B.C.’s childcare sector says it is ‘blatantly neglected’ by province

An organization made up of early learning and childcare professionals in B.C. has penned a letter to the province, calling for guidance, support, and rapid tests for those in the essential sector as Omicron cases continue to spread.

Emily Gawlick, executive director of the Early Childhood Educators of British Columbia, says the sector was deemed an essential service early on in the pandemic because of the importance of childcare, but says recent moves, or lack thereof, by the government have left the industry feeling ignored.

The organization wrote a letter to the province saying it has blatantly neglected the early childhood learning educators.

“Why we are so disheartened is that we are always having to figure out how to get through that week, or the next week, or the week after. So what we really want to hear from these decision makers is consultation,” Gawlick said.

Related Articles:

“At least the schools have gotten some opportunity to be able to figure this out where childcare itself is just a different ballgame…so when the schools said ‘Oh we are going to be shut down for a week’…we don’t have the same opportunity,” Gawlick said.

Gawlick says members are trying to stay open, but without rapid tests and N95 masks there are large safety and financial concerns right now.

“Even when those schools are closed we remained open and yet we are left out of the discussion,” the ECEBC argued.

Sara Sutherland operates the Children’s Centre at Capilano University and says it’s important to recognize childcare centres, unlike K to 12, care for young children, who remain the only age cohort not eligible to be immunized. Masks are also not required to be worn for children under five, under the provincial guidance.

“This narrative that we are an essential service seems to be just that, just a narrative. When it comes to actual consultation that respects and values the work there’s something missing there,” Sutherland said.

The childcare sector is legally required to have a minimum number of staff per number of children. B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has warned that due to the Omicron variant, businesses should be prepared to face serious staffing shortages in the coming weeks, something that those in the industry worry would force widescale closures.

“It keeps my whole team up at night…for how long are we going to be able to staff the building in a way that we stay open and operational?” Sutherland said.

Sutherland urges the province to create more guidance specifically for those who work with unvaccinated children and prioritize tests for childcare providers.

The BC Centre for Disease Control released new guidelines on Dec. 20, 2021, However, many in the industry say the steps are not clear enough now that the Omicron variant is leading to higher community transmission. For example, the guidance encourages those who are sick to get tested, but the province is now saying those with mild symptoms should not.

Related Video:

“I’m trying to communicate with my families that’s very clear. What happens if mom and dad test positive? When can that child come back to daycare? When you read the document, it doesn’t give you a clear enough step by step to be able to say to an extremely stressed out parent that this isn’t my policy, this is a provincial health policy,” Sutherland said.

“All of those little grey areas make it very, very challenging for operators like myself.”

In an email to CityNews, the Ministry of Health says “the safety of children and families is our top priority, and we are working closely with child care providers to help them continue to safely care for kids.”

The ministry adds it is prepared to adjust its approach should public health recommend it do so.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today