Relaxing of childcare rules sought

Two unlicensed daycares have been shut down since June 2010 in Grand Forks, displacing several children and upsetting parents.

“Recently, another letter was sent to another childcare provider, Sarah Unruh, who my daughter was going to,” said Lisa McPhee, a single parent who is concerned about the closures of home daycare providers. “This person wrote an anonymous letter to licensing and said a few things.”

McPhee stated that parents chose to put their children into daycare homes is out of necessity.

“I work and I’m in my last year of nursing,” McPhee said. “Sarah worked completely around my schedule. If I need to drop my daughter off early, I can I drop her in her pajamas and wrapped in a blanket without having (eaten) breakfast. She doesn’t have rigid operating times.”

Unruh stated, “I provided childcare to people I knew personally and felt comfortable with. In rural areas you know your neighbours and the people who are looking over your children.”

Regulations vary from province to province. Louise Heck from Boundary Childcare Resource and Referral (CCRR) stated Alberta, for instance, allows unlicensed homes to care for six children, where as B.C. only permits two, not including their own children.

Licensed daycare facilities operate on set times, including regulations that require notice if a child is unable to come in at a certain day.

“For a family, especially in these economic times, work can be unreliable and sporadic,” McPhee explained. “This being said, it doesn’t work too well with the early notice if your schedule changes day-to-day.”

Executive Director Fatima Faria at Sunshine Valley Childcare Facility mentioned the facility was quite full last year but the introduction of full-day kindergarten has altered numbers.

Sunshine Valley’s operating schedule is from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“We can negotiate extended hours if someone needs to come in earlier or later,” explained Faria. “We try and arrange it if possible, but for changing of a schedule, we’d like to have 48 hours notice.

“I don’t have an issue with private daycare as long as they follow the laws of B.C.” clarified Faria. “With the case with Unruh, she’s exceptional and very good at what she does. Unfortunately, Unruh wasn’t considered legal. As far as I’ve heard and seen, they’re perfectly able to meet the minimum requirements for a license.”

Heck explained that getting a license could be short work depending on the home.

“Some homes don’t need a lot of work on; some homes need a lot of work. This also refers to baby gates in the proper places and safety items. If all the ducks are in a row, it can take a month,” Heck said.

Unruh disagreed, “I’ve looked into getting a license time after time but there are so many hoops that you have to jump through… and there just isn’t the flexibility with licensing.”

McPhee, several parents and the closed daycare providers met with several councillors before they left for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM).

At the UBCM, Coun. Christine Thompson spoke at a workshop exploring current issues of education, health and social development.

“I brought this issue forward saying that in small rural communities, there aren’t enough licensed daycare providers to meet the demand,” said Thompson. “The ones that are licensed don’t accommodate people on shift work or on-call, that unlicensed could provide.”

“After, Minister (of Children and Family Development) Mary McNeil asked for me to provide her with a package of information.”

At this point, Thompson is meeting with concerned parents, the two homecare providers who were shut down and CCRR to discuss information for the package.

“The hope is to see if there is a way that the rules and regulations can be relaxed in a small rural community where everybody knows everybody,” explained Thompson. “It’s not a large urban centre where you don’t know who will be caring for your child.

“It’s basically their issue, I just want to be their conduit to get it to the proper person. Grand Forks is by no means that only community facing this issue,” concluded Thompson.

The Interior Health Authority was contacted but unable to respond before print.

Faria is happy that the issue is now open.

“It’s a tricky situation but it’s not a battle. Rather, it’s about coming together and educating each other and the community about this issue.”

The City of Grand Forks currently has one group centre, three licensed families and two active licensed not-required providers.

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