Child care needs identified; Family Dynamix looks to fill gaps

Survey results compiled; coordinator looking to next steps now

Family Dynamix is harnessing the conversation around child care in the Columbia Valley, with the results of an assessment conducted last spring leading the way forward.

“We were pleased with the response we got from the community in terms of filling (the survey) in and returning it,” said Pat Cope, executive director at Family Dynamix.

The survey garnered 141 respondents, including 96 parents, 24 businesses and 19 child care providers. Of the respondents, 89 per cent reported they do not have an adequate supply of child care.

“The survey had very interesting results,” reported Michelle Neider, director of program management at Family Dynamix. “We had good participation in the Valley from businesses, from individuals, and from daycares. As a result, there are definitely child care needs in the Valley that must be addressed. We’re looking forward to collaborating with all the child care providers to see how we can meet the demands in the Valley.”

Ms. Cope said one of the larger deficits apparent in local child care from the survey results was the lack of nontraditional daycare hours: evenings, weekends, and early mornings. The results of the survey were somewhat expected, shared Ms. Cope, as they have heard again and again about the concerns of local families in regards to child care needs.

“We had a pretty good inkling there was an issue or challenge,” said Ms. Cope. “We had a number of families coming in to our agency and … saying they had child care needs not being met.”

The survey was part of a comprehensive study conducted by Family Dynamix, which included looking at statistical data pulled from provincial and federal surveys, compiling data from the area’s licensed child care providers, and launching a survey to assess the needs of Valley families.

Family Dynamix has now hired a consultant who is helping the organization look at what steps to take next.

“One of the key steps is discussing with our licensed providers in the communities currently whether or not they’re able to increase the services they’re delivering, and at the same time working with the local college to address the challenge of lack of qualified staff,” stated Ms. Cope. “It is our responsibility in this organization to work to address the needs of the community. This is a need that’s been identified. So, if we don’t have another body that is able to, or wants to, and is in a position to address it, then Family Dynamix will be seriously looking at how we can be that body.”

The issue of child care is not unique to the Columbia Valley. The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) recently announced $3.6 million in funding to help maintain and create new child care spaces in the Basin.

“The Child Care Support Program will help sustain and grow quality licensed childcare in the Basin,” said Johnny Strilaeff, president and CEO of CBT. “The child care sector has several complex issues, including affordability of child care for families, inadequate supply of childcare spaces and a shortage of qualified professional staff to work in the sector. We are helping to address those issues with this new program.”

According to the CBT, there are 2,600 childcare spaces in the Basin. However, there is a demand for more spaces, more staff, and more training.

“Parents, child care providers and experts have provided input into the development of this program,” Mr. Strilaeff said. “We know quality child care is a critical resource that supports early learning and development, and helps parents’ ability to work or further their education.”

Tim Hicks, senior manager at CBT, added that training support will be focused on providing resources, such as funding, to support the current workforce initially, with plans to further develop the program as time goes on.

One of the key issues in Invermere and area is the lack of staff to be able to increase capacity. The Pioneer asked Mr. Hicks if funding would be directed to opening up more spaces in training programs such as the ECE program at the College of the Rockies (COTR) in Cranbrook. He said details are still being worked out on how the funding will be directed to programs.

COTR representative Darryl Schmidt confirms that the ECE program at the college is usually open to 30 students. However, this year, they offered and filled 40 seats.

“We have been full each year for the past five years, with a waitlist each year,” Mr. Schmidt reported. “The waitlists have varied from 10 to 27 applicants.”

The majority of applicants for the program are not local, he added, reporting of the 40 accepted, only seven were from the local area.

Family Dynamix staff have discussed the new CBT funding with representatives from CBT, to see how they might access some of the money to move forward with a potential childcare centre or to support increased capacity at existing facilities. Ms. Cope explained there is also capital funding available through the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development, and they will be looking to prepare for the next round of funding opportunities, likely next summer.

“It’s very exciting because there’s a good chance when we pool all of these resources available, there will be financing available to do it,” commented Ms. Cope.

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