Newly opened daycare Amy’s Place photographed in Whitehorse on Feb. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon child care deal to fund grandparents, courses for caregivers

‘How this is completely going to look, we’re still working on’

While the largest chunk of Yukon’s new child care deal with Ottawa will go to increase the grant given to daycares and day homes, that’s not all there is to spend.

Earlier this week, Yukon’s Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost signed the deal with Ottawa worth $7.3 million over three years.

Approximately $3.2 million of that money is going to increasing the direct operating grant, the governments announced in Ottawa. Details on how the rest of the money is going to be spent are more sparse.

The Yukon government says it won’t have a hard copy of the agreement to make public until next week. Multiple requests to the federal government asking for a copy were not answered in time for today’s deadline.

Frost said focusing on kinship care is important. “When we look at the services and the care that’s provided in our communities, oftentimes we forget that we have extended families who are taking care of really young children.”

The cash came with a promise that it will be used in part to “increase (by) 25 per cent the number of grandparents that have access to additional support, and a similar increase in children under their primary care.”

But department spokesperson Pat Living couldn’t say exactly how that was going to be achieved or even how the department came up with the 25 per cent goal.

Like parents, grandparents who are the primary caregivers of children can also apply for a subsidy for daycare, she said.

Grandparents get less of a subsidy, she said, and qualifying for the money is more complicated.

Living said the government plans to reduce the number of hurdles grandparents face and to provide them with more money.

“How this is completely going to look, we’re still working on,” she said.

The Yukon government is also promising to increase the number of early childhood educators by 10 per cent by the end of the three-year agreement.

Living said $50,000 is being earmarked this year for bursaries for students wanting to take early childhood education courses either at Yukon College or Outside.

The department is also working with the college to come up with a way to give rural students better access to courses. Details of that plan aren’t available yet.

“I know they want mentors in communities, they want people to be able to support and work with people,” Living said. “How that will ultimately look, that’s a piece that we’re working on with the college.”

Living said the plan is to have the college changes in place by the fall.

The direct operating grant for daycares and day homes will go up 14.5 per cent for facilities in Whitehorse and 34.5 per cent in the communities. The increase is retroactive to April 1 of last year and facilities are expected to get their first cheque this month.

Living said the money can be used on salaries, hot meal programs or to cover operations and maintenance costs.

Fifty daycares and day homes in Whitehorse will get between $400 and $41,000 retroactively, she said. That’s slightly lower than the number she provided earlier in the week.

Nine rural operators in Yukon will receive between $3,000 and $53,000 retroactively. A cheque for the Watson Lake Daycare is included in those numbers but Living said she doesn’t know how much that specific facility will be getting.

Watson Lake’s only daycare closed last year. Operators said at the time that they were not making enough money to attract qualified staff.

Patti McLeod, the MLA for Watson Lake, called the changes to the direct operating grant a good thing.

In the short term the increase will help with basic operating expenses like keeping the lights on, she said.

“I don’t know, and I can’t tell from this news release, if it’s going to help them with anything else,” she said.

“For rural daycares, I think it must be the same throughout Yukon. There’s a difficulty with attracting staff with the appropriate levels of training.”

McLeod said parents in Watson Lake are finding people to mind their children by “snagging a day of care here and a day there and obviously that’s not a very good solution for families or kids.”

The hope was to reopen the facility in March but “that’s not going to happen,” she said.

McLeod said to her knowledge, no one from the Yukon government has met with the Watson Lake daycare provider.

“That’s really what Watson Lake has been looking for this whole time, to have that discussion with government and come to some kind of resolution.”

Living said the department has been in “regular phone contact” with daycare officials and a meeting is scheduled for sometime not this week but the next.

She said the facility has continued to get a portion of its direct operating grant, even after it closed, in order to maintain the building.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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