Manitoba parents will be able to use a new app to find a daycare spot.

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This article was published 29/7/2021 (334 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba parents will be able to use a new app to find a daycare spot.

On Thursday, Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced the Manitoba Child Care Search online app will replace the Online Child Care Registry by Aug. 30.

The registry is outdated and difficult to use, Squires said. Families log in to search for child-care providers and join wait lists, but the information isn't always up to date.

Manitoba's new tool will have an interactive map to filter centres by care type, facility type, vacancies and availability. Contact information, hours of operation, enrolment policies and for-profit versus non-profit status will be provided.

Users will also be able to see centres' licences, and the site will timestamp when vacancies and program details have been posted.

Kids enrolled through the province’s registry won’t lose their spot when the new system kicks in.

"Manitobans have been asking us for quite some time to really provide an interactive tool to give families the power to connect with centres in their location," Squires said.

Because of wait times, Natalia Pedersen began looking for a daycare spot in 2019, when she was three months pregnant. Even then her friends worried she was too late. Pedersen joined the province's childcare registry but was warned not to rely on it.

"I'd heard from people that if you just wait for that wait list, it could be two years before a daycare contacts you," she said.

So, she started calling and emailing locations near her work. Eventually, one responded: some clients had left because the pandemic created new living arrangements for them.

Pedersen had to pay for child-care for four months, even though her daughter was not attending the site, to keep her spot secured.

"It's tricky, because not everyone's in that financial situation to do that type of thing," Pedersen said.

Friends on maternity leave ask her for advice on finding childcare.

"I'm like, 'You cannot sit back and wait for that list. You have to get proactive and start calling,'" she said. "It's a cutthroat thing. You can't be passive if you want a spot."

At the news conference, Squires said the province will make up to $958,000 available to child-care facilities. The funding will cover the cost of subscriptions and training to manage registrations and wait lists. Centres can receive up to $1,200, and homes and nursery schools can get up to $400 to buy software or spreadsheet applications.

Squires also announced that 37 centres and seven family child-care homes will receive funding through a sustainability trust. She did not specify the range of funding that affected entities would receive.

A Freedom of Information request from Manitoba's NDP found that more than 18,000 kids were on wait lists for child care as of August 2020. Youths needing licensed care totalled 15,090, while another 2,938 were enrolled in care but were seeking preferred options.

The newly announced app falls short of addressing child-care deficits, said NDP critic Danielle Adams.

"This is just a re-announcement," Adams said. "It doesn't change anything, that there are 18,000 families waiting for quality, affordable childcare close to home."

Dougald Lamont, Manitoba's Liberal party leader, said there are families who don't go online and won't be able to access the search application.

"The government keeps focusing on suburban voters, and not on families who are living in poverty, who desperately need child care to get to work."

He said a "massive investment" is needed to enhance child care in the province.

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

 

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.