'Crisis situation': New Kamloops daycare fills quickly, underlines childcare crunch | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Crisis situation': New Kamloops daycare fills quickly, underlines childcare crunch

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A new childcare centre is opening in Kamloops after one and a half years of preparing the building and it still won't meet the need for childcare spaces in the city.

At Gateway Children's Centre their 55-child capacity is nearly filled with many families signing up before they saw the building or met any of the staff.

"A lot enrolled before it was even up and running," executive director Natalie Statham said. "A lot of them out of a dire need for childcare just said, 'Sign me up.'"

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The 3,500 square-foot daycare in the basement of the Gateway City Church was renovated inside and out with the help of a provincial grant. They started their three programs in the beginning of the month and the grand opening is scheduled for today, Sept. 22.

Statham said she couldn't disclose how much the B.C. government gave to the church to renovate the space, but it paid for heating and air conditioning improvements, bathrooms and three outdoor play spaces.

For Statham, the demand for space at her daycare is an indication there is an enormous need in Kamloops.

With the possibility of childcare spaces at Ralph Bell Elementary being lost to return its use to elementary students, she said they'll be enrolling some of those children in the fall of 2022.

"There is a huge, huge need for childcare. I get a minimum of two calls a day for care," Statham said. "There's no where for them to go because the wait lists are so long."

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The demand for childcare spaces can fluctuate, so it's difficult to collect data that compares available spaces to the amount that is needed, family service director at the Kamloops YMCA, Maureen Doll, said.

When new spaces become available, they fill up quickly.

"Well it changes everyday, but I can say right now in Kamloops... childcare is at a crisis situation," she said.

At some daycares in Kamloops, there may physically be spaces available for children, but it's a difficult field to maintain staff to care for those children.

"Part of the problem is it’s a field seen as step down from education, the wages are low and cost of living is rising," she said. "Most sites that run a wait list, many don’t even both, but those that do are at a year-long."

According to Doll, this is nothing new. Childcare staffing has been at "crisis levels," but worsening, over the last ten years. 

She remains hopeful, however, that government programs can be helpful at subsidizing wages for early childhood educators and grant funding can help capital projects, like Gateway Children's Centre, in lightening start up costs.

The Gateway Children's Centre is a non-profit run by a board of directors and the facility is located at 163 Oriole Rd.

Statham said by coordinating with the Gateway Church, they base their programs on Christian values. They offer some Christian teachings like prayers before meals and the pastor will tell stories and sing songs.

"Some of the staff are non-Christian," she said. "But we are affiliated with the church - we use their space."

Statham said Gateway Children's Care is inclusive to everyone and they are upfront and fully transparent with all families that enrol their children to their programs.

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"We have some families who follow different religions and they're OK with it. I think the key is being very transparent," she said.

Gateway offers a program for children aged 30-months to five years, a pre-school program, and a before and after school program.

Statham said the 30-month to 5 year program is filled, but there are some spaces available in the before and after school program, as well as the pre-school.

Provincial capital funding came from the Childcare B.C. New Spaces fund.

A ribbon-cutting event will be held today, Sept. 22, at 11 a.m. and Statham said Mayor Ken Christian will be in attendance.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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