UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 6 | April
Desperately Seeking Daycare?
UBC's award-winning facility looks at expansion.
By Hilary Thomson
Demand for limited daycare spaces is always high, but especially
when those spaces are among the best in the country.
As the UBC community continues to grow, those with young children
are hoping UBC Child Care Services will expand as well. The service
- recognized nationally for its consistent quality - has expanded
by 50 per cent since the university assumed management in 1991.
As younger faculty are being recruited, however, the need for service
is building and has resulted in a three-fold increase in demand,
especially, for care for kids up to the age of three years old.
Accessibility of childcare is a significant factor in people choosing
to come to UBC, says Darcelle Cottons, who has administered the
service since 1991.
She receives e-mails from around the world from prospective faculty
and students wanting to know if they can get on the list for enrolment.
She is actively working on an expansion plan that can meet the growing
needs and keep the service cost-effective and sustainable.
Started in 1967, the services were originally housed in WWII army
huts on campus. Now they comprise 16 childcare programs with 330
spaces for children ranging in age from infant to 12 years in custom-designed
child friendly playspaces.
UBC childcare services were the first in the province to offer
toddler care and infant care programs and were the first to be unionized
"We've really structured the system to meet a wide range
of needs," says Cottons. "We work with a very diverse
demographic - we have kids and parents from all over the world coming
Half the enrolment is students' children, with staff and faculty
members' kids accounting for about another 40 per cent of enrolment.
Almost 10 per cent of the group are children from the local community.
In addition to full-time and part-time daycare services there is
a preschool and an independent school kindergarten. The 16 programs
are operated centrally with a $2.5 million budget yet all "have
their own soul", says Cottons.
"I don't know too many people who go to work every day and
adore their clients," says Dorota Bartnik-Kapsa, senior supervisor
at Summer of '73 Child Care that is licensed for 25 three- to five-year-olds.
A BCGEU member, she has worked for 13 years at the centre that
is named for the season and year it was established. She takes care
of the children, plans their programs, interacts with families and
supervises her co-workers.
One of the job's challenges is the feeling of responsibility and
impact on kids' lives, she says, but the reward is being able to
see how children grow and develop while in their care.
"This is more than a daycare," she says. "It's
a community and a support system."
Because of the comprehensive range of services, many children
stay at the centres for upwards of 12 years and bonds between staff
and families are strong. About 25 per cent of staff stay for 10
years or more.
"For many people, the strong attachment they have formed
with UBC was formed at childcare," says Cottons. "It creates
its own community of parents - a network across and within faculties
that strengthens the university."