MEDICINE HAT – As a parent, finding the right child care centre for your little one can be a struggle, but with three centres closing their doors in Medicine Hat, the struggle may soon be finding any child care.
On Wednesday Heaven’s Blessings made an announcement on Facebook that it would be shutting down. The owner indicated the costs to operate, along with the impending minimum wage increase in October, were a big part of the reason.
The Salvation Army's Rise and Shine child care centre closes Friday while Calder Circle closed earlier in the year. In total the three closures will eliminate over 120 child care spaces.
“Availability really varies, but what we are seeing is a steep decline in the number of spaces that are available, especially for infants,” said Jennifer Usher, coordinator with the Medicine Hat and District Child Care Association.
Usher said rising costs are some of the biggest issues daycare centres are facing.
Minimum wage will be going up to $15/hour in October. Combined with higher costs for utilities and overhead expenses like food, toys and rent, it is becoming more challenging to provide affordable care. It’s been a factor in the three closures and Usher said the declining spaces are causing some concern, as there are no new centres slated to open.
“The crunch is on and we'll be really having a struggle to find care for our families” she said.
Child Services Minister Danielle Larivee admits there are issues with the existing child care system that need to be addressed. She adds the province is working on making changes and introduced a pilot project for $25/day child care.
Under that program, four existing child care centres will become $25/day centres in Medicine Hat, but that will only create a handfull of new spaces for kids.
Larivee says it's disappointing to hear of centres closing and wants daycare owners to know there are options for assistance if they are struggling.
“I would encourage all child care centres to reach out to my staff, who are there to work with them to help them be successful, if they are facing any challenges,” Larivee said over the phone from Lethbridge. “We certainly already provide accredited sites [with] top-ups for wages for their staff to help them to be competitive.”
For the families affected by the closures, the province has some online tools to help find and connect with other child care centres in Medicine Hat. That information can be found by clicking here.
The Medicine Hat and District Child Care Association can also connect parents with day cares and day homes. More information is available here.
**This story was edited to reflect the fact the YMCA will be creating 15 new childcare spaces as it become a $25/day child care centre.
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