‘A constant struggle’: Port Moody parents despair at lack of childcare

City planner says first year of ‘action plan’ has helped produce more childcare spaces, but provincial government support will be key to addressing the problem

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By Nils Rummler

Like many B.C. cities, Port Moody has struggled for years to provide sufficient childcare spaces. As a result, the city created a child care action plan, which was endorsed by council in January 2022.

Liam McLellan, a social planner with Port Moody, was the city’s project lead on the child care action plan, which he said “basically improves the quality of accessibility and affordability in childcare.” 

One year after the plan was approved, the city has seen results by producing more spaces in daycare centres, McLellan said. However, the city does rely on the support of the provincial government to keep pushing toward a better childcare system. 

“It’s really going to rely upon how much funding comes from the provincial government to open up spaces,” McLellan said. “We’re still going to need more money.”

Other municipalities such as Burnaby and Richmond have been more successful in opening up more spaces. They seem to be ahead of Port Moody.

“There’s definitely an issue with hitting the targets. We have to catch up,” McLellan said. 

Nancy Savilla, a dental assistant and mother of a five-year-old daughter, is one of the parents affected. The lack of accessibility can be a challenge.

“There’s simply no availability for my child in any of the daycare centres around me,” Savilla said. “It is a constant struggle to balance work life and taking care of my child.”

Seventy per cent of Port Moody’s residents work outside the municipality, and many struggle with dropping and picking up their children. Most childcare facilities operate from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., times that do not always work with parents’ work schedules.

Savilla is confident that the city operates in its resident’s best interest to support getting their children a spot in a daycare centre.

Marite Rivera de Cardin, manager of the Busy Crocodile Children’s Centre is skeptical about the action plan. 

Getting a spot is a test of patience. Being told there is no space for their child in daycare can be discouraging to some parents, especially when the next available spot is not even in the same year.

“Sometimes it can just be luck and timing that a space opened up. So I’ll say for sure between six months to a year,” de Cardin said.

Finding qualified staff is one of the most significant challenges, according to the action plan.

“The staff has always been an issue since I’m in the industry. However, we are definitely just maxed out in terms of square feet,” de Cardin said.

Investing in the daycare sector and endorsing a child care action plan could help produce more childcare spaces. But it might not resolve the lack of desperately needed qualified professionals.

“Last time I tried to fill up a position, it took me a little bit over six months to find the right fit,” de Cardin said.

Moreover, the work conditions in care facilities can be challenging, de Cardin said.

“It is a hard sector in terms of physical and mental work,” she said. “So many people that are in typically leave after two years.”

 

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