Childcare crunch in the City of North Vancouver
Call it a childcare Catch-22.
With new families flocking to North Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood, Roksana Fasih can’t keep up with the demand for her home daycare business.
But with costs rising and no room to grow in LoLo, she’s being squeezed out by would-be customers.
And hers isn’t the only Lonsdale-area daycare feeling the pinch.
At a Feb. 6 city council meeting, mayor and council heard from a vocal delegation of daycare operators and parents complaining about the lack of suitable daycare space in the city.
Now Fasih — and likely others — is in the process of leaving Lower Lonsdale and the city to open an expanded daycare business in the district.
It’s bad enough news for the Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood in itself. But couple it with the findings of a 2011 study released last year showing LoLo has far and away the highest rates of pre-school age children with developmental difficulties on the North Shore, and the childcare shortage approaches a crisis.
The joint study from the University of British Columbia and the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) has been evaluating kids as they begin kindergarten across the province since 1999. The study looks at five areas of vulnerability in the new arrivals: physical health, social competence, emotional health, cognition and language.
For new kindergarten students across the North Vancouver School District in 2010, the average rate of vulnerability was 21 per cent, meaning that about one in five kids was behind in one or more areas of development from the get-go. In West Vancouver, the average was 17 per cent, or about one in six.
But when comparing specific North Vancouver catchments of similar size, the developmental gaps by neighbourhood come into stark focus.
The Lynn Valley catchment, for instance, had just a four-per-cent rate of vulnerability in its 70 kindergarteners.
Lower Lonsdale, however, had a rate higher than ten times that with 42 per cent of its 72 new students showing developmental setbacks. At 34 per cent — or one in three students — Central Lonsdale wasn’t far behind on the vulnerability scale.
Among the factors that contribute to early childhood development, HELP lists genetics, family, economic status and of course the availability of early childhood development services like daycares.
At a North Vancouver district council meeting last month, councillors endorsed a staff report which included the HELP study and encouraged the provincial government to support a plan to integrate early childhood care as a priority across B.C.