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Lack of child care spaces in Prince George

If you have young children, this isn’t news.

Prince George has a shortage of child care spaces. That’s the finding of the 2020 City of Prince George Child Care Action Plan, presented to council Monday.

“Shortages for child care spaces were identified for children of all ages; however, the most substantial shortages were for infant and toddler care (0-36 months) and school age care (ages 6-12),” reads the report. “Families also experienced difficulty accessing care that meets their specific needs and preferences, including location, timing/schedules, staff qualifications, and programming.”

This Child Care Action Plan for the City of Prince George was developed as part of the Community Child Care Planning Program Grant from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

The report determined that there are 194 licensed child care programs in Prince George

representing 2,574 child care spaces. Based on 2019 child population estimates, Prince George currently has 18.7 spaces per 100 children.

Prince George’s overall ratio of 18.7 spaces per 100 children compares to 18.4 for British Columbia overall, and 27.2 nationally. Within British Columbia, Richmond had 22.4 spaces per 100 population, and the City of Vancouver had 18.5.12 Amongst the provinces, Quebec had the highest ratio, at 55.1, followed by New Brunswick (29.2), Prince Edward Island (23.2), and the Northwest Territories (22.2).10 On the lower end were Saskatchewan (8.4), Nunavut (10.9), Newfoundland (12.9), and Alberta (16.0).

According to the report, the inability to access suitable child care had multiple consequences, including parents leaving their employment, working reduced hours, or changing positions, or accepting spaces in unsatisfactory child care arrangements. An existing shortage of ECE trained staff was identified as a critical issue underlying shortages of quality child care spaces. In particular, shortages of Early Childhood Education trained staff affects access to child care for underserved populations, such as children who require extra supports.

The report offers several recommendations to the city including:

  • New child care operations supported by the City could be required to provide a plan for the recruitment and retention of staff to avoid ‘poaching’ qualified staff from existing child care operations.
  • Consider working with the College of New Caledonia to identify possibilities for maximizing enrolment and graduation rates for early childhood training, and increasing access to the Infant/Toddler and Special Needs certifications.
  • Similar to programs that allow students in grades 11 and 12 to access trades training from the College of New Caledonia, a program allowing high school students to complete ECE training could help address the shortage of trained workers. This model is currently utilized at other post-secondary institutions in B.C.
  • To more efficiently utilize the pool of qualified staff available in Prince George, the City could support and/or facilitate the development of an external casual pool database. The database could reduce the need for duplication of paperwork (e.g., criminal record checks).
  • Examine the possibility of facilitating the local transferability of the credentials of people with early childhood education training from outside of B.C. and Canada.
  • Focus space creation on infant/toddler and school age care. While there are shortages of spaces for all ages, care for ages 0-36 months and school age care have the largest shortages. Wherever possible, consider the possibility of creating new spaces for school age care on school property.
  • Prioritize the creation of spaces in locations such as the Hart and downtown, where child care is in high demand and difficult to access. Early Development Instrument (EDI) scores also demonstrate that children in these locations are vulnerable in one or more of the five scales (physical health & well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development or communication skills and general knowledge).
  • Create spaces by partnering with providers with a proven track record in child care delivery. As an example, consider arranging meetings with stakeholders such as Northern Health during the planning phases.
  • To increase seamless and convenient access to services families use and need, municipal planning should consider possibilities for co-location of services when developing new child care spaces. Examples could include recreation facilities, libraries, and social service organizations.
  • Consider a ‘hub’ model for child care with co-located services, which could also benefit underserved populations by reducing barriers to accessing child care.
  • Child care located within or near the University Hospital of Northern BC could be beneficial as it would not only serve the large number of health care workers who have children, but could also potentially provide convenient access to services available within the hospital and the Health Unit.
  • Support the development of child care offering flexible schedules and hours. There are very few spaces in Prince George to accommodate the needs of people who do shift work and/or work part time. Examples of non-mainstream schedules and times that are particularly in demand include part-time care, extended hours, statutory holidays, weekends, overnight, and drop-in/occasional care.
  • Advocate to other levels of government on the Universal Child Care Model. Currently, the Universal Child Care program is in a pilot phase. Advocating for the continuity of this program would ensure this program continues to benefit all families, and low income families in particular.

Council received the report without taking action.

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