Hundreds of families remain on child-care waitlists in Kamloops

Each month, Natasha Hartson pulls out her spreadsheet of licensed child-care facilities in Kamloops, B.C., where she and her family live, and starts calling around to see if she can get her daughter into one of them. 

“I’m sure they don’t want to hear from me again because they don’t have a different answer for me, but I just want to make sure I’m top of mind,” she said. 

Hartson is one of hundreds of parents in Kamloops, and across the province, struggling to find licensed, affordable child care. 

A recent survey of nearly 2,400 people by the Kamloops-Thompson school district found that 94 per cent of participants believe more child care is needed in the community, and 33 per cent said they personally need child care right now. 

Karyn Sutherland, executive director at Children’s Circle Childcare Centre, said her facility has space for up to 170 children, but their waitlist is 800 names long. 

“It’s very difficult to take the calls from families that are searching for care in town,” she said.

The centre was established to serve Interior Health employees, such as doctors and nurses, who needed child care near the Royal Inland Hospital. Additional spaces are available to the community at large. Sutherland said about 200 names on the waitlist are Interior Health employees. 

Sutherland said she herself had to make a difficult choice, 20 years ago, as a mother of three young children. 

“I gave up my career,” she said. 

“When I started adding up the daycare bills for three children, it didn’t make sense anymore. I feel for [the people on the waitlist]. I’m empathetic.”

She said the centre is working to make more spaces available, but that it takes time.

Staff shortages

Karolyn Hendra, an assistant teaching professor with Thompson Rivers University’s early childhood education program, said there are 300 people on the three-year waiting list for the child-care centre at the university alone. 

Part of the problem, she suggested, is that early childhood educators are leaving the industry early in their careers.

“We have full classes every year, lots of interest in the program,” she said. 

“We’re pumping out educators and they’re getting into stressful work conditions, low recognition, lots of times low wages and no benefits. Stressful work environments, no mentorship.”

Additionally, Hendra says the cost of unsubsidized child care is prohibitive for many. It can cost up to $2,000 a month for toddlers and infants in full-time care, she said. 

The province introduced child-care fee reductions in 2018, and has continued to open new subsidized child-care spaces ever since. 

Just last week, the province announced that another 700 child-care spaces in Vancouver, Surrey, Squamish and Houston now qualify for $10-a-day child care, reducing the cost of daycare by an estimated $920 per child. 

While that’s promising, it may not be enough — Sutherland said it’s unlikely the hundreds of families on the waitlist at Children’s Circle will ever get a child care spot in town. 

“It would be great to have more centres around town so that we could provide space. It’s honestly heartbreaking.”


Posted in CBC