teachers.”
Sonshine Children’s Centre and the Windermere Valley Child Care Society were not available for comment regarding the capital funding announcement and how it could affect them before The Echo went to press.
According to a government press release, child-care providers can apply for up to $500,000 (non-profit providers), or up to $250,000 (private child-care organizations) to help build new child-care spaces in their communities until February 26th 2016.
According to the Government of B.C., priority will be given to organizations that will create spaces for child care on school grounds where children can smoothly transition from early years programs to the classroom to after-school care; that are co-located with other family-support programs in community-based settings, including BC Early Years Centres, recreation centres and family resource programs; and that create child care spaces in under-served areas of B.C.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development will be offering further information about this project between December and February, including application criteria.
The capital funding for this project can be used to build a new child care facility (including the cost of buying land or a building); to buy and assemble a modular building and develop a site; to renovate an existing building or classroom; or to buy eligible equipment (including playground equipment and furnishings to support some projects).
The new spaces that will be created as part of Phase 3 are in addition to the more than 2,400 new child care spaces the provincial government supported with roughly $15.2 million between November 2014 and June 2015, and will continue to build on the more than 111,000 licensed child care spaces currently funded across the province.
More information on the capital funding program,
including information sessions, applications and criteria, is available