Petrolia hopes to make it easier for people to get into the licensed home daycare business.
The need for day care is great across the county. The Petrolia Child Care Advocacy group recently told council there are about 340 children who are of day care age in the Town of Petrolia and 85 spaces. Young families told councillors how they applied for day care in licensed programs as soon as they found out they were expecting, but still didn’t have a spot by the time the child was born and the parental leave was over.
There is more childcare options on the way. A new federal/provincial program will create 541 new day care spaces in Lambton – 67 are slated for Petrolia and Wyoming. County officials say they will focusing on licensing home day care providers since the province is offering only $90 per square foot to build new child care centres when the going construction rate is up to $400 per square foot.
But that didn’t sit well with the advocacy group which is requesting the municipality operate its own daycare, like Goderich does. Even with the new child care spaces only a quarter of the children will be able to find licensed day care.
As town administrators begin discussions with municipalities which have their own day care centres, Deputy Clerk Jessica Smith, in a report to council, suggested the town could help immediately by encouraging more people to become licensed home daycare providers.
“Staff is recommending council waive the $250 Home Occupation Business Licence fee and the Petrolia portion of the fire inspection fee for a period of one year. This would apply to applicants interested in obtaining a Home Occupation Business Licence for a home-based child care operation only. It is our hope that this will remove a barrier and provide incentive to those currently operating without a Home Occupation Business Licence to obtain one,” she wrote noting to obtain the license, operators have to have an inspection by the fire department.”
Smith also suggested council ask Enniskillen, which funds part of the fire department’s budget, to also waive the fire inspection fees.
Smith wanted to host information sessions with Lambton Rural Child Care and Wee Watch, which licenses homecare for the Ministry of Education, so people would understand what is involved.
“Staff have begun conversations with the County of Lambton, Goderich and the Lambton Kent District School Board and will be continuing to work on our report regarding the feasibility of municipally run child care in the Town of Petrolia. Staff will report back to Council once we have had the opportunity to complete a more comprehensive report, but thought it was important to get this initiative started immediately.”
Kate Wagar, a member of the Petrolia advocacy group and a home daycare provider, is pleased to see the town move so quickly on the problem.
“Any safe licensed child care is welcomed into the community…It is absolutely a quick solution…it can be an instant fix if there are people willing to do so.
“However if there were people to do so, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
And Wagar says the advocacy group is “putting municipally run day care at the forefront…
“We’re working on bringing a municipal run day care to fruition.”
Wagar is optimistic after noting in the report the town has already started talking with Goderich about the possiblities.
“We are thrilled…the fact that we were so well received, is more than we can ask for,” Wagar said.