Daycares open during pandemic see low turnout of essential workers’ kids

Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare.
Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare. Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

A number of Winnipeg child care centres — home-based or otherwise — are remaining open during the coronavirus pandemic to provide care for the children of workers whose jobs are deemed essential.

Despite their willingness to stay open during the crisis, however, some providers are finding frustration in the lack of kids actually showing up, despite the province’s efforts at assigning essential workers to open daycares.

“I think one of the challenges that happened last week was that a number of programs said yes, they would stay open and then spent the majority, if not all, of last week with one-to-three children as opposed to the recommended 16 children,” the Manitoba Childcare Association’s Jodie Kehl told 680 CJOB.

“They stayed open staffed for 16 children…but unfortunately due to a lack of coordination of matching essential service workers needing care with programs that were staying open, programs were left staying open with very few children.”

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One of those centres is Can You Imagine Preschool Care and Education Centre. Its director, Tracy Cosser, said there was only one child at the centre for all of last week.

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“This week we have three,” she said. “We have two more starting on Monday, which puts us at five.

“I have been given multiple lists of people (the province has) matched with our centre. I’ve got zero children out of those lists. Usually, the child is not the age that we’re accepting — we’re accepting preschool but they’re school age or infant — they need longer hours than we’re offering, they maybe have found alternate care already, or have just chosen and said, ‘OK, I don’t need anything now.’

“We want to help… we’re here, we’re waiting for these kids, but they just haven’t come to us yet.”

Cosser said she’s curious to see whether the list of essential jobs will expand as the pandemic progresses, and how that will affect her daycare.

Kehl said the childcare association is in regular contact with the province, and that her recommendation is for existing daycares — like Cosser’s — that are already open and ready for more children, be filled up before any consideration is made to opening any further facilities in the province.

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“Let’s exhaust the existing programs that are open, willing, licensed, insured, knowledgeable… let’s exhaust those first before we start expanding the system,” she said.

“In the midst of a pandemic, it doesn’t seem logical to try to be expanding the system when there are centres like Tracy’s that are saying ‘we’re here, we want to step up and we want to provide that care for families’.”

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