NANAIMO — It can be nearly impossible to find daycare in Nanaimo with waiting lists stretching on for years in some cases.
A new provincial initiative hopes to alleviate the pressure on daycare providers and parents. Non-profit daycare providers can apply for up to $500,000 to create new spaces.
Nanaimo daycare owner Melissa Burke, who created Kidz Kompany and also sits on the Provincial Child Care Council, said having “key funding pieces” in place will give struggling families hope.
“There's just nowhere for kids to go,” she said. “There's a lot of parents who are struggling, they don't have options, they don't have family on the island and they can't go back to work because they can't find someone to take care of their kids. Infant toddler care is stressful.”
She said the wait list for Kidz Kompany's infant toddler program is roughly 130 children and the wait list for their school age program stretches on for years.
Child care spaces which provide care for Indigenous communties, will be located within a work place to support working parents or focus on children with special needs are given priority.
Burke said initiatives focused on children with special needs is a significant relief to both families of special needs children and daycare workers.
“It's really difficult to take on a child with special needs into the program and know that you're going to be able to meet all their needs without needing extra supports in place,” she said.
To her knowledge, “a lot” of families with special needs children are turned away from spaces which can't handle the extra challenge, a trend which she hoped will change.
Burke said $500,000 won't make much of a dent in the budget if someone is buying land and making a completely new building, but “If you're looking at retrofitting an existing space then $500,000 goes a long way.”
Despite the initiative, Burke said there are still many hurdles to overcome before child care is easily accessible in cities like Nanaimo.
“It's a challenge to find space, it's a challenge to make that space then suitable so that the city will pass these through inspections.”
Weighty and cumbersome city ordinance about zoning bylaws was the number one concern she had with creating new opportunities.
“They haven't really made child care a priority yet, but you never know,” she said. “That could change in the future.”
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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