Keremeos explores the need for more child care support

Keremeos explores the need for more child care support

Currently there is an acute need for spaces for younger children

The Village of Keremeos has joined the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) in exploring the need for additional child-care support.

Keremeos, like many communities throughout the region, needs additional support for child-care programs and operations.

“We have only one preschool and one child care-centre that’s licenced that I’m aware of,” said Stacey Lebeau, who works for the Lower Similkameen Community Services Society.

“It was just a couple of years ago, I knew a family that actually had to drive into Penticton to drop their child off at daycare to come back to work here. That’s how tight it is.”

The need for child care in Keremeos runs across a broad range of ages, but there is an acute need for spaces for younger children.

“We even had trouble bringing back our front desk volunteer co-ordinator, because she just recently had a child and there’s not a place that takes infants,” said Lebeau. “The child centre we do have is from three to up to six I believe, they don’t have an infant and toddler care.”

That lack of child care leaves families with few options. They can make a trip out to Penticton to leave their children there, or a parent has to stay off from work.

“We work with a group that provides free child care just so some of the families can join, which is our yoga group,” said Lebeau. “Everyone else is just kind of in-home, a friend-of-a-friend, that kind of thing for child care around here. It’s definitely needed.”

To address the situation, Keremeos council recently approved a proposal for a joint application with the RDOS for the Union of B.C. Municipalities child care planning fund grant. Through the grant, they aim to collect data on child-care needs, create an inventory of existing child-care spaces and establish targets and plans to meet those targets for the next 10 years.

“It’s a regional survey to look into the needs for child-care places, ” said Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer. “There are shortages of child-careplaces all over B.C. This is a means, a tool, to figure out hotspots to put more attention to.”

Under the 2018 provincial budget, the B.C. government expanded the amount of money allocated for child care with two funds; the child care planning fund and the child care space creation fund.

The planning fund assists communities in creating plans for expanding child care by gathering data and designing plans to meet their needs, as well as increasing the chance and amount of support from the government to bring those plans to fruition.

Once the application is in place, and a plan is ready, the communities can then apply for other funds from the government including the child care space creation fund.

“We’ve applied through the regional district so it’s region-wide,” said Bauer.

“For people who work in Keremeos but live in Cawston, Olalla or in the other outlying areas. We want to know how many people are out there who need child care places.”

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