Struggle to find daycare made worse by closure of Toddler’s Corner
One of two childcare centres in Clarenville will shut its doors permanently on Christmas Eve, forcing parents on a search for childcare in a town that’s already critically short on spaces.
© Shawn Hayward photo
Lesley Crane plays with her children at her home in Shoal Harbour on Dec. 9. Crane has to look for a new daycare provider now that her daycare is closing for good on Christmas Eve.
And help isn’t coming anytime soon, because the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services rejected a proposal to create a public child-care centre in Clarenville.
Toddler’s Corner on Manitoba Drive is closing due to lack of qualified early childhood education (ECE) staff, according to owner Lori Peddle. The privately-run daycare has been open for 18 years and cares for 23 children on a full-time basis.
“It’s been a constant battle,” she said. “It’s always our main issue. The children are the easy part. The parents have always been good. It’s always finding qualified ECE staff and keeping them.”
Toddler’s Corner currently has three staff, including Peddle, and Peddle says she would need three more to keep it running.
An early childhood educator working from home can get a $6,660 grant per year if he or she has a Level I certification in the field, and $4,660 per year for Level II or higher. A Level I ECE at a regulated child care centre can get a supplement of $6,660, and at Level II it's $10,000.
Peddle says with Level I ECEs making $12 an hour and Level IIs making $15, the subsidy isn’t high enough to attract people to the profession.
Peddle says staff can start a home-based business and make more money than they could working at Toddler’s Corner.
With no chance of finding staff with ECE training, Peddle decided to close permanently on Dec. 24.
“The hardest part is disappointing people and leaving them with no options,” she said. “Clarenville is such a growing community. It shouldn’t be the problem that it is. Some of them are nervous they might even have to quit their job.”
The only other child-care centre is Clarenville Day Care in Shoal Harbour, and it’s currently at capacity and has a wait list.
Lesley Crane is a registered nurse who takes her two-and-a-half year old son and a five-year-old daughter to Toddler’s Corner. Crane said she doesn’t know what to do now that the daycare is closing.
“It’s going to be a huge problem,” she said. “I’m a shift worker. It’ll be a day-to-day, what’s going to happen with the kids.”
The only option now is taking her children to a home-based daycare but Crane says she’d prefer to have her kids in a registered daycare centre because they provide food based on the Canada Food Guide, have scheduled outdoor time, no televisions and it prepares them for school.
“It was a super positive experience for the kids,” she said. “It was such a good experience for them.”
A proposal by the Neighbourhood of Friends Family Resource Centre to create a public child-care centre was rejected by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services in mid-November.
“It is with great sadness that I report we are no longer able to assist in the implementation of a publicly supported child care facility and program for the community,” stated the board chairman in the group’s annual report. “The amount of monies required and the support needed to bring the project from concept to reality is not available. Therefore, the Board has decided to discontinue its efforts at this time.”
"Some of them are nervous they might even have to quit their job.” - Lori Peddle, daycare owner
In February the Neighbourhood of Friends got $11,200 to hire a development worker for 12 weeks to “explore options for the development of regulated child care spaces in the Clarenville area,” according to a spokesperson for the department responsible for youth and family services.
A source told The Packet a $300,000 proposal to renovate a 3,000-square-foot commercial space on Laskey Place for use as a child-care centre with a capacity for 44-children was turned down as being too expensive.
Meanwhile, Paul Davis, minister of child, youth and family services, told The Packet last week Clarenville is a priority for regulated childcare.
Clarenville will be one of 10 target areas for growth in child-care services, according Davis. The areas haven’t been finalized yet but Clarenville will be among them.
As a target area, Clarenville is supposed to have priority for new child-care spaces, according to the province’s 10-year child care strategy, entitled “Caring for our Future.”
The document states that “focused and targeted efforts will be initiated in these areas on the creation of regulated child care homes and child care centres.”
According to Davis, the provincial government has increased child-care spaces from 4,600 to 7,800 across the province since 2003. Yet that doesn’t meet the need for child care, according to a discussion paper released last month by Memorial University’s Harris Centre.
Newfoundland and Labrador spends less on early childhood education than any other province, according to the discussion paper, and early childhood educators in this province are among the lowest paid in the country.
In 2012, 60 per cent of children aged five and younger had working mothers, while only 19 per cent of these children had access to licensed child care, according to the paper.
“Clarenville as you know is a rapidly growing community,” Davis said. “Development is significant. The influx of young families and growth there is very strong. We know there is a demand for regulated childcare spaces within the community.”
Crane and the parents of 21 other children know that already. They’ll spend the Christmas season trying to find someone to look after their kids once the holidays are over.
“Clarenville is growing, there’s lots of money around,” said Crane. “The need has been here for a very long time.”