With just over 300 licensed daycare spots available in North Battleford, many local parents are on waiting lists, or have given up completely on the idea of finding child care for their children.
BattlefordsNOW reached out on Facebook to the community to see how tough the situation was for local parents, and the general comments were there was a crisis in the community when it came to quality care.
Daycare spots in the Battlefords are so scarce and hard to come by right now that one mom had to extend maternity leave and eventually resign from her job all together.
When Corrinne Kjargaard-Thompson was ready to go back to work after giving birth to her first child, she was looking for a part-time daycare spot because her husband was available to watch their child during certain parts of the week.
Kjargaard-Thompson tried numerous private daycares with no luck and the public centres couldn’t accommodate her either.
“The only private daycares with spots were places I probably wouldn’t leave my dog,” Kjargaard-Thompson said. “So I ended up extending my maternity leave for a year. During that extension, I found out I was pregnant again, so I ended up resigning because if I couldn’t find a spot for one, I knew I couldn’t find a spot for two.”
Luckily for Kjargaard-Thompson leaving her job didn’t cause too big a financial burden. She said with the money she saved in gas and daycare fees it pretty much averaged out. Some people aren’t quite as lucky as her though.
“I actually have a friend who is a single mom and she ended up living with her parents,” Kjargaard-Thompson said. “She works when they’re on days off because she can’t find a daycare spot for her son. Part of that is the hours she works. She does shift work and there are no extended hour’s daycares. The Village [Centre Childcare] has more hours than other daycares but, they still aren’t enough.”
Some mothers have complained that daycares will let people bypass the line for their friends, but that certainly wasn’t the case for Kjargaard-Thompson.
“I have a friend who runs a daycare and I still couldn’t get a spot there.”
Kjargaard-Thompson said the area desperately needs more daycare's and didn’t hesitate to refer to it as a crisis. She attributes this daycare crisis to a “baby boom” in the province and said daycare workers need to be paid better.
The Ministry of Education has recognized the daycare situation in the province and is trying to combat it. According to Cindy Jeanes, director of early learning and childcare service delivery with the early years branch of the Ministry of Education, more funding and spots are on the horizon.
Jeanes said funding has been allocated to create 4,935 new child care spaces in the province, which is a 53 per cent increase since 2007. Additional spaces are being created as part of the new nine youth schools being built throughout the province.
North Battleford isn’t receiving any new spots right now, but the city is in the top third of the priority list for the government.
“We do have requests in from North Battleford and they do rank fairly high on our list,” Jeanes said. “That could change from year to year because it all depends on which communities have been submitting applications.”
According to Jeanes, the ministry doesn’t base need on waiting lists and doesn’t even monitor them. She said the facilities themselves monitor the lists and added basing the need on waiting lists can be tough because multiple families can be on numerous lists at once.
North Battleford currently has three submissions for licenses to operate a daycare facility. Jeanes said the next step is contacting those who made the submissions and make sure they are still interested. The Ministry will send childcare consultants to support the groups by looking at spaces and inform them of renovations they would have to consider in order to meet regulatory requirements.
“We do have requirements regarding natural lighting, outdoor play space and usable floor space,” Jeanes said. “Our consultants can help those choose a space that would be most appropriate.”
There are currently 337 licensed daycare spots in total in North Battleford, but there is no official timeframe for when more will become available.
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