Northumberland County announces addition of 181 new spaces at licensed child care centres

Citing "a surge in demand" in the region, Northumberland County has announced the addition of 181 new spaces this year at licensed child care centres in the county.

The expansion will include 119 new spaces in the Municipality of Port Hope, 47 new spots in the Municipality of Trent Hills, and 15 new spaces in the Town of Cobourg.

"In 2023, we experienced a 60 per cent increase in the waitlist for licensed child care spaces, with approximately 3,000 families currently on the waitlist," said Lesley Patterson, Northumberland County early years manager, in a media release.

"To help address this critical need in our community, Northumberland County is aiming to introduce 404 new high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care spaces in our community by 2026, in alignment with provincial targets identified through the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) system.," Patterson added.

Patterson's comments follow an update from the social services committee to Northumberland County council during its June 19 regular council meeting. Council heard about the plans to open 181 new spaces at licensed child care centres here in 2024.

The expansion of the number of child care spaces is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the province.

This move will aim to address the shortage of licensed child care spaces in three "high priority areas" in Northumberland, the county said about the communities that were chosen to receive the additional spots.

In partnership with the Municipality of Port Hope, Northumberland County aims to renovate the Ruth Clarke Activity Centre and Canton Hub to introduce two new child care locations in Port Hope.

The Ruth Clarke Activity Centre location, planned in partnership with the Ganaraska Child Care Centre and located at 81 Mill St. S., will provide 70 new child care spaces by the fall, the county said.

The Canton Hub, located at 5325 County Rd. 10, will be renovated to accommodate 49 new spaces. This location is planned in partnership with YMCA Northumberland and is expected to open in winter 2024, according to the release.

Renovation plans are also underway to introduce 47 new spaces in Warkworth in collaboration with YMCA Northumberland. These spaces, located at 161 Old Hastings Rd., are expected to open in fall 2024.

Northumberland plans to introduce 15 "family age grouping" spaces at the Northumberland Centre for Individual Studies, located at 700 D'Arcy St. in Cobourg, this year. The family age group centre will provide children of different ages the chance to learn together, and will support families with kids of different ages to receive care at the same facility.

"While the county recognizes that all communities in Northumberland have unique needs and demands relating to child care, these three locations were identified in the County's Directed Growth Plan and Early Learning and Child Care Service Plan as high priority areas based on existing capacity, demand, community demographics, projected growth and socioeconomic factors," the release noted.

"These initiatives grow upon efforts that began last year, with the introduction of 10 new infant child care spaces at the Brighton Children's Centre in 2023, in partnership with Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. These expansion efforts, which will continue into 2026, underscore the commitment from all levels of government and local child care operators to support families and foster vital early childhood development opportunities in the community."

Ontario's Early Years and Child Care Annual Report 2023 stated "a strong and accessible child care and early years system is a critical support for Ontario families. It plays a key role in children's learning, development and well-being while parents and caregivers go to school or work to support their families and contribute to economic growth."

In 2022. Ontario and Canada signed the CWELCC agreement aimed at helping Ontario achieve average fees of $10 per day for children under the age of six. The agreement focuses on five priority areas, including lowering fees, increasing access, enhancing quality, supporting inclusion, and strengthening data/reporting, the province noted.

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, KawarthaNOW