Tanya Groulx is a fully certified daycare instructor who worked at the Whistler Children's Centre, but when she became pregnant with her second child she knew it would be impossible to go back to work. A year later, with her oldest boy in kindergarten and the youngest now turning one, Groulx says it didn't make financial sense to return to work if every cent she earned would be spent on daycare.
And so on Dec. 1, Groulx opened the doors to Foundations Family Childcare, Whistler's first License Not Required (LNR) daycare facility in her home. There are other home daycares in Pemberton and Squamish, but this is a first for Whistler.
"I knew there was a huge need for childcare, and especially for infants because there are only 12 spaces in all of Whistler available to infants right now," she said.
With her own one year old and her middle child, she only had space for two additional infants in her program. She is currently full up, five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and has started a waitlist with other parents.
Through B.C. Childcare Resource and Referral, Groulx does have to register her program and have annual inspections of her home, as well as take various workshops and courses to keep up her certification. She's already in the process, she said, and the benefits are things like lower rates for insurance, access to the Toy Lending Library, and other resources provided to home daycares including information bulletins and brochures for parents.
Groulx isn't sure why other home daycares haven't opened in Whistler, especially with the shortage of spaces.
"I definitely think there's a need in Whistler, and it would be great if it caught on here because more people would have childcare," she said. "Right now, parents are stuck making hard decisions. When a mother is done her maternity leave, sometimes they can't go back to work or do shift child care with their partners, which can be challenging."
Groulx says it would be great if another daycare opened in Whistler that was able to take infants and toddlers from three months to 18 months, with Early Childhood Educator and Infant Toddler certifications required by the province. It's something that she would like to spearhead, if given the chance.
"I'm always going to work in child care, that's my background and I enjoy the business and interacting with parents and children," she said. "One day I would like to move on and have my own centre. I eventually want my business to grow out of my home and move into an actual centre."
While she currently doesn't have any space, Groulx is keeping a waitlist. For more information you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, the Whistler Children's Centre has had its own issues with certified teachers resolved in the past year. A shortage of qualified teachers was cited in the decision to close the Spring Creek Child Care Centre, although it later became clear that the facility's classrooms were not large enough to be economically viable.
"We're in a very comfortable position right now, knock on wood, but all of our staff are qualified," said Kari Gaudet, director of child services for the centre. "It's a number of things. For one, it's staff that have come to the completion of their qualifications, or that have gone through the process of having their qualification assessed for B.C. - teachers from Ontario or Australia who have been in the process of having everything transferred over. Others have completed their training, and a full-blast recruitment drive has really paid off."
The waitlist for the centre continues to be long at around 100 names, but Gaudet says that number doesn't necessarily mean there's a shortage.
"Our waitlist is lengthy, but our waitlist is a difficult way to represent the way things look at the centre," she said. "For example, we have families on the waitlist for 2012 - they've just become pregnant, and by the time maternity leave is up they are going to need care.
"We definitely have families that are looking for care right now, but the majority of the list is families looking for care in 2011 or 2012. If people get on the waitlist while they're still expecting we generally do have maternity leave for them when their maternity leave is up."
Things are more challenging for families that move to town or are late getting on the waitlist. It's can also be challenging for families that need to change their dates, or add additional days.
"We do try to accommodate everybody, but sometimes that means waiting until a space is available," said Gaudet.