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Day care tackles growing pains

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Oct 12/01) - Beset by numerous delays in opening, the Kids' Corner Daycare is now up and running, but other problems have evolved.

NNSL Photo

Kids' Corner Daycare employee Sharon Mandeville keeps a close eye on Jade Hardisty-Tesou, who just turned one-year-old. She gets some help from her daughter, Tia Hardisty. - Derek Neary/NNSL photo

Although eight staff were in place when the facility opened on Sept. 24, manager Emma Amundson is now advertising for more employees as some of the original crew have proven unreliable.

Training and background checks for staff, who start at $10 an hour, are very thorough and time-consuming, she noted.

"Talking to people experienced in day cares, they said it takes about nine months to have stability in enrolment and staff," Amundson said.

Twenty-two children are registered with the day care.

"Until I get a stable staff I think I'm going to keep advertising ... the workers do a lot for these children. They have to program and stimulate them."

Besides staff issues, some parents have voiced their dissatisfaction with the fees and fee schedules. The rates range from $25 daily for pre-schoolers to $30 daily for infants. Parents are required to pay up front, so the non-profit day care can avoid outstanding debts, a problem that contributed to the closure of Melaw Child Care Centre.

Amundson devised a calendar system that obliges parents to identify and pay for the dates their children will attend day care up to a month in advance. There is some flexibility. If unexpected changes arise in the parents' work schedules and they've consequently paid too much in advance, the remainder will be applied to the following month, as long as reasonable notice is given, Amundson noted. Sickness over a minimum of three days, accompanied by a doctor's note, will result in the suspension of fees, she added.

According to the book

All of these guidelines are documented in an extensive policy book that Amundson developed. Parents are encouraged to read the details in the enrolment packages, but many simply don't bother, she said.

Of further disappointment to Amundson, only one of 18 parents has volunteered to help out with the program. They are asked to read to the children, provide maintenance and upkeep or work bingos, among other things, whenever they can spare the time.

"If you don't want to volunteer and you don't want to read my (policy) book, why do you want to put your child here?" Amundson asked rhetorically. She said parents with concerns should sit down and talk with her.

"There's a lot of communication lacking," she said.

The day care now has a committee in place, but it has yet to meet.

Troy Bellefontaine, former manager of Melaw Child Care Centre, appeared before village council on Oct. 2 to inform them that he is still attempting to re-establish Melaw. However, he has to secure $30,000 in funding to do it.