Amanda Burnett

Amanda Burnett hopes to raise awareness of the lack of daycare crisis she and many other families are experiencing.

Sitting at spot No. 75 on a waiting list for daycare, a Penticton mother says she’s been left scrambling trying to find other child care options before her maternity leave is up.

“I reached out to the daycare my son already goes to in February to put (my daughter) on the waitlist, and they seemed not very hopeful that she would have a spot,” explained Amanda Burnett, who is due back to work in November.

“They said there’s a very low possibility she’ll be getting in at all.”

To hear her daughter was No. 75 out of 77, said Burnett, left her feeling “hopeless and powerless.”

But she doesn’t blame the daycare.

“They said that there was a crisis right now of not enough staff,” she said.

That’s when Burnett knew it was time to step up and do something, beginning with hours of research.

“About the crisis – I hadn’t known previously about the lack of educators and how bad it really was, until I was told,” she said.

Burnett then wrote a detailed letter, which she sent to Penticton city councillors and MLAs. She and a friend are now due to address council this week.

And thinking of other families facing the same situation, Burnett began reaching out through social media.

“Every day I was hearing from families who were going through these difficult things – childcare affecting their marriage, childcare affecting their household income, childcare affecting their mental health,” she said. “The stories were so moving, so powerful.”

After starting a Facebook group titled Waitlisted Project B.C., Burnett began sharing the stories she received.

And while Burnett thinks the $10-a-day project for daycare, being piloted by the B.C. NDP government, is a good thing, she says barriers to open daycares needs to be dropped.

“The educators and administrators and owners are the ones experiencing that crisis, too. What they’re saying is that it’s hard to get licences, there’s a lot of red tape,” she said.

South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings said he met with Burnett and brought her concerns to Question Period in Ottawa.

“The federal government is always going on about its Canada Child Benefit … but what it doesn’t do is provide anywhere near enough money for childcare and it doesn’t create any childcare spaces,” he said.

(Burnett) “can’t go back to work, and this was not a part of her life plan,” said Cannings. “It really affects a lot of parents who want to work, who want to be a part of the economy and pay taxes, but they can’t find the spaces.”

KinderBear Daycare at the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre, which is in the $10-a-day pilot program, has already run out of room and closed its waiting list.

“We get to a certain number and we close the wait list,” explained OSNS executive director Manisha Willms. “What we try to do is make sure … that we’re there to support families.”

She hopes the provincial government makes the $10-a-day program permanent when the pilot project ends in March 2020, noting the reaction among parents so far is overwhelmingly positive.