October 1, 2020

The wait-list for infant child care at Conestoga’s Doon campus is so long that parents are signing up their kids before they leave the womb — an issue one former student says can cause headaches for college-going parents.

“It’s tricky to get a spot,” Heidi Edwards, a supervisor at the child development centres said in an interview last week.

Doon’s infant care program, which serves children from zero to 18 months, expanded from six to 10 spots this year after receiving regional funding.

But Edwards said there are still at times up to 100 families on the wait-list, meaning some children will only be accepted once they are old enough for other programs.

In conjunction with their Early Childhood education program, Conestoga College runs several child care centres on behalf of the Waterloo Region District School Board, including a location on Doon campus.

The centres serve college students and employees, as well as members of the public.

And they acknowledge waitlist issues upfront: “As lengthy waiting lists often exist it is recommended that you contact the child care centre of your choice well before you want care to commence,” reads Conestoga’s website.

It’s a reality Emma Stainton, a single mother who attended classes at Doon campus last year, knows well.

At the time, Stainton was raising a three-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.

Her daughter was in senior kindergarten while her preschool-aged son needed care during the day.

“Availability was a huge issue,” she said in an email to Spoke. “It would have been a dream to have childcare right on campus.”

But that didn’t happen. A spot opened off-campus and she jumped at the chance, worried the daycare would move down the list.

As a result, she would sometimes have to leave class early to pick up her son, something she described as “incredibly inconvenient.”

“Every college should have a daycare, not just if they offer an [early childhood education] program,” Stainton said.

Parents can sign up for 10 centre-based programs at once through the Region of Waterloo, according to their website. But there is no guarantee they will get into their desired program.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau sits down with Grade 5 students during a campaign stop at Sandowne Public School in Waterloo, Ontario on Sept. 16, 2019. He promised 250,000 new child care spaces if elected. (Patrick Spencer / Spoke News)

The lack of child care spaces across Canada has recently become an election issue.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised an additional 250,000 child care spaces across Canada during a campaign stop in Waterloo on Sept. 16.

Edwards said it’s unclear if the Liberal changes could help Conestoga’s program given the lack of details, but she was “glad they were looking into” child care issues.

Morna Ballintine, executive director of Child Care Now, praised the Liberal’s plan in a release, noting “licenced child care for children under the ages of four and five is the most expensive and in critically short supply, and that’s especially true for infant children.”

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh criticized the move as an “empty promise.”

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