Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A daycare baby step?

Province to add 1,000 spaces; thousands of kids still waiting

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Jayden, 21 months, at Morrow Avenue Child Care Centre, is one of 30,000 daycare clients in a province with more than 9,700 children on waiting lists.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Jayden, 21 months, at Morrow Avenue Child Care Centre, is one of 30,000 daycare clients in a province with more than 9,700 children on waiting lists. Photo Store

The provincial government announced the creation of up to 1,000 new child-care spots Wednesday, but how much relief that will offer parents remains to be seen.

The preschool and infant-care spaces will be in 26 new daycare centres and expanded locations throughout Manitoba. The province plans to spend up to $5 million to build new child-care centres and expand current facilities.

According to the province, the announcement completes a five-year plan to fund 6,500 child-care spaces and starts a new initiative to open an additional 2,000 future spots.

"We're ensuring that young families have safe, quality daycare so they can continue to raise their families and participate in the economy and earn a living," Premier Greg Selinger said Wednesday.

Sherri Vandal, the Morrow Avenue Child Care Centre site supervisor, hopes the 1,000 additional spots will shorten the wait times for people who use Manitoba's online child-care registry. Her child-care facility, which opened last summer, has a waiting list of 300 names, with many parents looking for infant care.

"It's very difficult, especially infant and toddler spots," said Vandal, who has 47 child-care spaces (15 infant, 32 preschool) at her location.

"We've had people on the waiting list for two years."

Vandal said parents already expecting are too late in the game and a child-care spot, specifically for infant care, will be difficult to obtain. She advises couples thinking about starting a family to do the appropriate research and get their name in the registry as soon as possible to ensure they have some form of child-care assistance once the stork arrives.

"A lot of people don't know about the waiting lists and they don't know how long it does actually take," Vandal said. "I've had people call and say, 'I've put their name on a waiting list six months ago, why haven't I heard anything?' The reality in this process is that it takes a lot longer than that.

"Future parents need to start planning before they even get pregnant."

Manitoba currently has 30,000 child-care spaces.

Pat Wege, executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association, said as of January, there are more than 9,700 names on the online child-care registry. That number is actually higher, she adds, as the registry is still relatively new and many child-care centres still have paper waiting lists that are still waiting to be added to the system.

Wege said 5,884 children on the registry are classified as needing immediate child-care help, while 583 of the names are unborn babies. She said she is pleased to hear the province is opening more spots, but wonders if there will be enough early child-care educators to manage the increased volume.

"It's sort of like saying we're going to open a new hospital but we have a shortage of doctors," Wege said.

More than 220 child-care spaces will be included at the new schools planned for Waverley West and Sage Creek. All new schools built in Manitoba will include a child-care facility on-site, the province said Wednesday.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 2, 2013 B1

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