City of Penticton granted funding to build new facility to address child care crisis

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The child care shortage in Penticton has been an issue for parents for years-- and now the City of Penticton is trying to tackle the problem. Shelby Thom reports on the city's initiative, and what child care operators say is hampering their efforts to open more licensed spaces.

The City of Penticton is welcoming provincial funding to create more desperately needed child care spaces in the South Okanagan where many young families are struggling to find child care.

The city has received $2.9 million to replace the Edmonton Avenue Centre with a new childcare facility, according to a press release issued Friday.

In partnership with the city, OneSky Community Resources will lead the design, construction and operation of the new building, which will add up to 116 additional child care spaces.

“On behalf of Penticton city council and parents of children who will benefit from the added child care spaces, I’d like to thank the province for this grant and the economic value it will bring through the construction of a new facility,” said Penticton mayor John Vassilaki.

Read more: Penticton, B.C., parents scramble to find child care as city develops action plan

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OneSky, which operates eight child care centres in the region, said the new facility will support young families in the community.

“Before COVID, we knew that more quality, affordable child care was an important need for families. We appreciate the support of the province of B.C. to help improve this vital resource for families in Penticton,” said executive director Tanya Behardien.

The city says it’s preparing to initiate the process for a zoning amendment to add “daycare” as a permitted use in Kiwanis Park.

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The City of Penticton says staff will compile data on the child care shortage and present the findings and an action plan to city council in December.

Penticton has experienced a child care crisis for years.

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All spaces within licensed child care facilities are full. Some waitlists, especially for infant-toddler programs, total two years and other operators have closed waitlists because they are already too long.

Behardien previously told Global News the root of the problem is a lack of qualified staff to fill all the licensed spaces available.

“The challenge is largely with the labour market,” Behardien said.

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

“There are not enough early years professionals with the required credentials or degrees to meet licensing standards.”

Behardien said the biggest challenge she hears from parents is access to licensed child care for infants and toddlers aged three and under.

At the city’s newest licensed child care facility, Queens Park, the YMCA says it’s also struggling with a labour shortage.

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“This is a very challenging situation in the South Okanagan compared to the Central Okanagan due to the lack of post-secondary certification options,” said Danielle Miranda, the general manager of child care at the YMCA’s Okanagan branch.

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“This lack of options makes it difficult to open more or new licensed, affordable and safe child care locations.”

Penticton is one of 35 communities to receive funding to create additional quality, licensed child care spaces through the Childcare BC program.