Some Squamish families are about to catch a break as funding for 16 new childcare spaces is coming to a facility in Brackendale.
"We know we need to continue building. It takes time to build spaces and also to staff the spaces, so we need to continue that work," Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen told The Chief.
Between Brackendale's Little Peak Childcare and Whistler Waldorf School, there will be 32 new spaces, according to a Ministry of Children and Family Development announcement on Jan. 17.
Little Peak Childcare's new spaces will be for children three to five years old.
͞"The funding provided by the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund was instrumental in enabling Little Peak Squamish to create a new, high-quality daycare facility that will provide 16 additional, much-needed child care spaces, said Little Peak's Madeleine Cott said in the ministry news release. "͞The support by the government is appreciated by both Little Peak Squamish and the community."
Chen said the first year of the funding, in 2018, was successful. Now, she says they continue to receive applications for funding every week.
"You can see from the programs that are being approved that they do provide inclusive services, provide services for children who require extra support, helping them with their language skills and making sure that they meet local needs," Chen said.
Little Peak will be offering French, and lessons on math, science, music and sports.
The funding comes from Childcare BC's New Spaces Fund, which has funded nearly 80 new childcare spaces at licensed operations in the Sea to Sky since July 2018. The fund is only one part of what Chen said will become the foundation of inclusive, universal childcare. With Aboriginal Head Start and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, the total of childcare spaces opened in the Sea to Sky since 2018 is 150.
"This is going to be a long-term investment. This is no patchwork. We know families have been struggling to find services, we know educators have been struggling to stay in the sector. We're doing everything we can," Chen said.
During her visits to Squamish, she hears about the need to support Early Childhood Educators (ECE) and pointed to the recent funding available to Squamish ECEs for bursaries.
"I know Squamish especially has really been advocating for support for Early Childhood Educators, so we'll definitely continue to do that. We have another wage enhancement going in this year, and we're really excited about that and the positive impact that could bring to the sector as well.
"We need to make sure we provide them ongoing support when they become educators," she said. "A lot of educators work alone in family childcare settings."
For those parents who are still struggling to find childcare, Chen said her experience as a parent has been similar.
"Even if you can afford it, you have to wait for years. My son waited for over a year and a half for a space, and then it turned out to be too expensive for our family to afford at the time. We totally understand the struggle, and we know changes cannot come fast enough, but I think ever since we started the work, we've been trying to do everything we can to lower parent costs," she said.
"And that is the reason why, we're really hoping through the community planning grants... through working with municipalities, we can work together with the federal government, with municipal governments, school districts, Indigenous communities. We need to look at all the public spaces we have."
Earlier this week, Premier John Horgan said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to expand the $10-a-day program. Chen said families at any pilot project site, who are currently part of the program, will continue with it.