The Hon. Katrina Chen, the minister of state for child care, visited Prince Rupert on May 22 where she visited Little Einsteins Child Care to discuss the government’s vision for child care and early childhood education. (Matthew Allen / The Northern View)

Child care minister listens to challenges Prince Rupert providers face

Aboriginal Head Start programs to receive $30 million in funding to support early learning

The city of Prince Rupert’s childcare providers had an opportunity to discuss their unique needs with the province’s policy makers this week.

On May 22, Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care visited Prince Rupert, where she dropped into Little Einsteins Child Care and later participated in a roundtable at the Berry Patch Child Care Resource and Referral Centre.

“The visits have gone well,” said Chen. “We’ve been learning a lot about how the different operators work in Prince Rupert.”

Her trip to the North Coast was a part of the Child Care Month tour. Chen and Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development, have been meeting in B.C. communities with child care providers to get their feedback on the province’s vision for the service.

READ MORE: B.C. parents to save up to $350 a month on child care in April

At Little Einsteins, Chen — who was accompanied by North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice — talked with owner Kristy Maier, who has run the family childcare business for 10 years.

“I think it’s great,” said Maier. “It makes me feel like we matter that she stopped at family child care centres and not just big centres.”

The group discussed the impact the new child care benefit package would have on small business owners like Maier. Specifically, Chen wanted to know if items, such as minor capital grants and increased operational funding support would help providers who run their child care business out of their homes.

Maier said she was happy with those items, but also stressed that it was important for the province to continue recognizing the difference between home base child care centres and larger group centres.

“The challenges are different,” she told Chen. “People don’t always realize I’m buying supplies and doing renovation so the support is good.”

Rice also acknowledged that the challenges Prince Rupert faces are unique, especially given the fact that the Port of Prince Rupert is the city’s primary employer. She said the nature of the port employment, which consists primarily of shift work, can make it difficult for its workers to find child care that fits their needs.

Rice said this is particularly the case with women, which is why bolstering the options in Prince Rupert is crucial.

“They don’t get to take advantage of those economic opportunities because they tend to be the child care providers,” Rice said. “If we can address some of the affordability and accessibility challenges, that’s not just good for us here socially, but also economically.”

Aboriginal Head Start programs receive a boost

READ MORE: Early learning programs for Indigenous kids get $30M boost

Two days after Chen’s visit, Conroy was in Prince George when she announced $30 million in funding for the expansion of Aboriginal Head Start programs.

The programs provide culturally based child care and early learning for Indigenous children under six years old.

“We want parents to have more options for culturally inclusive, quality child care that honours their traditions,” said Chen. “These investments support our commitment to make life more affordable for families across the province.”

READ MORE: Young parents finishing high school get B.C. childcare subsidey boost


 


matthew.allen@thenorthernview.com

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