More child care spaces are needed to serve the Greater Vernon Area, councillors learned March 9, 2020. (Black Press File)

More child care spaces are needed to serve the Greater Vernon Area, councillors learned March 9, 2020. (Black Press File)

More child care needed in Greater Vernon Area

Report to council illustrates immediate need for more daycare, before and after school care

Child care spots in the Greater Vernon Area are lacking and Vernon city councillors are urged to request additional funding from the province and Ottawa to boost early childhood care training and providers.

Of the 68 child care facilities in Vernon and the District of Coldstream, there are only 1,667 spots that parents of more than 6,275 children under the age of 12 are vying for, according to a report presented to council on March 9.

In addition to this number, 32 spaces for “occasional child care” for preschool to school-age children were identified, but they weren’t included in the report’s totals as they’re not funded by the province.

A survey of more than 450 respondents found the greatest need for child care spaces were in Coldstream, South Vernon and Mission and East Hill.

The types of spaces available don’t match the demand, the report found. The deficit is particularly high in the 0-2 age category with a population of 1,310 and only 122 child care spaces — none of which are in Coldstream.

“The lack of child care affects parents’ ability to work, to advance in their careers, their quality of life — mental, physical and social,” the report reads. “It also affects children who may not have an opportunity for interaction with other children supporting the development of social skill and school readiness.”

Gabi Haas of GDH Solutions presented the Child Care Space Action Plan to council and recommended council draft letters to both levels of government for additional funding to support early childhood care providers and training; encourage the creation of a Child Care Action Team, and encourage large employers to provide child care spaces on site. Councillors were also asked to share the action plan as presented with the school district.

Coun. Kelly Fehr said what he knows from personal experience with child care was reflected well in the report.

“This issue is important to me as I struggled for child care when my kids were young,” Coun. Fehr said.

Haas said finding child care for children with special needs is especially challenging.

“Not every place is able to accommodate those with special needs,” she said.

Council will send a copy of the report to School District 22 and discuss the matter further at a future date.

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@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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