Fall River Child Care Center has been struggling to stay open. During the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents were encouraged to keep their children at home, leaving the business with no income. Then, with the shift to pre-primary programs in schools, the demand for private pre-primary programs has decreased.
The owners, Lindsay Awalt and Molly Rogers, say that while discussing financial support options with the Department of Early Childhood Education and Development, they were advised to change their business model.
“They recommended that we change and lower the age group, because there is a demand in the area and full-day child care is a more sustainable program,” said Rogers.
That was in May, and that’s when the couple began the process to expand their license to include a daycare program for children ages 18 months to three years.
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“We went ahead and made all of our license changes, we had our health inspector, our fire inspector, we had our consultants and we reviewed all the documentation that we submitted.”
Throughout the summer, the center began renovations needed to accommodate younger children, which included installing additional fences, a washing and changing station, purchasing cots, and more toddler-appropriate toys.
Throughout the process, the plan was to open on September 13 and the final inspection with the department was scheduled for September 8.
“Our licensing officer came out on September 8 to do the final inspection where they assured us that there would be no reason why we wouldn’t have our license to start operating on Monday morning,” Awalt said.
But that license never came. The owners say they were later told that because of the Comprehensive Plan of Canada agreement Nova Scotia signed with the federal government on July 13 to bring in a $ 10-a-day daycare, they would have to switch to a nonprofit facility, resign. to current funds to receive a new license or keep your funds and maintain the current license, which was for preschool mornings and school-age children.
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Rogers says they decided to forfeit their funding to expand their age group, but says the department once again recommended that they delay signing the funding termination documents until they had more details about the Early Learning Child Care Agreement in all of Canada and what that would entail.
However, the owners decided that they would go ahead with their opening in mid-September, as nine families had already registered for care.
“We had families waiting for attention, and waiting for attention, and we thought maybe it would be a few days for that license and maybe some paperwork problems. Basically, we didn’t realize it would be a two-month disaster roller coaster, ”Rogers said.
Kayla Kearney is among those who had already registered her son after taking an extended maternity leave of 18 months.
“When it opened for (18-month-olds), I was able to go back to work,” Kearney said.
“I literally just started a new job at the IWK in the autism preschool program that I couldn’t have without this child care.”
Kearney says she knew the license had not been officially granted, but was not concerned as it was in the works, and says the center has been amazing for her son.
“He absolutely loves it. He is thriving, he is meeting new friends, I can already say that his vocabulary and gestures are going very well and this is due to his attention to detail, “he said.
Department suspends licensing
In mid-October, a memorandum was sent to child care center operators announcing that because the province had signed the Early Learning Child Care Agreement across Canada, the province would be prioritizing the creation and operation of new spaces. in -profit, publicly funded child care sector.
“Nova Scotia will suspend all applications for new spaces in licensed for-profit child care programs effective immediately for six months until operators have had an opportunity to review their options to join the all-Canada system.”
Rogers and Awalt say they are on board the Canada-wide Early Learning Child Care Agreement and are open to switching to a model that is better suited to that when more information becomes available, but at this time there are no details on what it would look like. . .
“Our license was in process since May and we have been waiting since September,” said Rogers.
“So if they couldn’t process a license from October 15 onwards, why didn’t they give us a license before then?”
Parents ask the department to grant the license
On Thursday, November 5, a representative from the Department of Early Childhood Development stopped at the child care center and served notices to families stating that because the center was not licensed, they would no longer be able to care for children under the age of three years. .
“We are completely devastated and heartbroken,” said Jane Warner, whose daughter has been attending daycare since September.
“I just don’t know what to think or what to do, we don’t have childcare along with all these other families who don’t have childcare,” he said Monday.
“We feel like the government is just not helping this child care center and therefore it is affecting all of these families.”
On Monday morning, several of the families came together and appeared at the Department of Early Childhood Education and Development, hoping to speak with the minister or other department staff to plead their case and expand the license for the nursery to allow children from 18 months to three years.
“Having full-time childcare for children under the age of three is absolutely essential because there are no other childcare available, licensed facilities available in the area for children of that age group. “‘
The families waited at the department’s office on Brunswick Street for more than three hours, but no one met with them.
Global News requested an interview with the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, but she was not available.
In a statement, the department says: “This center discussed the option of exiting the Canada-wide system, which would mean that families would not be eligible for $ 10 per day child care. There is currently a hiatus in the new licenses to ensure that all parents and their children in the future benefit from our universal child care system. “
Parents say they are frustrated that the government has not licensed this nursery and that while they support universal child care, full implementation of the program is still years away and need child care now.
“I don’t think it’s fair at all. These guys were in the process of changing the license even before this was implemented, so this shouldn’t affect them as far as I’m concerned, ”said mother Karla DeYoung.
Kearney, a mother of two, agrees that there is no reason to delay the license in this case.
“They’re saying it’s going to be late 2022 to really see (universal child care) come forward and see the $ 10 a day kick in by 2026, our kids will be in school by then, this isn’t going to help us,” Kearney said,
“I understand the importance of this, and I fully agree, but I still feel that in the meantime, this license must be presented immediately.”
The department’s statement also says that they will connect with anyone who wants to discuss their individual child care needs and support families in helping them find a space.
“I definitely don’t want to send him anywhere else, I refused to send him anywhere else,” said Kearney, who notes that the only help he has received so far is suggestions from department staff that he send his son to an emergency center. childcare. at Enfield.
“I can’t go past my child care center that I could be sending my son to every day to drive to Enfield and then drive to IWK. It’s absolutely ridiculous, it doesn’t make sense. “
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