Child care in the East Kootenays is lacking according to a delegation that spoke to council this week.
Katherine Bonnell and Mary Noble, from the East Kootenay Child Care Needs Assessment Advisory Committee were in council on Monday to talk about child care needs in the area.
They noted that early learning and child care programs in the East Kootenay region are in desperate need of qualified early childhood educators and early childhood educator assistants.
Bonnell said that there are 18 early childhood educator positions currently vacant in the region, according to the East Kootenay child care resource and referral program. Many of the positions have been available for over a year.
Bonnell also noted that the region has the highest number of vacant early childhood positions in the B.C. Interior.
The East Kootenay Child Care Needs Assessment Task Force was formed in 2013, by representatives from East Kootenay Children First, East Kootenay Success By 6, East Kootenay Child Care Resource and Referral and East Kootenay community members, when they recognized there were unmet child care needs in communities throughout the East Kootenay region.
The task force then commissioned a needs assessment project, the results of which reflect the contributions of 12 communities in the Columbia Basin. Bonnell said the results are not positive.
“The voices of families, early childhood educators, child care operators, community stakeholders, business, First Nation and local government representatives who contributed to the findings of this report individually and collectively identified that East Kootenay communities are facing what can only be described as a significant child care challenge and crisis,” the task force wrote.
Bonnell said their are a number of both short term and long term solutions that could be accomplished by having governments and governing bodies pool their resources. Short term, the resources could be used for things like wage compensation grants for provincially certified early childhood educators and early childhood educator assistants working in a accredited setting.
In the long term, the pooled resources could be used for things like researching the viability of moving to a fully funded and supported apprenticeship designation for early learning and child care in B.C.
Coun. Danielle Cardozo said she knows how hard it is to get daycare.
“I’ve gone to the College of the Rockies and put three children into daycare,” Cardozo said. “My brother did not take me seriously, when his wife found out she was pregnant, I said as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you put yourself on the wait list.”
But he thought she was joking.
“I don’t think people realize that you have to plan a year and a half to two years ahead, which is difficult,” Cardozo said.
She noted that something like the “au pair” programs of the ‘80s could be a solution that is not often looked at.
“Not necessarily the ones who are working towards immigration, but young ladies from Europe who are very qualified, educated women who just want to come here for an experience,” Cardozo said. “For families that do have an extra bedroom, who could provide room and board for that lady, it opens up the public childcare spots for those who don’t have room.”
Bonnell said it hasn’t been ruled out, but hasn’t really been pursued either.
“That could be an initiative that the City of Cranbrook wants to take on and could create an au pair program and provide the supports for individuals to come to Cranbrook,” she said. “It could address in part some of the child care issues that are assessed.”