The infant programs at Spring Creek Children’s Centre will close on Nov. 28 unless the provincial government agrees to temporarily ease its requirement for staff certifications, but staffing problems could continue to be an issue for a long time to come.
Christine Buttkus, the Whistler Children’s Centre administrator, said there has been a lot of interest and support and says they are doing everything they can to prevent the closure of programs for kids aged three months to 36 months. Roughly 26 families will be directly affected by the closure of the programs, while others on the waitlist — which is approaching 100 families for Nesters and Spring Creek — will have a harder time getting their children into programs.
“We’ve been interviewing staff (with Whistler-Blackcomb) but we’re not finding that we’re getting the numbers of qualified staff that meet the licencing requirements,” said Buttkus.
The promise of housing, provided by Whistler-Blackcomb, has been an incentive for some to apply for the positions, but is not attracting older people with the proper certifications or couples that don’t want to live in staff housing.
Currently the staff at Spring Creek do not have recognized Infant Toddler (IT) certifications that are mandated by the province for working with kids aged three months to 36 months, and Early Childhood Educator (ECE) certifications are required for kids older than 32 months. It can take two years to get a diploma in both courses.
The Whistler Children’s Centre has petitioned Linda Reid, Minister of State for Child Care, to give Spring Creek an extension in meeting the requirements to allow them to train or hire staff. As well, they are asking the province to speed up the certification process for IT and ECE applicants, as well as quickly recognize out-of-province and out-of-country certifications that are equivalent, and in may cases superior, to B.C.’s requirements.
With a week to go, Buttkus emphasizes that they may be forced to close those programs, but are doing everything they can to make the closures temporary. They will continue to look for qualified staff, and encourage current staff to get certified.
Right now the biggest challenge to finding those staff members is housing, which is a problem for all Whistler employees, as well as the low wages paid to staff. Buttkus says the provincial and federal governments will need to increase funding for childcare and increase wages for staff or risk losing daycare spaces.
“We’re hearing that daycares in Squamish and Pemberton are starting to have a problem, and from other communities in the province,” she said. “Whistler was the first, exacerbated by our housing issues, but other communities are not far behind. We may get the daycare back open, but we need to look at this problem in the long-term or it’s going to come back to us again and again if staff leave or get sick or whatever.
“Some of our families are already experiencing stress because they’re getting less days or hours than they need, and we have some families that haven’t been able to make alternative arrangements,” said Buttkus. “Right now we want to look at this as a temporary issue, and we’re going to keep that space open (instead of using it for other daycare programs).”
To date the daycare has spoken to MP John Weston, MLA Joan McIntyre, Minister Reid and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
“We’re going to keep trying, and keep up with our recruitment efforts, and keep sending letters and doing whatever we can to get these programs open,” said Buttkus.
Meanwhile, the first annual Whistler Children’s Centre Silent
Auction will be held at Players Chophouse, Creekside, on Dec. 3 from 7 p.m. to
midnight. All members of the community are invited to attend the fundraiser,
which will include a silent auction, music with DJ, tapas and wine, cash bar
and door prizes. The proceeds will contribute to the Centre’s operating costs
and assist in the recruitment and retention of qualified staff.
Tickets for the fundraiser are $55, and are available at The
Whistler Children’s Centre (Nesters), Moguls Café and the Hilton Whistler
Resort & Spa Concierge Desk.
Local businesses that are interested in donating silent auction items may contact Stacey Royal at 604-932-0507, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tax donation receipts are available if desired.