A whopping 83 per cent of parents surveyed said it’s “difficult” to find child care in Penticton, B.C., as the municipality develops an action plan to address a local child-care shortage.
Nearly half of all respondents (46 per cent) said they were on a waitlist for more than one year, based on 386 responses to the parent and child care survey conducted in August.
The biggest barriers to child care were cost (68 per cent), availability of part-time care (48 per cent), the need for extended hours and days (45 per cent), and availability of full-time care (41 per cent).
The survey also found that 86 per cent of the child-care facilities in Penticton have waitlisted children, and of those, 63 per cent had average waitlist times of over one year.
No providers in Penticton offer extended hours of care or overnight care.
The city is attempting to address the years-long local child-care crisis.
Global News has spoken to many parents facing a predicament of quitting their jobs, leaving town, doling out more money to hire nannies, or considering unlicenced, home-based child care due to the shortage.
Child care providers have said the root of the problem is a lack of qualified staff to fill all the licenced spaces available and the lack of local post-secondary early childhood education (ECE) certification options.
The city of Penticton analyzed the feedback from parents, caregivers and child-care providers and developed a draft action plan to improve access to high quality, accessible, and affordable child care.
The first suggested priority is to increase access to child care by endorsing space creation targets of 722 new spaces for Penticton by 2030, creating an inventory of prospective land opportunities for child-care development, and working with the school district to open more before- and after-school programs.
On a policy level, the proposal says child care should be linked to housing initiatives, the city should lobby the province for capital funding to build new child-care spaces, and create a city child-care facilitator position to assist applicants with city processes.
The draft action plan suggests making it easier for operators to open new child-care facilities by reducing application fees, streamlining inspections, and promoting a grant program.
The proposal suggests updating the city’s website to add child-care information for parents who are looking for care and explore the feasibility of establishing and maintaining a centralized child-care waitlist.
Currently, parents must contact each child-care facility individually to add their names to a waitlist and there is no mechanism for families to confirm or monitor their spot.
To make child care more affordable, the preliminary plan suggests leasing local government land to non-profit child-care providers at below-market and affordable lease rates and ensure the savings are passed on to families.
On labour shortages, the proposal suggests the city should advocate senior levels of government to increase compensation for child-care workers to improve recruitment and retention.
To create more local jobs, the proposal suggests the city work with the school district to explore a dual credit ECE program for high school students and work with providers to offer ECE practicums while developing new partnerships with post-secondary institutions to offer more ECE training programs.
The findings and proposed action plan will be shared with city council in January.
Meanwhile, the city is soliciting feedback on replacing the aging Edmonton Avenue Centre building in Kiwanis Park with a new facility to provide 116 child-care spaces.
The province recently awarded a $2.9-million grant to build the new child-care facility in Penticton.
To read the full draft child-care action plan, click here.
To submit your feedback on the Edmonton Avenue Centre replacement project, click here.
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