Port Moody and the plan to get out of the ‘child care desert’

‘Parents are desperate,’ and even the poorest quality programs are full

If you’re a Port Moody parent looking for child care, your search may get a little easier over the next 10 years.

More than two years after receiving a $25,000 grant to assess child care needs in the city, Port Moody council unanimously approved a new child care strategy Tuesday evening.

What we have

Following a series of workshops, online surveys and interviews with child care providers, as well as an overall analysis, Port Moody was judged to be a “child care desert,” according to city social planner Liam McLellan.

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The city has 20.9 spaces for every 100 children 12-years-old and younger. That ratio is higher than the regional and provincial figures, but below the national ratio of 27.2 spaces per 100 children.

What we need

The city now has a goal of creating 1,070 new child care spaces by 2030. However, that target may be inadequate, according to Coun. Hunter Madsen, who noted the likely influx of families at Woodland Park and possibly also at Coronation Park.

“[The aspirations] will be a help but nowhere close to what we need. And in fact it looks like we’re going in the wrong direction,” Madsen said.

Recently approved development projects could bring an extra 438 child care spots to Port Moody, according to a city staff report.

Part of the new strategy includes asking developers to pay for or to provide child care as a contribution to the community. Contribution to the city are typically granted in exchange for letting the developer add more height or suites to a project.

The city staff report also noted the provincial government is expected to “look for opportunities to increase the number of child care spaces in the near future,” having recently signed a five-year, $3.2 billion agreement in federal child care funding.

School District #43 also got funding to create 40 infant/toddler spaces and up to 20 child care spaces for school-aged children at the new Moody Elementary School.

The broad strokes: Not enough, not good enough, for too much

Child care is critical to the economy, gender equality, healthy child development and poverty reduction, according to a report prepared for the city by the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C.

However, many Port Moody parents struggle to find child care.

The wait

A survey found that 74 percent of child care operators reported having a waitlist. Among survey respondents, 38 percent said they waited for between seven and 12 months and 34 percent reported waiting more than a year.

Hours of operation are another issue as there are no child care facilities in Port Moody that operate before 6 a.m. or after 7 p.m. This is especially onerous for the approximately 12,765 Port Moody residents who work outside the community.

After the struggle to find child care, many parents struggle to foot the bill.

The price

“Many families cannot afford the care they want for their children,” according to the report.

The cost of child care ranges $950 per month for infants to $872 for toddlers, $767 for three-to-five year olds, and $425 per month for school age children.

The quality

The report also noted that the best child care tends to be operated by public organizations and not-for-profits.

“It has been shown in the research that quality varies and publicly-run and not-for-profit facilities offer consistently higher quality than for-profit centres,” according to Social Planning and Research Council of B.C.

The report also noted there are no non-profit child care operators in Port Moody.

“Parents are desperate,” and even the poorest quality programs are full, the report noted.

Struggling for staff

Nearly three quarters of child care providers reported staffing challenges.

The staff shortage is particularly acute in terms of finding applicants with the skill to work with very young children and children with special needs.

With many early childhood educators having left the field, “finding qualified staff and suitable facility spaces are major challenges,” the report concluded.

Related: A look at child care in Coquitlam

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