Grande Prairie looks toward 24-hour daycare service

Daycares in Grande Prairie are one step closer to operating around the clock.

Council amended a bylaw last Monday (Oct. 31), which will allow the operating hours of daycares to be increased per the province’s new legislation (Bill 39).

“It's a great opportunity,” said Jackie Clayton, city mayor.

“We know as a council that we've heard from organizations outside of our city that are interested in Grande Prairie as a market (for) 24-hour daycare, which in turn supports health services (and) it supports many people that we know work shift work.”

She noted the extended hours for childcare would help people working shift work in industry and health care providers.

“It's an interesting thing to see in our industry but not one I choose to want to explore myself at this time, said Lindsay Campbell, Building Blocks daycare executive director.

“The workforce has shrunk so badly, and we haven't recovered post-COVID,” she said.

Campbell said the new hospital would be an ideal location for a 24-hour childcare facility because of the shift work being done on-site.

Still, she believes it would be hard to find staff who want to work overnight, and notes that a cost increase is likely as staff would want an incentive for working the overnight hours.

“Whether that comes as parents paying a higher fee for that specialty service or the government's offering a kick up for those additional services that are now being offered … someone's got to pick up the tab for something like that.”

She noted childcare costs are now lower than she's ever seen before due to the federal government’s current programs.

Campbell said an additional issue for some facilities looking at taking on 24-hour care would be insurance.

“Insurance providers did not want to insure daycares for 24 hours,” she said but noted that may be different with the changes announced by the province. Still, Campbell notes, logistically it is not anything she is looking to add to her daycare.

“I'd hope if programs are considering it, they do their research and take their time to find something that's going to meet the needs of our community and not rush something like this just because it was approved,” said Campbell.

Day homes will not be allowed to operate 24 hours under the new changes.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News