Queen’s needs more childcare, parent says

Working group looks at childcare options for the Queen’s community, associate dean says

Incoming Society of Graduate and Professional Students Vice-President (Finance and Services) Jillian Burford-Grinnel says without adequate childcare available, the option of going to school isn’t there for some people.
Incoming Society of Graduate and Professional Students Vice-President (Finance and Services) Jillian Burford-Grinnel says without adequate childcare available, the option of going to school isn’t there for some people.
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A new report by the Queen’s Child Care Working Group aims to address how to implement suggestions that have been made to improve childcare and daycare services at Queen’s.

The information in the report is being compiled by an expert in childcare from outside the University. It’s set to be released by the end of the term.

Associate Dean of Student Affairs Roxy Denniston-Stewart is a member of the working group. She said the report has been delayed due to recent changes to daycare laws by the Ontario government.

“The government of Ontario decided to make changes to daycare and we wanted to make sure that they were reflected in the report,” she said. “There’s also some proposed amendments to the Day Nurseries Act.”

The Day Nurseries Act describes the legislative requirements for nurseries in Ontario.

Denniston-Stewart said the Ontario government’s decision to offer full-day kindergarten next year could change daycare options in the area, including daycare options used by the Queen’s community.

“The decision to allow four and five-year-olds to go to full-day kindergarten, that will impact all of the daycares to a degree and we don’t know what that impact will be at the moment,” she said. “It changes the daycare landscape.”

Denniston-Stewart said the role of the working group is to look at all childcare options for members of the Queen’s community.

“The one thing that certainly was brought home to me in looking at childcare of the past couple of years is that the decision as to what is best for your child is a very personal one and what may work for one family may not work for another family,” she said.

Denniston-Stewart said the current option for daycare at Queen’s is run by an independent organization, not by the University itself.

“Queen’s daycare is an independent non-profit organization that’s overseen by the [University] Board of Directors,” she said. “[The organization] has a long standing relationship with Queen’s University and they provide priority daycare to Queen’s students, staff and faculty.”

According to their website, Queen’s daycare has space for 89 children six and under daily, with about two-thirds of the spots reserved for Queen’s University members (mostly students), and one-third reserved for community members. The daycare runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. during the school year and 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. between Canada Day and Labour Day.

Many low-income families will lose their daycare subsidies when cuts are made to the Best Start program this spring. The program was created six years ago and assists parents who are re-entering the work force or job training.

An article in the Kingston Whig-Standard on Mar. 10 said daycare rates in Kingston range from $33.50 to $61.20 a day, with 70 centres in and around the city.

Incoming Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) Vice-President (Finance and Services) Jillian Burford-Grinnell used subsidized daycare for her three children until Jan. 2010. Part of her team’s platform was to support the Queen’s working group and ensure that the findings of their report are implemented.

Burford-Grinnell said she attended Queen’s daycare as a child after her parents went back to school. She said she resorted to subsidized daycare because she couldn’t get her children into Queen’s daycare.

“I came back and finished my undergrad four years ago. At that time my youngest, Lucas, was not in school full time. To the best of my knowledge, he is still on the waiting list at Queen’s daycare,” she said. “I applied for subsidized childcare and initially my OSAP was seen as income and so once that got sorted out he was able to have his space.” Burford-Grinnell said she stopped using subsidized childcare in January because it not available before and after hours.

She said she still has problems finding somewhere for her children to go while she attends class and leads tutorials.

“My oldest daughter that’s 12 now attended her first sociology lecture at [age] nine because there was not a service there for her,” she said, adding that she once almost had to bring her ill daughter to one of her tutorials. “I wasn’t able to take certain courses because I wasn’t able to get childcare. I’ve had to miss an occasional lecture.”

Burford-Grinnell said she thinks affordability, close proximity to campus, quality and flexibility of hours are all important childcare factors for students with children. The childcare strain can be especially difficult for students without strong support systems around them, she added.

“The issues are further complicated for students who have no support networks when they come here,” she said, adding that she thinks it’s difficult for students without family nearby to establish ties with people they trust enough to look after their children. “I have an incredibly supportive department. I’m in gender studies and they’re aware of the issues and the challenges that student parents face.”

Burford-Grinnell said she thinks accessible childcare options are crucial for students with children to continue their education.

“If you don’t have adequate childcare available, the option of going to school is just not there. If there’s no one to watch your kids, then you can’t go,” she said. “I have three of my own and that’s just the way it works.”

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