Parents rally to save child-care program

Boys and Girls Club's program for infants and toddlers in danger of closing, prompting parents to seek financial support from community.

A group of Ladysmith parents is turning to the community to try to help a program they value deeply.

Parents whose children are attending the Infant and Toddler Program at the Boys and Girls Club are asking service clubs to donate to the program so they can help cover the costs of offering the program.

This program is one of only two licensed infant and toddler programs serving the Ladysmith area, offering 12 full-time spots for children from birth to age 36 months, according to parent Cara Whalen.

“This is a service that we rely on as parents, and it is at risk of closing due to financial challenges,” she says in a letter parents are distributing to service clubs.

Recently, parents were informed that the program was increasing its fees to cover a deficit and shortening its hours, effective Sept. 1.

Prior to the fee increase, families with children aged zero to 18 months were paying $900 a month, while parents with children aged 19 to 36 months were paying $775 a month.

The new fees are now $1,000 a month for all ages up to 36 months. For families of 19- to 36-month-old children, this is an increase of 35 per cent, which Whalen says is not affordable to some parents.

Parents are hoping they can buy some time to work with the Boys and Girls Club to find solutions.

“The Boys and Girls Club is a beautiful and welcoming facility that our children are happy and thriving in,” said Whalen. “We want to ensure that they can continue to go to a place that they are comfortable with, as well as continuing to receive the quality care that they deserve.”

Whalen says they basically need to raise an extra $100 per child per month.

“The nice thing is we’ve been told it would stay with the Infant and Toddler Program,” she said. “We’re working on trying to get donations and discussing getting some fundraisers going. We’ve discussed parents volunteering and parents bringing in snacks and art supplies to cut those costs.”

As a whole, Infant and Toddler Programs are the most expensive to operate because of the low staff ratios, explained Boys and Girls Club of Vancouver Island executive director Ian Kalina, noting the requirement is one staff member per four children.

Faced with a deficit, the Boys and Girls Club told parents it would need to look at increasing fees and reducing hours to narrow the gap, he explained.

“What we’re looking to do is to cover our staff costs,” said Kalina.

Kalina says it costs about $1,400 a month just to staff the Infant and Toddler Program. He says they’re also trying to pay their staff a living wage because they don’t want a lot of turnover, as relationships are so important at this age.

Kalina has been meeting with the parents to figure out how they can close the financial gap.

“The notion of us narrowing the gap is really about working together,” he said. “If we can work together, which is the sense I had from our previous meeting, the sense is we can keep this going. We’re not saying we’re closing the program — we want to keep this going, and so do the parents.”

If anyone would like to contribute, they can contact Cara Whalen at 250-714-4043 or caralynn17@gmail.com.