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'We don't want to see our community suffer': Assiniboia parents work to address child care crisis

A group of parents in Assiniboia are trying to solve the town’s child care crisis.

Chantel Hannah, board co-chair for the Golden South Childcare Centre, had trouble finding child care services for her son when she was preparing to go back to work after her maternity leave.

Chatting with other moms in the area, she quickly realized there were dozens of other families in the same position.

“Just a literal crisis of moms not being able to go back to work and then also not being able to put money back into the community,” Hannah said.

According to Hannah, a shortage of childcare spaces is forcing mothers to extend their maternity leave or quit their jobs and collect employment insurance. Others are relying on family members and grandparents to help take care of their kids, she said.

Hannah is part of a group helping fundraise for a new licensed childcare facility in Assiniboia: the Golden South Childcare Centre.

“We’ve had great community support, but without government grants and government help, it will be years before we would financially get to where we need to be,” she said.

The board has secured a building and is in the process of renovating. However, Hannah said they only have a portion of the funds needed for the next phase of renovations and need to fundraise about $200,000 more in total.

The board of the Golden South Childcare Centre is in the middle of renovating a former church to be used as the daycare facility. (Photo source: Golden South Childcare Centre Facebook page)

The town currently has one licensed child care facility with 45 spots, and a waitlist of 30 names long, according to Hannah. The next closest licensed facility is in Limerick, about a 10-minute drive out of town.

“There’s a lot of people who are resorting to unlicensed day homes where there are no regulations,” Hannah said, adding that the cost of unregulated day homes is sometimes triple the cost of licensed facilities, creating more emotional and financial stress.

Two licensed day homes recently opened in Assiniboia, bringing the total to three, according to Hannah.

“We’re happy to have licensed day homes. They are a benefit, but they are still not enough,” she said.

“Even if we have 10 licensed day homes open up, that won’t provide the numbers of care that we have. We have the needs for so much more. We need bigger facilities.”

According to the board’s research, a lack of child care space has always been an issue in Assiniboia, as statistics suggest the birth rate has remained fairly consistent in the area.

“It is a crisis, it isn’t just a boom. It’s not a temporary thing and we don’t want to see our community suffer,” Hannah said.

While child care isn’t a new problem, it also isn’t a unique one.

A report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows 92 per cent of pre-kindergarteners in Saskatchewan live in what is called a childcare desert, which means there are more than three kids competing for every one licensed childcare space in their postal code area.

Saskatchewan has the highest percentage of children living in these deserts compared to the rest of the country.

Rural areas are more likely to be impacted, but urban centres including Regina are not unfazed.

The Ministry of Education has previously said the development of new child care spaces continues to be a priority.

Under an agreement with the federal government, a total of 523 centre spaces are in various stages of development in Regina. Additionally, more than 1,600 new home child care spaces have opened in the province since April 2021, according to the ministry.

However, some people in the child care industry say that is not the silver bullet to the province-wide issue.

“The government says here’s all these child care spaces that are opening up, let’s get kids into them. But we still can’t because there’s no one to run those spaces. There are no educators,” said Megan Schmidt, director of First Years Learning Centre in Regina.

Schmidt said a wave of educators left the profession during the pandemic and people are continuing to leave.

She said there has to be a multi-prong approach to finding a solution, which includes subsidizing child care, offering operating and maintenance grants, and creating a better environment for workers.

“The next step in the approach needs to be focusing on our educators,” she said. “We need to look at wages, we need to look at benefits and working conditions.”

Schmidt said new people need to be recruited to the field, as well as former educators need to be brought back. A full slate of educators will allow current and new child care centres to operate at full capacity, she added. Top Stories

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