Smiths Falls residents are struggling to find available day care spots.
Council is eligible to apply for $100,000 in funding for the reconstruction of the Thurber Street location.
“This is sort of a no-brainer,” Councillor Wendy Alford said. “We have the opportunity to have the county put additional money for the changes we need at Thurber Street.”
Lanark County Children Services Manager Tammy Kealey-Donaldson presented the 5-year plan for children services strategies to council at a committee of the whole meeting on Monday, Sept. 23.
“If you don’t invest in the early years, you’ll pay for it in the long run,” Kealey-Donaldson said.
The 5-year strategy outlined the need for accessible, affordable and quality childcare in Smiths Falls.
A survey was conducted to get an idea of the number of licensed and unlicensed daycare options. It found more than 30 unlicensed daycares operating in Smiths Falls. 77 per cent of survey respondents preferred a licensed childcare centre.
Kealey-Donaldson’s goal is to have more licensed daycare operations. She says daycares may be hesitant to become licensed because they want to set their own rates.
“There’s a lot of millennials here with young families and this is something we’ve got to do,” Councillor Jay Brennan said.
The rise in the need for daycare spots is because of the change in elementary school start times.
“It’s unacceptable that there are only 6 infant care spots available in Smiths Falls,” Councillor Niki Dwyer said. “There is not a willingness in the private market to meet those needs.”
There is also the issue of attracting early childhood educators to town. Lanark County child services have a partnership with Algonquin College to provide on-the-spot interviews and free training for graduating ECE’s.
Art Manhire the major challenges surrounding childcare are what the province does with childcare funding and the impact it will have on the community.
If reopened, the Thurber Street location has the capacity for up to 54 childcare spots, but isn’t licensed to provide infant care.