Minister visits Coquitlam daycare facing space crunch

Chen tours Tri-City daycares, says staff have been increased to process applications for fee reduction program

A Coquitlam day care has a waiting list long enough to fill another child care centre but is in danger of losing the space it has.

Step-by-Step Child Development Society is meeting with the city of Coquitlam and councillors in the hopes of getting confirmation it can stay in the Scout Hall at Blue Mountain Park or have space in a new facility if the older building is rebuilt.

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“We are trying to keep communicating our needs,” said Stacey  Fujimoto, a parent director on the society’s board.

In January, the scout hall was closed for a few days for repairs and the group is worried it could be closed again or shut down completely.

As many as 25 children from Porter Street elementary school attend the program in the afternoon and parents are worried they don’t have a long-term contract for the space.

Wednesday, the parents met with minister of state for child care Katrina Chen and on March 14 they plan to make a presentation to the city.

“We need some assurances,” said Megan Stowe, another parent director, who said the daycare has a space crunch.

There is a waiting list of about 25 children between the daycare and after school program and while Step-by-Step also has a portable at Harbour View elementary for pre school and morning and afternoon care, it’s not enough for the demand in the community.

“Affordable non-profit daycare is difficult to get,” explained Stowe.

Chen was in town visiting child care centers in the Tri-Cities that offer special services, such as child care for young moms at CABE (Coquitlam Alternative Basic Education) high school and at Step-by-Step, which is notable because it serves families with special needs, said Chen.

“We want to know how we can support these kinds of programs,” said Chen, who was doing the tour as part of Child Care Month, and said she hopes to gain valuable information for future childcare initiatives.

A Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative introduced in April is gaining traction as more daycare providers opt in but Chen admitted that a number of applications still have to be approved.
Step-by-Step is one of the child care centers that has applied to opt in but has yet to be approved.

Chen said staff are working hard to approve the applications so parents can get their fee reductions.

“We have increased staff and adjudicators to work with daycare providers,” Chen told The Tri-City News, admitting: ”There is a lot of work to do. We do have a huge demand and the applications are still coming in.”

She said parents can also look forward to a new Affordable Child Care Benefit, which will be available in September for families earning up to $111,000 a year.

Meanwhile, Step-by-Step is looking for good news in its quest to find space. In addition to reaching out to Coquitlam, the daycare is also approaching School District 43 for support and meeting with local churches.

“We are looking for synergies and partnerships,” said Fujimoto.

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