Child care provider Kim Olsen plays a memory game with a group of children at Once Upon A Time Child Care Centre in Sardis.

Child care centres struggle to survive

Kathy Antonio knows first hand the impact of full-day kindergarten on early childhood educators.

The director of A Is For Apple Daycare has felt like she’s been living on the edge all year.

Since September she’s been losing $300 per child, per day for the seven kindergarten kids in her care that are now attending full-day kindergarten. That’s $6,000 a month; $42,000 to date.

Kathy Antonio knows first hand the impact of full-day kindergarten on early childhood educators.

The director of A Is For Apple Daycare has felt like she’s been living on the edge all year.

Since September she’s been losing $300 a month per child for the seven kindergarten kids in her care that are now attending full-day kindergarten. That’s $2,100 a month; $15,000 to date.

“It’s a really scary time to be in the daycare industry,” said Antonio, whose centre is at McCammon elementary, which was one of the first schools in Chilliwack to start full-day kindergarten last September,

The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development announced last week that it would be allocating $1 million of one-time funding to licensed group child-care providers as a way of easing them through the transition of when full-day kindergarten starts for all public school students in September. Of that, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope will be receiving $23,000 to be shared amongst 22 licensed child-care providers.

But it’s nowhere near enough, said Antonio, who was allotted $979.

“I’m losing $300 per child a month, but wow, they’re giving me a whole $900, how lucky.”

When full-day kindergarten was implemented at 14 of the 20 elementary schools in Chilliwack last year, many group child care providers were forced to change the fee rate for kindergarten kids from the top-rated full-time care to before- and after-school care.

Not only has it strained centres financially, it’s also put a strain on before- and after-school care programs.

Once Upon A Time Child Care Centre in Sardis has a year-long wait list for its after-school program. Many of the kids on the wait list have been coming to the centre since they were toddlers. Owner Kim Olsen fears she may have to turn some away.

“It’s put huge strains on us,” said Olsen, who was allotted $712 of the grant.

“We’re probably going to have to expand.”

But with the state of the daycare industry these days, Olsen isn’t so sure expansion is the wisest business choice.

In her 20 years as a licensed child-care provider, she said she’s never seen the industry so bad.

Child care centres are closing because of the financial strains and certified, quality staff is becoming harder to find.

“You keep plugging along for as long as you can, but at some point it’s just not viable anymore,” said Olsen.

The future doesn’t look promising.

The B.C. Ministry of Education is actively looking at implementing junior kindergarten options for three- and four-year-olds, which would inevitably drop the child-care rates for that age group, leaving just infants and toddlers in the full-time care rate. But because infant and toddler care require so much more certified staffing it’s not cost effective.

If the ministry goes down that route, “I’m going to lose my business,” said Antonio.

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