Twenty-four Kelowna families found themselves in a child care crisis.
Building Blocks Educare was forced to close two dozen infant and toddler places because they were unable to maintain compliance with child care licensing regulations after losing caregivers .
Unable to replace them, they had to warn parents a few days in advance that their child care spaces were going to disappear.
Finding a replacement is a difficult task. The waiting list for child care in the central Okanagan is currently one to two years.
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To meet the immediate need, one of Building Block’s hapless parents, who works in an essential department, brought in a relative from out of town to help out for as long as possible. It is at best an interim measure. Others are considering nanny sharing systems. Others still don’t have answers.
Building Block owners Laura Forbes and Brie Elson said they’ve done everything they can to stay open. But the industry is in crisis and new regulations need to be adjusted to help providers weather the workforce crisis.
The role of Interior Health Child Care Licensing is to enforce regulations, they said, and they were also handcuffed.
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“We must all come together and find a solution to this crisis,” co-owner Brie Elson said in a statement.
“The answer cannot be to force the closure of the spaces on which our community depends. Families become the victims of a failing system. We are parents ourselves and started Building Blocks because we understand how crucial the quality of child care is. We have been caring for families in Kelowna for over 14 years and it is truly heartbreaking to have to tell our families that their places are closing.
It’s not just Building Blocks Educare that currently occupies this position, although it is one of the largest 0-5 year olds in the central Okanagan, making the loss more noticeable.
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Melissa Hunt is the Executive Director of Childhood Connections, which helps families find the right care environment for their children and has provided providers with training and resources since 1977. There are six programs in the central Okanagan in one position similar, she said.
Some are closing places and others have been unable to open places that are expected to open after the Department of Families and Childhood Development announced they would, Hunt said, adding: ” That makes 195 child care spaces. “
There are simply not enough people willing to work for the wages offered, she said.
“We call it a crisis for sure. It is a huge social problem. Many centers are looking for workers and are unable to offer competitive wages.
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Worse yet, wages are ubiquitous and therefore are used to lure child care providers from one center to another, creating an uneven playing field which Hunt says is a disservice to both the kids and the child. childcare providers.
“The NDP government worked on the 10 day plan. It would be wonderful to have a universal child care system, ”said Hunt.
“Having consistency between private and nonprofit programs and equalizing wages across the board would prevent centers from poaching each other. It affects children who are attached to caregivers, who leave when they are drawn to another brilliant facility with higher wages. “
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Hunt pointed out that brain development in the 0-5 age group is particularly important, but the industry is not standardized like any other area of education.
Most in the industry agree, she said, but it’s hard to influence change from within, especially when wage disparities have caused local rifts among those who should be working. together to find a solution.
“We are organizing a childcare counseling table, trying to resolve this crisis, but when people come to the table, knowing that the staff are leaving their centers, due to the incentives of others, it is difficult to collaborate,” she declared.
“It got a little toxic. No wonder the government had to get involved.
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In July, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during a stop in the Lower Mainland that the federal government had reached a deal with the province worth $ 9.2 billion to ensure that families can have an average child care of $ 10 per day over the next five years. .
This will apply to all regulated places for children under the age of six. It should create 30,000 additional childcare places and should reduce the costs of these places by 50%.
Trudeau’s commitment also comes with a $ 3.2 billion investment over three years from the provincial government.
Until everything falls into place, however, hundreds of families in the central Okanagan face an uphill battle.
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