Parents in the Tri-Cities are scrambling to find child care after a Port Coquitlam daycare closed suddenly.
Kendra Riley paid a $250 deposit in April to secure an after-school spot for her daughter at the Poco Dots Child Care Centre in September.
But three weeks after registering and paying, she shared the facility’s name in a Facebook group, and that’s when other parents reached out to warn her.
“Within minutes, two or three parents responded to my message and said, ‘Oh that daycare is closed. Their last day was last Thursday, they went under.”
Shannon Derrick, whose child was registered for an after-school spot this fall, also discovered the bad news through social media.
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“I was livid, I was absolutely livid, not only for myself having to find something else, but also for other parents who already had their children in care,” Derrick said.
Poco Dots is licensed to care for 18 children in its before and after-school program, as well as 16 children between the ages of three to five years.
In a letter sent to parents Tuesday, directors of the Poco Dots Daycare Society outline a series of concerns.
The letter states that staff threatened to quit earlier this year over their treatment and the physical state of the daycare.
The letter also states, “In addition to the staff issues, there was a total lack of oversight… When contacted, two of the three directors listed with the Registrar of Companies did not even know they were directors, and demanded they be removed.”
A new board of directors was appointed in January, but members say they inherited a financial mess and that the daycare currently faces $80,000 of debt. The directors say there were no records of deposits received from parents.
“It is very unlikely that after statutory payments, and payment of any secured debts of the Daycare, we will be in a position to fully reimburse anyone,” the letter states.
In January, the Fraser Health Authority investigated a complaint alleging concerns regarding the physical facility along with staff to child ratios and qualifications. A site inspection identified the need for repairs, and Poco Dots’ Board of Directors submitted a plan of action.
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When contacted, the Ministry of Children and Family Development also issued a statement.
“We feel for families affected by child care closures. Child care providers are independent of government, and any payment for services is between the parents and the child care facility directly. We hope that the family is able to resolve this issue soon,” it said.
The ministry added that parents may be able to take action through the Better Business Bureau. It said parents searching for childcare can use a provincial interactive map, or contact the Coquitlam Childcare Resource and Referral Centre.
Childcare advocate Sharon Gregson says the situation highlights the need for serious intervention in childcare.
“This is another indication of the childcare chaos that exists in B.C. The people who suffer most are the children of working families,” Gregson said.
The challenge for families now is to find space in other after school programs, but parents say all other nearby facilities are full with wait lists of up to three years long.
“We often say there is only enough childcare for one out of every five children. It’s even fewer for infants, but there is certainly not enough for after-school care,” said Gregson.
Riley says she is left feeling stressed and stuck.
“I know it’s very difficult to find before and after-school care. Now I’m left to start all over again, knowing that there are giant wait lists. I’ve basically got four months counting down to find something else.”