Up to 100 new child-care spaces are on the way for Sooke families, who have struggled to find licensed daycare.
Compass and Almost Home daycares have confirmed they have new facilities slated for Sooke, and although the details of the new sites have yet to be released by the province, the expanded services come as a welcome relief to young families.
Cindy Ross, the owner of seven other Almost Home child-care operations in Greater Victoria, said the new facility will be a one-of-a-kind experience for children.
“We have five acres of land at 5229 Sooke Rd. where we’re building a new facility with access right down to the ocean,” Ross said.
“It’s going to give us a chance to teach the children about the ocean. We’ll have touch tables, participate in salmon releases and generally give children a chance to learn about ocean wildlife.”
The Almost Home licensed childcare offers 37 new spaces – 12 for infants and toddlers and 25 for children three to five– and hopes to be open by September.
Almost Home has received the assistance of the provincial government’s New Spaces Fund, established to help expand child-care services. The fund offers to $1 million to build new, modular or renovated spaces for licensed day-care facilities.
Compass Daycare did not receive New Spaces Fund assistance but will be offering the subsidized rate made possible by Provincial programs
The centre will be located beside Sooke Elementary School where they will provide care for infants and toddlers, starting on June 1st. They also plan to open a second preschool location in the near future.
“I have staff members who live in Sooke and they came to me and asked if we could open a location there. It seemed like a great idea and now, we’re ready to go,” said Jennifer Shaw, the owner of Compass Day Care.
The new spaces come as welcome relief to families unable to find licensed day-care facilities in the community.
Jayna Forgie, the manager of Sooke’s Playland daycare, said she welcomes the new facilities and hopes they can be put into place soon.
“It gets very frustrating to have to tell people that we’re full and they’re out of luck. This community is growing and we have many young families moving here looking for care,” Forgie said. “I hate having to tell parents looking for space ‘no’ almost every day.”
It’s a problem common across the province, said Shawn Nygren of the Early Childhood Educators of B.C.
“Two-thirds of the mothers in B.C. are in the workforce, but only one-in-five pre-school children have access to a licensed day-care spot,” Nygren said.
“It’s a place where the government is struggling and a real opportunity for municipalities and particularly the school districts to step up and help with what is really a crisis.”
The shortfall in licensed spaces is often filled with what is technically known as license-not-required childcare. These spaces are located in private homes where a person decides to offer care for a child in the community.
But Emily Gatwick, executive director of the Early Childhood Educators of B.C., said unlicensed child-care providers are not trained professionals and believes families are best served by a high-quality, accountable system of care.
The Sooke Family Resource Society has a record of nine licensed group daycares in Sooke. These facilities are regulated under the B.C. Community Care and Assisted Living Act. Staff must be qualified and the numbers of children are limited by square footage in the facility and a set child-to-staff ratio.
There are also 11 family day-care providers in Sooke where a part of a family home has been transformed into a licensed daycare, but where no requirement for the operators to have an early childhood educator certificate.
Daphne Raymond, manager of the Sooke Family Resource Society, said that she is aware of only one license-not-required operation, but added there are doubtlessly more in the community.