Jayden Catherwood shows off the toys at Caris Infant and Toddler Centre in Campbell River during a 2017 four-part Mirror examination of the local childcare situation. Mirror File Photo

Campbell River Family Network looks to examine child care gaps

UBCM grant ‘would allow us to have the kind of crucial information that we need to move forward’

Campbell River has a child care problem.

The Campbell River Family Network, however, is hoping for a boost in its goal of remedying that situation.

At one of city council’s final meetings of 2018, Joyce McMann, representing the coalition, asked the city to apply for funding from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities in the form of a grant that would allow the group to collect information on the child care needs in the city, as well as create an inventory of the child care spaces available, and identify service gaps and actions that can be taken to fill them.

The grant on offer is part of the province’s commitment to creating 22,000 licensed child care spaces, with amounts of up to $25,000 being made available to local governments to create action plans within their communities through the UBCM.

According to the group’s 2018 State of the Child Report, there were 1,137 licensed child care spaces in Campbell River in 2017, including both before/after school care and day care for children ages zero to five. But according to the 2016 census, there are almost 6,000 children under the age of 14 in the community, 1,770 of which are in the zero to four-year-old age range.

Just last year, the Mirror ran a four-part series examining the child care problems in Campbell River, where numerous parents lamented the lack of spaces and providers themselves lamented their lack of space and waitlists a mile long for those waiting to get in.

One care provider called the situation “awful” saying, “you feel like you’re playing God with people’s lives. It’s a terrible feeling to have people in tears on the other end of the line. It’s very disconcerting to hear people’s needs and not be able to help.”

RELATED: Caring for our Future: ‘Playing God with people’s lives’

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Acquiring the grant, McMann says, “would allow us to have the kind of crucial information that we need to move forward and plan, as well as allow service providers who may be interested in expanding their services to substantiate their claims with the province in the initiatives they put forward in terms of space funding.”

McMann says the problem needs to be addressed, and this is a golden opportunity to take action.

“I’m sure everyone here can speak to the many, many stories they’ve heard of families within the community who have declining employment or employees who are declining returning to work after parental leave because they can’t find child care. There are families that are walking away from Campbell River because they can’t find housing or childcare. There are employers who are lamenting the need for staff and professionals and who are unable to find them or are losing them because our community doesn’t have enough child care.”

The application, McMann says, does not commit the city to any expectation that the city would begin supplying child care services, but only that it would administer the grant funds and work together with the coalition in preparing its report, adding that it’s in the city’s interest to take the reins on the issue before the problems get worse.

“Child care has become as important to the healthy functioning of a vital, thriving community as the system of public education, and without the city taking a stand on trying to get a handle on these challenges and moving forward, we are looking at a community at risk of stagnating,” McMann says.

Hopefully, if the coalition receives this grant, it will be a gig step forward in remedying that.

Mayor Andy Adams thanked the coalition for their work, saying, “while the city doesn’t have the means nor the space (to provide child care services), we will certainly advocate on behalf of the need and do what we can in support of the application.”

The grant application is due Jan. 18 and if the city is successful in its request, the study would need to be completed by the end of 2019.

The Campbell River Family Network is made of various community groups and organizations committed to optimizing resources focused on the development of children.

Members include Success by 6, Island Health, School District 72, Laichwiltach Family Life Society, Pacific Care, child care providers, literacy programs, the city’s Recreation and Culture Department, local faith communities and other organizations offering support services for children and families.

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