The problem with child care spaces is not quantity but quality.
That’s according to a survey done by the Early Years Coalition who’ve spoken with all licensed spaces and a number of parents looking to find the biggest problems facing them today.
As of November 2017, there were 671 licensed child care spaces in Fort McMurray, however, only 351 of these were being used by families.
Coalition Member Janet Huffman tells Mix News the reason comes down to lack of qualified staff.
“A couple of the centres said to us that they have rooms they could open but they don’t have enough staff to open them and we as childcare professionals want people who have an early learning and childcare background working in our centres with children.”
“Centres want to offer and have quality child care which means you have educated staff, that’s what we need.”
The location continues to be a big problem for parents.
Around 44 per cent of those surveyed said they will only look for care within 5 km of work or home, while 26 per cent said they would go past 10 km.
Huffman says this may not be the most reasonable excuse.
“If a parent lived in large communities like Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver you would travel to drop off your child and yes you would have to travel more than 5 – 10 km, so sometimes we kind of pigeonhole ourselves by saying I don’t want to go downtown and drop my child off.”
The majority of child care spaces are in the downtown and Thickwood areas. Around 70 per cent of those surveyed, however, live in the Timberlea area.
Meanwhile, costs continue to plague parents.
Right now, three locations in Fort McMurray and one in Anzac offer $25-a-day childcare.
“It’s a struggle, the cost for child care is very high here and the cost of staff is also very high,” added Huffman.
In some cases, people were paying as much as $1,450 a month.
“Where are the solutions – more qualified staff, yes, $25-a-day making it more affordable for families as well,” she said. “Other than that, we don’t really know what the answers are, we don’t know how to fix this.”
As for some other possible solutions, Huffman notes they’ll advocate for a better subsidy system that will support the RMWB families and are looking at Keyano to offer a Diploma program so there can be more local workers.