(WATCH: The wait lists for many Edmonton after-school care programs are daunting. Kendra Slugoski has more on what many are calling a child care crisis.)
EDMONTON – As Edmonton parents face waiting lists hundreds-long for child care, the groups providing many kinds of care are also waiting – for space.
One child care program in Oliver had a waiting list between two and three years. Interested parents often sign up their children as soon as they find out they’re pregnant to get into the program.
Demand for spots in before- and after-school care programs is also reaching crisis levels.
The Terwillegar YMCA Child Care program has a waiting list between two and three years long. Siblings of children already in the program get first priority. The YMCA says demand in newer neighbourhoods continues to grow and most schools don’t have space available to set up after-school care.
“We have huge wait lists in the newer neighbourhoods where there’s just an abundance of kids,” said Candace Stecyk. “It’s unfortunate, but there’s just nothing we can do. We don’t have the space to open up new programs.”
She said the wait time will vary depending on the area of the city.
“Not able to find care for their child, and they have to go to work, and they just don’t have a lot of other options,” explained Stecyk. “We don’t have enough space. We could definitely open 100 more spaces in this community but we don’t have anywhere to put those kids… The other side of it is we don’t have enough workers.”
The YMCA had initially set up programs in several new schools, only to be forced out because teachers needed the classrooms. “We work with Edmonton public schools and Edmonton catholic schools, and they’re full too,” said Stecyk.
The Edmonton Catholic School Board recently voted to spend its own money and build modulars for out-of-school care at four of its new schools slated for construction, but that move has to be approved by the province. The Edmonton Public School Board says its mandate is education and the provincial government doesn’t fund child care spaces in schools.
Not willing to call the lack of space a crisis, Alberta’s human services minister says she wants to meet with the education minister and school boards.
“Having those real conversations about what we need to support families,” said Heather Klimchuk. “At the end of day, the majority of families are working and we know those after-school care spaces are absolutely critical as are all child care spaces as well.”
“We know that with the influx of Albertans coming here, we know that demands are increasing,” she said.
Those working in the field have some suggestions.
“A start would be to build schools with child care in mind that have designated space for child care. That would be a good start,” said Stecyk.
Klimchuk said schools are being built now with multi-use space in mind. She said another solution would be to partner with other groups in the community to find appropriate space.