The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District is developing a regional child care plan and wants to hear from families and child care providers.
The provincial government recently announced a $3 billion investment in the child care sector over the next three years. Funding for the creation of new child care spaces is underway and will continue until 22,000 new spaces have been created.
In order to ensure that community needs are met, the ACRD has hired three local consultants with backgrounds in supporting healthy child, family and community development to organize a Childcare Planning Across the Alberni Clayoquot project. The project was started in May, and consultants Marcie DeWitt, Maggie Hodge Kwan and Tracy Smyth are currently surveying families and child care providers to determine what is working and what is still needed.
“We’re all former Early Years coordinators,” explained DeWitt. “So we have an interest in it and want our community to do well.”
The first part of the project involves creating an inventory of current child care spaces in the region, which will ultimately lead to a community child care space creation action plan—hopefully completed by the end of 2019.
The survey looks at what types of child care different families use, any barriers that have been met along the way and what the “ideal” child care scenario will look like for Alberni Valley and West Coast families.
“We want to be able to hear from families, what is working and not working,” said DeWitt.
“So that [future plans] suit the needs of who’s living here,” Hodge Kwan added.
The project will also include a review of zoning bylaws and OCPs in order to form recommendations for local governments and stakeholders to “formalize” child care space creation.
The information gathered through these plans will be shared with the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development, and may inform future provincial investments in child care space creation.
“We know that our current provincial government is interested in investing in childcare,” said Hodge Kwan. “Hopefully [this project] informs the next steps, in terms of what could be coming provincially.”
DeWitt and Hodge Kwan were at the ACRD board meeting on Wednesday, June 26 to provide an update on the project. The survey for parents, they explained, has already received 200 responses representing more than 400 kids in the region.
“We’re really excited and encouraged by the response from the community,” said DeWitt.
Hodge Kwan explained that most of the responses so far suggest that childcare is difficult to find, difficult to afford and not flexible in schedule. On the West Coast especially, there is a desire for infant and toddler care, while responses from Port Alberni express a need for “smaller” child care centres.
So far, consultants have made contact with all licensed child care centres in the region. In the coming months, they also plan to hold a number of focus groups in order to pull together a group of stakeholders.
The survey for families can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ACRDChildCare. It is open to families with children under the age of 13 who have accessed or will access child care. All responses will be strictly confidential and will be aggregated and reported as anonymous, although there is an option to enter your name and phone number into a prize draw for a family pack at the end.
The survey runs until July 31.