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‘The perfect solution’: New daycare centre offers extended hours for newcomers

A new daycare centre in northeast Calgary is offering 29 new child-care spaces for children of immigrant and low-income families.

The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) officially opened Little Beginnings Urban Oasis in Whitehorn on Wednesday, with a $2.5-million investment from the federal government.

The centre is for children up to six years old and is unique in that it offers extended hours on evenings and weekends, which TIES acting CEO Suman Khanal says is crucial for newcomers.

“They work off hours like the weekend and evenings and if they had to look after their kids in that time, then they can’t work or go to school to learn language skills and labour skills,” he said.

“Our intent is to provide those services to parents during those times so newcomers can go through language training or labour training programs or have employment during the evenings and weekends.

“That way, their integration and settlement process will be quicker and easier.”

Belinska Viktoriia moved to Calgary from Ukraine last year and has been struggling to find care for her three-year-old daughter Karyna ever since.

“She was trying to find a daycare but this was the first option that was available for her,” a translator explained.

“She has been searching and is on wait lists for other child-care spaces but there are no spots.”

Karyna is now enrolled at Little Beginnings Urban Oasis, which allows Viktoriia to take classes to learn English.

TIES hopes to extend the centre to 80 spaces in the near future.

Demand high in Alberta: advocates

While the addition of any new child-care centre is welcome news, many advocates say it’s a drop in the bucket to meet demand in Alberta.

“Long wait lists have unfortunately been a part of the child-care sector for many, many years,” said Susan Cake, Child Care Now Alberta chair.

“We just haven’t seen child-care spaces grow with our population at all.”

Cake says it’s not just the lack of spaces but also a lack of staff.

“We don’t have the workforce. We have centres that are closing, unfortunately, in rural areas that need child care because there is no workforce,” Cake said.

Many operators have also been vocal against the problems facing the provincial and federal governments’ joint program aimed at $10-a-day daycare.

The provincial government recently addressed payment problems that saw operators waiting to be reimbursed but there are still concerns about the program’s financial feasibility and whether it’s keeping up with inflation.

George Chahal, MP for Calgary Skyview, says problems with the program have been on the provincial government’s end.

“I’m hoping they’ll be able to support operators and families in the province as we move forward,” he said.

“I’m always advocating for further supports of these programs.”

CTV News has reached out to the provincial government for comment and is awaiting a response.

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