Squamish daycare closing due to lack of staff 

Bee Haven Childcare to shut on July 31

click to enlarge PHOTO: PEXELS.COM - As of July 31, Bee Haven parents have to find alternative care for their children.
  • Photo: PEXELS.COM
  • As of July 31, Bee Haven parents have to find alternative care for their children.

Come July 31, there will be 30 fewer daycare spots in Squamish, leaving parents scrambling for alternative care.

Bee Haven Childcare is shutting down due to a lack of qualified staff, its owner told The Chief.

The facility currently offers infants, toddlers, and three to five-year-olds full-day care.

Louise Warner, owner and president of Bee Haven opened the daycare two years ago, after getting calls from local parents saying that Squamish was desperate for more childcare.

"It is a rough decision," she said of having to close. "Our issue is we can't get [enough] qualified staff up there."

Warner said she supplies an apartment and a car for an employee and had advertisements posted trying to hire more employees for almost the entire time the centre has been open.

She has offered moving bonuses and subsidized rent to attract employees.

"Everything I can to get staff up there and nobody is interested," she said.

The seven current employees she has are excellent, she said, but more are needed to meet licensing requirements.

With the Squamish location closing, some staff will move to centres in North Vancouver, others are choosing to stay in Squamish and find other work.

The cost of living and housing are factors, Warner said, but acknowledged that doesn't fully explain the problem.

Warner owns seven other daycares in North Vancouver that are effectively subsidizing the Squamish one, she said. She has no trouble getting qualified employees at the other centres outside of the district.

"It is not an easy decision to make. There's a daycare crisis in Squamish," she said.

Warner would like to see the provincial government look at ways to further fund staffing to help increase wages.

Early Childhood Educator (ECE) trained employees have completed four years of post secondary school, she said, and deserve a fair wage.

"Don't give me $1 an hour, give me $3 per hour per staff," she said, of the wage bump she would like to see.

Government response

The Ministry of Children and Family Development told The Chief they welcomed the feedback.

"We will be reaching out to [Warner] directly to understand the challenges that she is facing and how we can better support providers in Squamish through our plan," a Ministry of Children and Family Development spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

In January 2019, the ministry introduced a wage enhancement of $1 per hour for eligible ECEs, with an additional $1 per hour to follow in April 2020.

To date, the ministry has provided approximately $6.6 million to help childcare providers deliver a wage lift to more than 8,500 ECEs, according to the spokesperson.

"We know that there is more work to do and the wage enhancement alone isn't enough to solve the long-standing issues that the sector is facing but it is a first step to making a career in childcare more viable. The wage enhancement is part of a comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy that the ministry launched in September 2018," the spokesperson said.

"It will take time to strengthen the sector and build the profession – this strategy is a key step towards recognizing our early care and learning professionals for the vital work they do and improving access to quality, affordable childcare for B.C. families."

Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy said the issue is bigger than Squamish.

"Every childcare in the region is having very similar problems," he said. "It really strikes me that the issue is one of the attractiveness of the job as a career opportunity."

Childcare is intense, hard and not very well paid work, he added.

"Some see it as a career, many others don't. If it could be the beginning of the school system, we would be maybe more successful to attract people to this career for the long term."

Recognizing childcare workers as teachers, Sturdy said, would be a start.

Another factor in the crisis involves the recognition of foreign certifications, according to Sturdy.

"It is certainly a common problem in Whistler. You will have somebody with an Early Childhood Education diploma or certification, but from an... out of country institution," he said, adding the process for foreign-trained educators trying to work in Canada is long and cumbersome, he said. "Six months later and they still haven't got an answer," he said. "What we were trying to do is — especially from Australia and the U.K. — have the ministry understand the nature of the programs for these institutions, so, 'Oh, you have a diploma from this [institution,] let's check that this is legit, but you don't have to go in and do a deep dive on what you learned for that certificate.'"

Australia and the U.K. have similar education systems, language and many who want to come to the region, Sturdy said.

This change would increase the pool of qualified people from outside Canada who could come and work in the Sea to Sky.

While The Chief was in contact with several parents who will be impacted by this closure, none would go on the record for this story.

This article originally appeared here.

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