A Kamloops city councillor sees opportunity amid what she considers a child care “crisis” in Kamloops.
Dale Bass suggested looking at empty city spaces or changing zoning for smaller day cares.
“The opportunities are in complete alignment with how we’ve dealt with housing,” Bass said.
“We needed some housing, ‘Oh, we own some city property on Mission Flats, let’s put some housing there.’ I think we can do the same thing with child care.”
The city wants to create an inventory of child-care spaces as Kamloops families grapple with lengthy waitlists filled with unborn children. Information released in Tuesday’s agenda from a Dec. 11 closed council meeting reveals the city is applying for provincial funding for up to $25,000 from the Community Child Care Planning Program to create the inventory.
The province previously announced an expanded expenditure of more than $1 billion over three years, including the creation of 22,000 licensed child-care spaces.
Child care falls under the provincial purview and City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said the city would act as a facilitator and would not operate child-care facilities.
“From our perspective, we’re not in child care right now — council said that — but do we want to partner? Don’t we want to partner?” Trawin said.
“If we did partner, what does that look like? Is that partnership just city buildings? Until we know what the need is and what’s out there, it’s pretty tough to do anything else.”
Meanwhile, families in Kamloops are struggling to find child care.
Mother and lawyer Jessica Fisher returned to work on Monday after giving birth to a girl last spring.
Husband Derek is taking over on paternity leave, but the couple needs part-time child care in May. To no avail, Fisher has put her name on three waitlists, dating back to before her child was born.
“I got told to start on it before you give birth. That’s how I found out, just from word of mouth,” Fisher said.
“But I wasn’t as aggressive as I apparently should have been.”
Bass has been on the Kamloops Child Development Centre board for five years and said the waitlist for babies is several years in length.
“We have parents coming in putting down deposits so that they might have a space, they just might have a space,” she said. “We are turning away people constantly.”
Bass said she was “thrilled” when city administration recommended the provincial funding application, noting the local economy is impacted by child-care shortages.
“If mom and dad can’t find day care, mom and dad aren’t going to work and, nine times out of 10, it’s mom who’s not going back to work,” Bass said. “In today’s world, most families can’t exist on dad’s income or just mom’s income.”
Meanwhile, the Fishers are hoping a space becomes available in the next few months, but are making other plans.
“I’m going to have to be asking my parents and Derek’s parents and my sister to help,” Fisher said.
“And some people don’t have that. Luckily, we do.”