This week at council, we had to decide on whether or not a daycare should be permitted in a residential neighborhood.
On the surface, that sounds pretty simple; however, the application was to allow 24 children. We had over 60 people attend the public hearing. The overriding theme was about the need for daycare and how not allowing the daycare would disrupt the career paths of working professionals with kids. We additionally heard concerns from the neighborhood about safety and traffic congestion. And sadly, we also heard a comment about noisy children playing outside. Over two years ago, council approved a 20-child daycare near Skaha Park and heard similar concerns. Thankfully, it was good to get a staff report from that same neighborhood reaffirming that the daycare was not having an adverse effect, especially as first perceived.
It is exciting to see young working professionals with children choosing Penticton to raise their families. We pride ourselves on being an entrepreneur-friendly community and many families require both parents work to make ends meet. It would be nice to have more stay-at-home parents, but that is not always realistic. Affordable daycare is therefore an important issue as not every parent would classify themselves as a working professional or have the income level that is associated with that classification.
So what is needed to operate a daycare? A person can have up to eight children in their home and run a daycare service without any zoning requirements from the city. There are regulations through the province and Interior Health that operators must comply with. And, there must be demand for the service — with waiting lists for kids to get into daycare, there are great opportunities for entrepreneurial individuals to get involved. The result is an income supplement to a stay-at-home parent, empty nester or community group. I recently had a great meeting with a church looking for ways to get involved with the community and give back. Daycare or after school care is something that church is now considering as a way to help families.
Valuing and investing in our children is important. While we invest in children for daycare, meal programs in school and extracurricular activities. The level of involvement often dwindles as they become youth when it really should increase. That is why the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) Project is so important. The YES Project is entering an exciting phase as they hope to purchase a building to house a youth centre. The new youth centre will have various levels of activities, services and programs for youth where they can feel safe and get the help or guidance they need. Council has been working to help facilitate services for youth and will also be investing in the YES Project.
As our lives as adults progress, the days of children and youth laughing, playing or crying in our household or neighborhood might become less frequent; however I hope they’re not forgotten. We were all young once making mistakes, learning new things and being dependant on our immediate family and others for their help.
There is a saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and one of our greatest resources are our children. After all, they will be our next business, community, creative, educational, political, social and professional leaders.