Changes to a childcare program for high-school aged parents in Guildford has the former service provider who ran it in “absolute shock.”
Janice Boyle, director of development for Options Community Services, says the charity has operated the Growing Together program based out of Guildford Park Secondary in partnership with the district for the past 33 years.
That is, until Option received notice a couple of months ago that the school district wanted the charity to move out of the facility by the end of August.
Boyle said she hasn’t been given a reason why, and stressed it puts the clients of the program in jeopardy.
“Even if we found another place, which we haven’t yet – and we’ve been looking hard – we probably would not be able to get it licensed again in time,” she said. “We are asking the school board to allow us to stay longer so daycare is not interrupted, and we’re able to secure a new location. We really don’t understand why this is happening.
“It was out of left field,” she added. “We have been working hard to try to talk to the school board to, as of yet, no success.”
Surrey school district spokesman Doug Strachan told the Now-Leader the district “went to tender and will have a new daycare operator to manage that part of the program.”
He said “that’s all that’s changed” and said there would be no changes to the program.
Asked the reason behind the change, Strachan said the district feels it’s “time to refresh our Growing Together program and refocus it again on our students, as well as explore other partnerships that can enhance the program.”
“We expect to make an announcement about our new partners shortly and we’re excited about the bright future for the program and its clients,” he added.
But Boyle said the program is “a lot more than a daycare” and that Options staff would provide wraparound services for the young moms, and occasional young dads, in the program.
“That includes everything from providing extra diapers and a food hamper, and a cook that does meals and teaches them cooking skills. They’ll take the kids to appointments. So we’ve been trying to explain that. It’s not clear there’s an understanding of what happens in addition to the child care,” she said.
The program was also one of the B.C. locations chosen to pilot the NDP’s $10-a-day childcare rates, and is licensed for 36 spots. While most are filled by students in high school, Boyle said community members have been let in, when there’s room, and they are often former high school students who have moved on to university.
“We’re fighting to stay,” Boyle added.
The Surrey school district’s website describes Growing Together as a “district support program and daycare for students who are attending school and are expecting or are who are young mothers.”
It adds the program “provides social-emotional support, parenting advice, and connections with community agencies, and focuses on helping students graduate.”