Daycare dilemma for Penticton parents

New daycare spots open, still Penticton families searching for daycare even before their child is born.

Robin Kroon (left)

Robin Kroon (left)

Mothers of young children who are coming off of maternity leave face daunting challenges when it comes to getting licensed childcare.

Penticton mother Dannielle Hyde contacted every licensed facility daycare she could find in the Penticton area for her now three-year-old son Hunter. Each time she was put on a waiting list.

“When I went back to work I actually couldn’t put Hunter in a licensed daycare,” Hyde said.

She was able to bring her son to daycare facilities at her job, but when that was shut down due to lack of funding, she had very few places to turn. She explored the other options Penticton mothers have, which are unlicensed in-home daycares, but found it wasn’t a good fit for her family.

“We wanted someone that had the credentials. Just like if you were going to put your child in a school you would want to know that the teacher had qualifications. You’re leaving your child with them eight hours a day, five days a week,” Hyde said.

Hyde was fortunate enough to grab a spot at a facility daycare for Hunter due to a last-minute dropout.

Without support from her family, Sharon Lawrence would have to quit her job to get child care.

“If I didn’t have my parents to watch him I’d probably end up quitting my job and staying home and looking after someone else’s child as well to make ends meat,” Lawrence said.

Through support from her family and other parents of young children in Penticton, Lawrence has been able to avoid the lack of spaces, and long waiting lists, plaguing daycares in the area.

“I know there’s a lot of people who have to try to shuffle things around because they work until 9:30 at night,” Lawrence said. “It is a real challenge, especially for people who are working lower wage jobs.”

For parents and child-care workers, a new daycare for Parkway Elementary school has been a long time coming.

Leapin Lizard Daycare will be expanding available spaces with a new daycare at Parkway Elementary school thanks to grant funding from the provincial government.

“We really need a daycare there. The families at the school are going to win big time on this,” said Robin Kroon, owner of Leapin Lizards Daycare.

She estimated 20-40 children are currently on waiting lists to enrol in the daycare’s services across all three locations in Penticton, Naramata and West Bench. The new government-funded space hopes to ease some of that pressure.

“The principal and I have been talking for the last four or five years,” said Kroon, who has been making plans to open up a space at Parkway Elementary for some time.

Linda Solhjell, owner and operator of Play, Laugh and Share Childcare also has parents on wait lists up until September of 2015.

“There’s a really high demand for (spaces for children) under three,” Solhjell said. “I’ve heard through the grape vine and all the calls I get that they (moms) can’t find child care unless they are putting themselves on wait lists, either during their pregnancy or during their first year of maternity leave.”

She added that it’s also tough to find part-time care, as most child-care centres in the area don’t provide it.

Leapin Lizards received $205, 695 of funding as announced by the provincial government on Nov. 17.  The before and after school child care facilities received the grant through the B.C. Early Years Strategy.  The result of the funding will be 24 new licensed child-care spaces.

Kroon added because Parkway is located in a large residential neighbourhood the need for spaces is high.  The day the funding was announced she was already receiving calls to get on the waiting list for Parkway.

The provincial government has committed to support the creation of 1,000 new spaces province wide by March 2015.

The investment is part of the government’s B.C.-wide Child-Care Major Capital Funding roll out, covering the costs for child-care facilities to buy space, assemble a modular building, renovate an existing building or buy playground equipment and furnishings.

Leapin Lizards will be using the funding to purchase and operate a brand-new portable building.

The government is now working with the child-care providers to sign project agreements getting the details on the requirements providers have identified including buying or leasing property, zone permits and the hiring of contractors to complete renovations. Groundbreaking on the new spaces is expected to begin by March 2015. The project is still taking applications for the next phase of funding which will start early in 2015.