A group of about a dozen people from the New Harbour area were excited to hear a government announcement Thursday, Feb. 13 that was two years in the making.
The group arrived at the Seaside Fire Hall in South Dildo at 10 a.m. for the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services Paul Davis to announce funding for five communities, including New Harbour, for childcare initiatives.
One of those on hand for the announcement was Juanita Newhook, a parent representative for a committee put in place to have a childcare facility open in the New Harbour area. The funding is expected to advance that goal.
Juanita is a stay-at-home mom to two-year-old Aaron, but has training as an early childhood educator. She hopes this opportunity will also allow her to gain employment.
When Aaron was born, Juanita heard about funding provided by the government to open childcare centres in residence, and considered opening one in her own home.
Around the same time, Juanita learned there may only be one registered or licensed centre to take care of children from New Harbour to Whitbourne. She decided not to open her own centre.
Nine people from the area, including Juanita, decided to gauge public interest in opening a fully functional and registered childcare centre.
That’s when they created the Upper Trinity South Childcare Steering Committee.
The committee sent out hundreds of surveys to residents, and received a hefty response for the need of a childcare centre in the region. In fact, Juanita said some 100 respondents would like to avail of services if they were offered. Juanita and the committee saw it as an opportunity to allow parents to return to work and give others in the community a chance to be employed through opening a centre.
The committee quickly contacted Bellevue MHA Calvin Peach to help make this dream a reality. That was in 2012.
After numerous meetings between the committee and Peach, and plenty of emails from Juanita to government, some $13,000 has been approved to hire a development officer to assess if a centre for the area could thrive.
Juanita said it can due to the arrival of many young families into the area.
“Some moms just aren’t working in order to take care of their children. Some are begging people to take them (so they can work),” she said.
The development officer will work for 16 weeks to devise a plan, look at location options and viability and set the groundwork for the potential new centre.
“We’ve been planning this for two years now,” Juanita said. “We can manage another few months.”
The funding will go to the Stepping Stones Family Resource Centre in Whitbourne to support the committee with its goal.
Funding was also announced for an organization in Bay Roberts.
The town is home to the Astros Infant Care Centre at Ascension Collegiate, a centre to care for newborns of students so they can complete high school, and teachers so they have the option to return to work after having a child.
The program began in 2007 when Bernadine Kent and Lisa Harris began working at the school. Since then, students and teachers have been taking advantage of the program.
The government invests some $70,000 annually into it, and this announcement saw the same.
The money helps fund the program through providing food, transportation to and from school, salaries and any additional needs for the infants.
Bernadine said there is some negative stigma that sometimes surrounds childcare facilities in high schools, but the response has been more positive. The two women work with the parents, and not just as childcare providers.
“During recess and lunchtime, and even when they have a free period, the mom and dad are required to be responsible for their child,” Bernadine explained. “Lisa and I are mentors to the students, as well.
“It’s the best job in the world.”
Other funding announced
There was also funding announced for the Dover and Area Community Family coalition worth some $11,500 to hire a development worker for a potential start-up in Gambo and the Harbour Breton Community Youth Network for $13,475 to assist with operation of additional childcare spaces.
Also, $11,950 was awarded to the Community Education Network’s Lourdes Preschool Program to assist with costs associated with operating a 16-space childcare service. Announced funding totalled some $121,000.
Davis explained during the announcement the province has a 10-year plan in place with three key points — sufficient childcare opportunities, ensured quality care and affordability for all.
In the past decade, an increase of regulated child spaces in care centres across the province increased from some 4,600 to more than 7,800.
Davis said the department hopes to continue to provide these necessary spaces, and help flourish the economy by providing jobs.
“A key priority for our government continues to be strengthening and advancing regulated childcare services in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Davis stated. “Key component of this strategy is childcare capacity initiative. This initiative was initially introduced in 2006… and provides start-up and operating grants for non-profit community-based organizations to create more regulated childcare spaces throughout the province.”