Childcare initiatives launched by the province and a lack of educators are making it difficult for childcare centres to keep up with demand, according to Vancouver Island centres.
Lynn Courville, owner of Westshore Community Daycare in Langford, said she is licensed for more spots than she currently has available, but she is unable to open them up due to staffing issues.
At the moment, Courville said educators at her centre are working 10 hours a day without breaks except during naptime.
“If they get sick, we have to actually close for that day and pay all the parents back,” Courville said. “That’s how bad it is.”
Courville has put out calls looking for more educators but is having a hard time finding qualified individuals to work for her.
Ben Paine and his wife own Jenn’s Little Bears Early Childhood Education Centre in Colwood. Paine said about six years ago they had a posting for a position and were able to conduct five interviews with interested individuals. Now, he said they’re struggling to find one person interested in a job.
“Two years ago it took us three months to get one resume,” Paine said. “My wife is starting maternity leave in July and we probably won’t find anyone to cover her.”
Jenn’s Little Bears has always had a waitlist for infant/toddler childcare, Paine said. The centre currently has seven educators working there, including his wife. Paine said they try to make working there as attractive as possible with things such as benefits packages and gym memberships.
Courville has four educators working at Westshore Community Daycare, including herself, and has waitlists for her programs.
“It breaks my heart when I have to turn parents away,” Courville said. “I’m answering phone calls at least five times a week, people looking for care and they’re desperate for care … and I have to say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do anything because we have to look after what we’ve got.’”
Both Paine and Courville said that while the province’s recent introductions of the childcare benefit and $10-a-day daycare programs help parents manage the cost of childcare, it has increased the demand and the centres are unable to take more clients because there is still a lack of educators.
“They went about it backwards,” Courville said. “It’s as if the government didn’t speak to the people doing the jobs … if we can’t staff it, it’s not there. The demand for childcare has gone faster than the growth in the industry.”
Willowbrae Academy is slated to open this week in Langford, according to company spokesperson Hal Johnson. However, infant care at their facility is delayed at the time.
“Getting teachers in B.C. is a challenge at the moment,” Johnson said.
Courville said the provincial benefits are also putting a larger workload on her. She said she has to report to the province repeatedly, figure out how much parents receive from the benefit and pay them on the first of the month. Courville said she is not reimbursed until about one week later, making finances difficult for her.
“It’s a domino effect,” Courville said. “If we burn out then the care isn’t there.”
-With files from Rick Stiebel