The provincial government has awarded $500,000 in grant money to The Little Scholars Child Care Centre in Sechelt to create 72 new spaces for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
“It’s a major, major sized grant,” said Sherri-Lynn Hamilton, founding manager at Little Scholars Child Care. “It’s the maximum that they’re giving to centres.”
The child-care centre is one of 91 organizations in 52 communities in B.C. receiving money from the Child Care Major Capital Program. Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development, and Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care, made the announcement on Monday. The $33-million fund is expected to create 3,806 new licensed child-care spaces across the province.
“We are speeding up the creation of new child-care spaces to address years of pent-up demand for child care,” said Chen in a press release.
Hamilton experiences that need daily. “I’ve had so many phone calls since summer that I haven’t really been able to answer them all and we’re at capacity,” she said. Four years ago she decided to apply for the same grant because of rising demand. This is the fourth time she has applied and her first time succeeding.
“We’re really happy to be able to do this for the community and help out the families and the children. It’s such a need.”
Little Scholars is a Christian child-care centre and currently has 49 spaces. The centre had to provide $160,000 as a contribution towards the grant, which it raised with the help of New Life Christian Fellowship Foundation.
Hamilton plans to use the funding to put additions on the building in which the child-care centre operates so that it can accommodate an added 12 toddler spaces and 60 preschooler spaces, which she expects will be available by 2019. Hamilton also plans to hire two more employees.
“That’s our next big hurdle,” she said.
The Child Care Major Capital Program prioritized non-profit organizations, child-care centres in Indigenous communities, centres on school grounds, community settings and work places, centres that support children with special needs and organizations that can open spaces for toddlers and infants, which are in highest demand.
Sechelt currently has one infant-toddler centre, which is at capacity, she said.
Hamilton thinks her child-care centre was successful this time because it has a 20-year history as a licensed centre, and because it provides continuity of care for children aged one to 12.
“It’s really good for the children because they can relax in their surroundings. They know the staff and the children and are able to grow and develop at their own pace.”