Child care and social services for nearly 600 kids are up in the air on Saturday after flash floods badly damaged a family services facility in Maple Ridge.
WATCH: Maple Ridge flooded amid unexpected thunderstorm
Walls, floors and carpets were inundated with water, and staff fear they could be contaminated or breeding mould.
“Everything’s gone. We’re just absolutely devastated,” Sanya Boatter with Start Smart told Global News.
“We opened this up 10 years ago and we started from scratch, and just to see everything gone and just to know that the little kiddos aren’t going to be able to come in here Monday morning is just… Where do you go?” she added.
Boatter said employees frantically phoned her Friday evening to say water was coming into the building while kids were still inside. She rushed to the facility to find water up to her knees in the parking lot and ankle-deep inside.
Boatter said it’s looking unlikely they’ll be able to reopen on Monday, a huge problem for the families of 180 children registered there.
“Obviously, the kids are our number one priority,” she said.
“(We’re) trying to find places for them to go where it’s safe and so we can provide the same service we do every day.”
Next door, the situation may be even worse.
The Ridge Meadows Child Development Centre serves about 400 kids per year, providing a variety of services ranging from speech and language therapy to physical therapy for kids with conditions like cerebral palsy to occupational therapy for kids with behavioural issues.
“They won’t be able to come in the building because the carpet has been flooded with basically sewer water. Not sewer water but drain water,” said executive director Trish Salisbury.
“We have black water and mould and we have kids who have compromised health conditions who we cannot have come into this building.”
She said insurance adjusters and remediation crews are on site, but it could be several months before the property is fit for use with kids again.
“We’re now just dealing with that shock of how are we going to continue to serve all those kids. We honestly can’t provide a skip in their care,” she said.
Salisbury said if there’s a silver lining, it’s that staff are able to work remotely with some clients, visiting the kids at their homes or other daycares, but some will be out of luck.
She also fears being shut down could mean other kids slip through the cracks.
“Families may come in here to refer their children, and we’re going to have a closed sign,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s hard for a family to acknowledge (they) need help, and if they see that closed sign they may not come back.”
Salisbury said her group is a non-profit, and while it does get some government funding to pay wages, all of the centre’s equipment and furniture was bought with donations.
Boatter said it’s too soon to say how much she’ll need to replace at the daycare but that there is one crucial area where the public can help: finding the daycare a temporary home.