Current and former students of a Whitehorse school are worried they could lose access to their on-site child-care centre as soon as January.
The Teen Parent Centre at F.H. Collins Secondary School provides resources to high school students who are parenting while they finish their studies. Those resources include child care, but also mentorship for young parents, products like diapers and formula, and counselling supports.
Justice Field, a former student at the school whose two children attended the daycare, said she wouldn't be where she is today without the centre.
"You have the daycare; you come, you bring your kids," she said. "But they are also helping you, setting you up for success down the road in your future and your adult life as well."
Field, 24, is now studying early learning and child care at Yukon University. Her two children are 10 and three years old. She's worried that if the centre closes, there won't be other success stories like hers in future years.
Society not in good standing
The Teen Parent Centre is at risk of closing its doors because the society that runs it — The Teen Parent Access to Education Society — is not in good standing under the Yukon's Societies Act. Until recently, the society's volunteer board had been running the centre and its daycare for decades.
David Knight, the society's current president, said the board got behind on financial statements during the COVID-19 pandemic, and didn't meet regularly for years.
In September, the Department of Education issued an order saying the society had until October to get back on its feet or it would be dissolved.
That deadline was extended to Dec. 16 after the students using the centre complained to the department. For the past few months, Knight said, a staff member at the school had stepped in to keep the centre running.
"The order was a surprise," Knight said. "But [by] the same token, as president of the organization and the society it was my responsibility to make sure that our society kept in good standing."
Letter to education minister
On Nov. 7, current and former students who've used the centre wrote to the Yukon's education minister, Jeanie McLean, asking that she guarantee it would stay open come January.
"If it were not for the wrap-around support we receive at the [Teen Parent Centre] we could not be successful," their letter reads.
Yukon NDP leader Kate White has also stressed the importance of the centre remaining open.
"Not only are [the students] finishing high school, which we all know is challenging, but they're doing it while being parents," she said in an interview.
White also asked why the Department of Education couldn't take on the responsibility of running the centre and absorb the early childhood educator positions as part of the school's staff.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the department said it would support the students and the society with three options: the society could get itself back in good standing, a new society could take over running the centre, or an already-existing daycare operator could come in and run it.
Not just a daycare
Field and another former student, Rachel Daigneault-Krahn, said they'd be willing to either work with the current society or start a new one, but they're worried they won't be able to come up with the money or paperwork do that by the Dec. 16 deadline.
"The timeline that was given is not sufficient to get everything properly done," Daigneault-Krahn said. "It was just poorly planned out."
The two former students stressed the importance of not just having child-care services, but services on-site and additional supports.
"I think that [we] as moms are such a part of the vulnerable population," Field said. "We just need these supports and it helps us grow into these amazing adult human beings one day."