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Lack of affordable, quality child care is a crisis in Penticton: parents

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More childcare spaces needed in the South Okanagan – Jun 27, 2019

Penticton mother Amanda Burnett is scrambling to find child care for her seven-month-old daughter, Sarah, before her maternity leave benefits end this November.

“I was told that she was 75th on the waitlist out of 77 and that she probably wouldn’t be getting into the daycare that her brother already goes to,” she told Global News.

Burnett said people shouldn’t have to forfeit their careers to have a family.

“It’s unfair, it’s unconstitutional to be told that you can’t go to work simply because you can’t find child care,” she said.

Burnett is not alone. Parents are facing lengthy waitlists across Penticton.

WATCH: ‘We’re very frustrated with the government;’ aspiring Penticton childcare providers in red tape limbo (October 2018) 

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‘We’re very frustrated with the government;’ aspiring Penticton childcare providers in red tape limbo – Oct 9, 2018

The Two Peas in a Pod child-care centre in Penticton opened five months ago and the waitlist for a coveted spot in the infant/toddler program is already two to three years long.

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“The demand for child care is super high,” said owner Kristen Armstrong.

Kristen Armstrong, owner of Two Peas in a Pod child-care centre in Penticton, B.C. said low compensation is driving away prospective early childhood educators. Shelby Thom\Global News

Child-care operators say the industry is facing a labour shortage with a lack of early childhood educators in B.C. and pay is a major sticking point.

READ MORE: Okanagan families demand answers after 70 biting incidents at PIB daycare

“They’re just not getting paid enough and that’s another reason a lot of people are not choosing this field,” Armstrong said.

Burnett also believes the root of the problem is a shortage of qualified workers.

“Early childhood educators deserve to earn a living wage, I think about every day they are with my son looking after him and they deserve better,” she said.

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Tina Bootsma is the owner of Kids Connection, another Penticton daycare. She said she is also struggling to recruit and retain staff.

If she doesn’t fill two vacancies by September she will be forced to turn families away.

READ MORE: West Kelowna to get much-needed child-care spaces at new Montessori school

“I spend at least 50 per cent of my time as an owner and a director looking for staff,” she told Global News on Thursday. “It is quite a stress on myself and the managers to try and find the right employees.”

Tina Bootsma, owner of Kids Connection daycare centre in Penticton, B.C. says she is struggling to recruit and retain staff. Shelby Thom\Global News

Katrina Chen, B.C.’s minister of state for child care, toured the Okanagan Similkameen Neurological Society (OSNS) child development centre in Penticton on Thursday.

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The centre is part of a pilot project offering $10-a-day child care but the program has run out of room and the waitlist is closed.

A universal child-care system could still be years away as there is no timeline on when the program could be rolled out permanently, province-wide.

Click to play video: 'Penticton childcare facility lands provincial funding; $10-a-day costs for parents' Penticton childcare facility lands provincial funding; $10-a-day costs for parents
Penticton childcare facility lands provincial funding; $10-a-day costs for parents – Nov 16, 2018

WATCH: Penticton child-care facility lands provincial funding; $10-a-day costs for parents (November 2018) 

“I think we are going to look at the results of the prototype sites and then figure out the 4-to-7 year plan,” Chen said.

Chen added that the province is increasing supports for wage enhancement and bursary programs to cover tuition costs to address the staffing recruitment and retention issue, but there’s no easy fix.

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In the meantime, Burnett is launching the Waitlisted Project B.C. — gathering stories from parents struggling to find affordable, quality child care.

READ MORE: Late government payments causing major financial burden for Okanagan daycares

“I’m using the stories that I’ve collected to advocate for a universal child-care system,” she said.

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