Nearly half a million dollars of new provincial funding will provide support to children with special needs in daycare and may eliminate a waiting list, according to the agency that supports families in the Tri-Cities.
The news comes as school and city officials establish a task force to deal with an ongoing daycare crunch, which has left parents scrambling for child care, especially if they live in growing neighbourhoods where space is at a premium.
Meetings to establish terms of reference for the task force are expected to take place once the new school trustees and city councillors or sworn in. Then, efforts will be made to snag $25,000 in funds per city for the initiative from Union of BC Municipalities and the Ministry of Children and Families.
The province has announced more funds to establish new daycares and established a Child Care Fee Reduction initiative for care providers that sign up.
Meanwhile, money announced last week for Kinsight, which supports families with children who have special needs, amounts to the largest funding increase in years and is needed because of the Tri-Cities’ growing population, according to Gareth Williams, Kinsight's director of family and children’s services.
“It’s very good news,” said Williams, who explained the additional funds will mean 33 children, youths and families will receive consultant services for the first time and 25 children and youths will receive extra staffing assistance.
The funds, about half ongoing and the remainder one-time-only, will go towards hiring an additional 1.5 FTE consultants, Williams said. Their job is to help families plan for child care and preschool for their children while remaining funds will ensure there is enough staffing to support kids and buy new toys and resources.
“With the new staffing we won’t have any wait list,” said Williams, whose agency provides supported child development programs for 290 Tri-City families.
Families that connect with Kinsight (formerly the Simon Fraser Society for Community Living) usually do so because their infant or toddler is experiencing some developmental delays or their children may be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Kinsight consultants help parents plan for their children’s needs. Once in child care, extra assistance is provided to the classroom while, after age 13, funds can be provided for a support worker.
“The whole objective around supported child development is economic security of the family. It allows families to work,” Williams explained.
The Kinsight philosophy is to provide assistance that can benefit all children in the child care setting — not just one-on-one support, in a model Williams said is inclusive, although if children need personal care because of a disability, that will be provided.
With the money comes another challenge, however, and that is finding trained workers to fill the newly created posts.
Like School District 43, which is struggling to find trained teachers and education assistants to fill positions for substitutes, trained support workers for child care settings are in short supply. Still, Williams hopes to fill those positions, soon.
“We’re still in a recruitment lag,” he said, adding, “We’re in a tough situation at the moment.”