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Portage Day Care hopes to open Southport facility

By Svjetlana Mlinarevic, The Graphic

Portage Day Care Centre executive director Lisa Voth looks at blueprints for the centre’s new location at 132 Duke Ave. on Feb. 4. (Svjetlana Mlinarevic/The Graphic/QMI Agency)

Portage Day Care Centre executive director Lisa Voth looks at blueprints for the centre’s new location at 132 Duke Ave. on Feb. 4. (Svjetlana Mlinarevic/The Graphic/QMI Agency)

Southport and Portage Day Care Centre have teamed up with the hopes of opening a daycare at the air space.

“It’s been in the works probably a little over a year and it’s something that we felt was a need for the Southport community as well as Southport itself,” said Portage Day Care executive director Lisa Voth, adding the idea came up during a conversation at a golf tournament.

Currently, both organizations are awaiting the approval of a capital grant from the province before any work can begin on the daycare. Voth said Southport has already provided the space and the shell for the child care centre while Portage Day Care will have to do renovations on the inside to set up the facility.

Voth said the centre will be for officers’ families, Southport employees, nursing students’ families, and anyone who has an office at the air field. Voth said the lack of businesses that have day cares in the city has created a real need among employees.

“It’s a tremendous need right now for various different ages. Us opening up the Knights (of Columbus location) and having an additional 12 spaces for babies there is excellent. At Southport we’re going to have four babies and 24 pre-schoolers,” said Voth, adding the Southport facility will open up space in Portage for children who are on waiting lists.

If the daycare gets its provincial funding grant approved, Voth hopes to open its doors in December of this year or January 2016.

Even though there are currently six day care centres operating in the city, two nursery schools, and three family care homes, it is still not enough to meet the needs of Portage area families.

“Definitely the number of infant spaces is really short,” said Cindy Currie, owner of Children Naturally day care. “I know parents want to go back to work, they want to go back to school and a big thing is finding spaces.”

The Portage Community Revitalization Corporation’s (PCRC) Momentum project, The State of Child Care in Portage la Prairie: Past, Present and Future, focused on the status of women in the Portage area and how the lack of child care has affected their economic security.

“What were the two biggest things that were stopping them from going to school or stopping them from getting a job was being able to get that child care if they had kids,” said PCRC executive director Elisha Funk.

The 2014 study surveyed 90 people of which 47 were women. It found that there are more than 300 children awaiting care in the city and that there has been no real growth in licensed child care in Portage for the past 30 years.

Ten years ago there were 24 licensed family and group child care centres in the Central Region; that number dropped by 60 per cent by 2013. Since there has been no growth, the 344 full-time child care spaces that are available in the city have been filled, which has left 301 children (as of March 2014) on waiting lists, most of whom will have to wait two years before they can enter a day care facility.

According to the study, the lack of day cares has meant area kindergartners are less ready for school than the provincial average. The report stated there was a “significant concern” regarding the lack of development in emotional maturity and thinking skills among those children.

Two reasons for the lack of child care in the city have to do with the amount of regulations day care providers have to go through and the costs involved in expanding a day care to accommodate more children.

“I see why some of the regulations are there, but some of it is just overwhelming for people,” said Currie. “A couple of years ago they brought in the safety charter and I get why you want all the safety pieces in but this thing is a huge document ... this is a 40 to 50 plus page document that you have to do.”

Currie, who has been a child care provider for more than 25 years, participated in the Momentum project and said transportation is another barrier for parents seeking child care.

“If you live further in the north end or even the south end and you don’t have a vehicle, or access to transportation, or the cash to pay a cab or shuttle, it costs a lot of money to get your child to daycare and then yourself to work or school and then back back again,” she said.

For a parent to take a child to day care on a shuttle it would cost $5 plus $3 for every stop which could add up to $16 a day minimum, according to Funk. Over the course of a year that would add up to more than $4,000; compared to Winnipeg transit fares that total would come to $1,053 a year for a weekday pass

“There’s definitely a link in child care and transportation. We’ve heard a number of stories of having to get your child to day care in one part of the city and then get yourself to employment that is in another part of the city. You don’t have a lot of choice where (to place your child) because waiting lists are so long so that when you get child care you snatch it up,” said Funk.

Both Currie and Funk hope the city will look at a transit system as being a part of its active transportation plan and that mayor and council will lobby government for better child care initiatives and funding, respectively.

“Hopefully we can find a solution,” said Funk.

Twitter: @PDGSvjetlana

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