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Colossal “Child Care Crisis” Concerns Cranbrook City Council

Cranbrook City Council heard the chilling results of their contracted Child Care Creating Spaces Project, believing the issue is much larger than Cranbrook and encompasses all of Canada.

Diane McKean of Creative Childcare Consulting presented her findings to Cranbrook City Council on Monday, revealing a severe lack of licensed early childhood educators and available child care spaces.

McKean said Cranbrook has just 73 qualified educators, which includes all child care managers and responsible adults which only have 20 hours of training. With 19 licensed child care facilities, and four licensed family or multi-home child care programs in the City, McKean said that leaves Cranbrook with just 413 total child care spaces.

According to the report, the issue is that the 413 licensed spaces leaves about 1,595 children without access to care. In her findings, McKean told City Council that 687 children from birth to age four don’t have the option of care, while 908 children between the ages of five and nine are in the same position. Of the 413 licensed spaces that exist in Cranbrook, 288 meet the needs of 975 children between birth and four years old, while the other 125 spaces meet the needs of 1,105 children aged five to nine.

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“Lots of parents are choosing to go unlicensed because they don’t have a choice,” McKean told City Council. “You can’t open doctors offices without professionally trained doctors to fill those spaces, you can not open child care spaces without early learning and child care educators that are trained in the profession of child development.”

McKean said Cranbrook’s child care problems are a tale of two crises, the first being the child care spaces “crisis” and the early childhood educators “crisis”.

Hearing the results of the report, Cranbrook City Council called on further action from the provincial and federal governments to begin solving the issue, not only for Cranbrook but across B.C. and Canada.

“By no means is it a legal mandate for local governments to deal with child care and provide the spaces, the training, the education, everything complicit in report other than some enabling pieces maybe towards bylaws and other facilitation leadership roles,” said Ron Popoff at Monday’s delegation, Cranbrook City Councillor. “Clearly those mandates rest with the provincial and federal levels of government to address this crisis that is being faced throughout the country.”

“The scope of this whole problem kind of confounds me a bit,” added Wayne Price, Cranbrook City Councillor. “This is so far beyond local government fixing the problem.”

Price said there are plenty of regulatory obstacles from the provincial and federal governments, a lack of educated professionals, and a lack of a competitive wage that could keep those professionals from pursuing other career paths that don’t alleviate the child care crisis.

“We can be, I guess, a part of the process maybe to move things down to the UBCM and at that level, take it to the provincial level and advocate that way, but I really don’t see us fixing the problem locally,” Price told City Council. “I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just trying to look at it realistically.”

Following the meeting, Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt told MyEastKootenayNow.com that the issue is severe.

“It is a shame that people can’t find child care and daycare for all ages and it is a crisis. The answer has to come from the Province,” said Pratt. “To be honest with you, I sit every day and I read the papers and I see our governments, federal and provincial, throwing money away, literally throwing it away at projects and giving it to countries that don’t even acknowledge us when we have these problems in our own towns. When are they going to wake up, when are the people going to make the government get onside and start making some impact on what they should be doing?”

In the report, Creative Childcare Consulting made two major recommendations to City Council to try and help resolve the ongoing crisis in the community. McKean suggested that the City first create a small working group that would commit to reviewing city bylaws, reviewing child care regulations, create a guide on how to open a child care centre or family day home in Cranbrook and develop a list of support organizations and individuals to help new operators. The second suggestion from McKean was for Cranbrook to create a joint funding pool with other communities or partners to apply for UBCM or Columbia Basin Trust funding for a full-time project manager who could organize groups, keep recommendations on target, build key partnerships, research opportunities, and provide unique solutions.

“Child care is a business to a certain degree, it’s a profession of passion and so it doesn’t take a lot really,” McKean told City Council, suggesting better pay and benefits in order to attract more early childhood educators. “Money is an issue, it’s not the only issue.”

The other solution from McKean was for the City of Cranbrook to locate the unlicensed child care programs in the community and get them licensed, that way those spaces would be monitored for quality and provide adequate child care, while also allowing them to qualify for subsidies.

Mayor Pratt said he appreciated McKean’s report, but feels the burden is on the shoulders of the provincial and federal governments.

“From the City’s standpoint, there is some zoning that we can address if somebody wants to open a daycare, the majority of it all falls down to the regulations by the Province that just handcuffs it,” Pratt told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “Our staff is very busy right now and we’ve got a lot of things happening in the City that people aren’t aware of and the staff is at capacity. To throw another thing like that at them right now that really is not our mandate or under our jurisdiction, it just doesn’t make sense for us.”

Monday’s presentation to City Council was concluded by McKean with a quote from one of the parents that participated in the report, believing the response summarized the community’s view on the child care crisis.

“I’m a bit frustrated by yet another child care study with still no action. There have been provincial surveys, a child care needs assessment a couple of years ago and nothing. The feedback is there, stop asking for more feedback,” reads the quote. “No waitlists, people not having to quit their jobs because they can’t find care and reliable service.”

McKean said woman in particular have a difficult choice, either they leave their profession of choice or look after their children and hope that their child can get into a licensed facility while sitting on a waitlist anywhere from four to five years.

Cranbrook City Council unanimously accepted McKean’s report for information, and noted that solutions to child care would be a key talking point in their upcoming Strategic Planning Sessions.

More: Child Care Action Plan 2020 (Creative Childcare Consulting, City of Cranbrook)

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