Quesnel’s Child Care Resource and Referral Services says the area has a lack of care spaces for children under three. Black Press file photo

City of Quesnel hopes to access funding for more child care spaces

City working with CCRR to apply for grants to open up more daycare spots for infants and toddlers

Quesnel City Council is hoping to access funding to create more spaces for child care.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development has put forward two funding programs in partnership with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) to help local governments create more licensed child care spots.

The deadline to apply to the programs is Jan. 18, 2019. During discussion at Quesnel’s Jan. 8 City Council meeting, city manager Byron Johnson said the City had been approached by a child care service provider asking them to apply for the grants.

The Community Child Care Space Creation Program would provide up to $1 million to local governments to create new spaces for children age five and under.

The Community Child Care Planning Program would provide up to $25,000 in funding to local governments to develop an action plan to create future child care spaces.

According to Pat Colbourne, executive director of New Focus Society, which operates Quesnel’s Child Care Resource and Referral Services (CCRR), Quesnel has a great need for child care spaces.

“We are finding that we are woefully inadequate on infant and toddler spaces; that’s children under the age of 37 months,” Colbourne told the Observer this week.

In order to be licensed for children under three years old, providers must have a higher level of training and special licensing regulations, as well as a staff to child ratio of one to four (the ratio for children age three to five in a group daycare is one qualified staff member for every eight children).

For children up to kindergarten age, Colbourne said Quesnel has space for 235 children in licensed care facilities. She said the CCRR’s most recent statistics showed there were just under 600 children age zero to four in Quesnel in 2016.

“If there were that many kids here two years ago, the number is going to be a bit smaller now because we’ve had some loss from the community, but still, let’s say there’s a total of 700 kids in town [from zero to school age; around 5 years old] and 50 per cent of them need child care – that’s 350 spaces, and we have 235.”

Colbourne said there is also a lack of spaces for after-school and out-of-school care.

“It’s an economic problem. … If people find, ‘Well, I probably can’t get daycare,’ they are probably not going to move to Quesnel and work in Quesnel and contributed to the economy in Quesnel.”

Given the tight timeline to apply for the grants, city manager Johnson recommended on Jan. 8 that council pass a resolution to apply for only the Community Child Care Planning Program in order to access $25,000 in planning funding.

“We think at this point in time there probably is still work to be done around the development of a business case, development of a location and some preliminary costing on the plans to make sure that whatever is developed is actually doable. We are at the point where we would suggest that the city applies for the $25,000 first, so that we would be able to come up with a plan that needs to be done before we apply to the bigger program,” explained Johnson.

CCRR’s Colbourne had worked from November to put together the business case for the Community Child Care Space Creation Program; however, she too said with the Jan. 18 deadline, she’s run out of time to get the full application in, and the City of Quesnel had been unable to help her in that time – Simpson said at the council meeting that the City had been in between grant writers.

Colbourne will now work with City staff to apply for the Community Child Care Planning Program.

“It’s $25,000 to help the community look into the situation and get the down and dirty on the whole thing. So we are going to switch over and try to get that done, so at least we have more ammunition to use if we can do this again next year,” she said.

At the City Council meeting on Jan. 8, Mayor Bob Simpson also suggested council approach the Cariboo Regional District to find out if they’d be willing to collaborate on a planning project for the North Cariboo as a whole, in order to access an additional $25,000 for the region. He said he would reach out to CRD representatives at the next North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee meeting, which takes place Jan. 15.

The resolution to apply for the Child Care Planning Program was passed unanimously by council members.

READ MORE: Quesnel daycare chosen as one of B.C.’s $10-a-day pilot sites

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