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Preschool criteria questioned
Parent says Aklavik admittance requirements are discriminatory

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Monday, Sept 10, 2012

Some parents in Aklavik say a preschool admittance program policy discriminates against unemployed parents.

Jason Franson's son is almost three years old. He said he and his common law partner both have jobs, but she is on maternity leave since giving birth to a daughter six months ago.

Franson said he received a telephone call telling him his son was not accepted into the program this year.

"She said we take the kids whose parents are in school first, then they said they take the employed people's kids," he said. "I thought it was funny because we're both employed."

Diane Archie, the executive director of the community development division of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, did not return requests for an interview, but sent e-mails to News/North regarding the pre-school program's policies.

She said Franson's application was turned down because his partner is on maternity leave.

"The one person who is on the wait list is on there because one parent is at home and the other is employed," she stated. "Whereas all the other children's parent or parents are in school, training or employed."

Archie also provided information, which was taken from the Human Resources and Development Canada website, which states that priority is given to parents who are in school or have obtained new jobs.

"One of the main funders for all centres comes from the First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative (FNICCI). This fund provides access to quality child care services for First Nations and Inuit children whose parents are starting a new job or participating in a training program," she stated.

In another e-mail, Archie explained that programs can be altered depending on the needs of the community.

"The overall criteria for this funding I'm referring to states that it is for new employment and training parents.

"However, we have the ability to design our program that best meets our needs," she stated.

"We do not use first come first serve, but assess all applications and set priority. This year, the spots were filled mostly to support training parents and employed parents."

Archie also stated that a committee reviews applications each year and decides which children are accepted into the program.

"Parents apply each year for entrance into the program. We have a review committee that review and accept children determined by how many spaces we have in each community," Archie stated."Given the limited spaces for infants/tots and preschoolers, we give priority to parents who are attending training or employed parents."

Archie also stated spaces are limited and there are always children waiting to get in, but spots do open up.

"We are only licensed for so many spaces at the centres, therefore we will always have children on a waiting list, especially for the infants and tots program, but space does eventually become available throughout the year," she stated.

Aklavik's program can accommodate eight infants/tots and nine preschool aged children, according to Archie.

The Aklavik pre-school program is just one of five child care programs managed by the IRC. Paulatuk and Inuvik have Aboriginal Head Start programs while Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok have Child Development Centres.

All receive funding from various sources, including the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy, the First Nations Inuit Childcare Initiative, Aboriginal Head Start and additional funds from the territorial department of Education, Culture and Employment as well as "in kind" support from the IRC, Archie said in an e-mail.

All programs are offered free of charge.

Inuvik's AHS program can accept up to 17 part-time preschoolers and Paulatuk can accommodate 14.

Tuktoyaktuk can accept 15 preschoolers and eight infants/tots, while Ulukhaktok can accommodate 14 preschoolers and eight infants/tots.

Franson said though he and his partner are employed and their son is now on a waiting list, he believes the system's rules also makes it nearly impossible for unemployed single parents to get jobs or seek training.

"A single mother really they're telling her she shouldn't even apply, or a father," he said. "They take the kids of students and employed first, so where does that leave the rest of the people?"

He said he believes the criteria fails the children of unemployed parents, who would also benefit from an early childhood program.

"Treat everybody the same," he said. "Especially when you're dealing with kids, it should be about the kids, not the adult's situation."

Franson said in the meantime, he and his partner will have to find alternatives to their community's preschool program.

"Maybe find a good babysitter," he said.

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