Kelsey Hassell was nine-weeks pregnant with her second daughter when she started her search to find a daycare in Lake Country.
More than two years later, she’s still hasn’t found one.
First, she applied for a spot at the University Children’s Learning Centre at UBC Okanagan, hoping since her oldest daughter attended six years ago, she could get a spot.
“Still to this day, she’s not in that one and she never will be,” she said.
Then she moved on to other centres in the area.
“I have not heard from a single place I’ve put her on a waitlist for,” she said. “When I was going back to work when my daughter had turned one, I was looking everywhere. I had her on probably eight or nine different waitlists and no one had room for her. A lot of them would not even take her name,” she said, adding she was looking in the Lake Country area.
As a teacher in Kelowna, she commutes to work. Her husband Jordan runs his own company and is unable to look after their daughters Zoe, 1, and Quinn, 6.
READ MORE: UNIVERSAL DAYCARE PILOT PROGRAM
When Hassell returned to work last February, she relied on her mother to look after Zoe and had to work part-time to accommodate.
She also knows of other people facing a similar situation.
“I know friends who live in Vernon and work in Kelowna with me, so they’re looking for daycare in Lake Country with no success,” she said.
Hassell managed to find a spot for Zoe in Kelowna, but it starts in September.
“A lot of facilities just don’t have infant care at all. Quite a few places said they weren’t accepting infants at this time, or they wouldn’t even add her to the waitlist,” Hassell said.
Currently, Lake Country does not have any registered spots for infant childcare at any of its registered facilities.
With more children and families moving to the district, that poses a problem. According to census data, 1,520 couples are living in Lake Country with children, an increase from 1,295 in 2011. Lone parents with children at home have also slightly increased from 420 to 455.
The district has three preschools, one of which will not be reopening in September, the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club which is licensed for school-aged and 3-5-year-olds and one other facility that has spaces for preschool, school-aged, and 3-5 year-olds, said Yvonne Stauble, program consultant with the Kelowna Child Care Society.
She said a number of people are operating without a daycare license in the district, which is legal as long as they only look after two children, but that’s not always the case.
“It’s terrible. We have people that live and work in Lake Country, but they have to drive to Kelowna for childcare… because there are no infant spots,” Stauble said.
“(Infant caregivers) know that people in Lake Country need childcare,” she said. “They’re begging for it.”
A lot of Lake Country parents will drop their children off at a centre in Glenmore or Rutland, said executive director of the society, Melissa Hunt.
A lot of parents work in Kelowna, so she says it’s not a “huge issue.”
But left with no other options, parents may seek informal care, which is ill-advised, she said.
Daycares also struggle to find suitable employees, she said, as the Central Okanagan has become increasingly unaffordable.
The average ECE worker in Canada makes $16 an hour, according to PayScale, a website which tracks average wages of professions.
“They’re moving out the community, they’ll move to Quesnel, they’re moving to Alberta, so they can rent a house in Quesnel is a lot cheaper than here,” Hunt said.
In June, the province announced a universal childcare pilot program which will give free childcare to families with an annual pre-tax income of less than $45,000, converting spaces from licensed child care spaces at existing facilities to spaces for the lower-income families.
Three projects were approved for Kelowna.