Valemount needs three times the childcare spaces it currently has. That is the result of an assessment by consultant Jared Smith.
The Valemount Childcare Needs Assessment & Strategy quantified and formalized what many parents and agencies like the Valemount Children’s Activity Society already knew.
“Waitlists for licensed childcare spaces in Valemount often exceed two or three years. Many parents are adding unborn children to the waitlist at [the daycare] shortly after finding out they are pregnant.” He said in some cases, kids age-out of the infant-toddler category before they get a spot.
Across the province there is a substantial shortage of childcare, but Valemount’s shortage is more acute. The province on average has spaces for 17% of children under 5, Valemount has space for just 13.5%. More than half of parents say they would enroll their children if there was room.
Smith said that the lack of childcare impacts the community’s economic growth through reduced labour force participation rates and reduced immigration.
He saw evidence of the repercussions in the results of a survey he conducted.
“People are changing career paths, considering moving away from Valemount, or declining promotions because they just don’t have the option of licensed childcare,” he said.
Smith said there isn’t a lot of private childcare either, but he contends there is a business case for it.
People who want to provide licensed childcare in their homes can care for up to 7 children. It requires a minor training program and a home inspection, but there are grants available to help with required renovations and grants for the training.
The study finds that many parents who are lucky enough to have kids in childcare are missing out on being part of a new program called the Affordable Childcare Benefit. It reduces the amount families have to pay for childcare. Only about 16% of parents have signed up for the program. Other communities have a participation rate of 75%.
Smith said there is an opportunity to bring down the cost for parents, pay their workers better and bank money to improve their facilities.
Thankfully the work to build more childcare space is already underway. Council provided land in principle for a new childcare centre when
Robson Valley Community Services requested it in April.
The needs assessment and strategy will feed into these efforts.