At least a few daycare providers in Brandon are questioning the value of an online provincial registry that was launched in 2011 to help connect parents to care centres.
When launched, the government spent $1.6 million to get the daycare registry up and running, and $150,000 was budgeted for annual operating costs.
Michelle Routhier, owner of Toy Box Day Care, said she has never once pulled potential kids from the registry.
“I’m registered on it and I’ve never used it,” she said.
Now winding down her daycare career, Routhier said she only took on new kids from phone call inquiries and if she had spots to fill, she would post ads on online message boards.
“It keeps it simple,” she said.
She also said because of the intense demand for daycare, she never had to fall back on the government’s list.
Now fed up with the regulatory maze for licensed daycares, Routhier will be closing up her operation soon.
“We need to get the government to step out of it, let people make money off of it and make it a private business.”
Judy Walker, who has owned and operated a licensed home daycare for 22 years, told the Sun last month the number of licensed daycare providers in the city is on a steady and steep decline as a result of overregulation.
Along with a list of 150 people who have registered online as potential clients, she said her phone rings so frequently, she rarely checks the list. She also said answering phone call inquiries makes it easier for her to make a decision whether she wants to take on the child.
“I’ve had people say to me ‘I’ve been on the government waiting list, on their site, for over a year and haven’t received one phone call,’” Walker had told the Sun. “I hear that all the time.”
However, the government service hasn’t gone completely unused. The Brandon Family YMCA Child Care Centre, for instance, only takes kids from the registry. About 100 people are on the Y’s online list.
According to April Dumas, an early childhood educator with the Y, direct phone call inquiries are told to register online.
Despite the government being on track to complete the funding of 6,500 daycare spaces provincewide as part of a five-year plan, Pat Wege, executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association said the problem still lies in a continued shortage of spaces, and not so much with the online registry service.
At the end of 2012, there was nearly 9,800 children registered on the site, with more than half needing a space within three months.
“Most of those kids are not going to get into the system,” Wege said.
There are almost 6,000 children under the age of nine in Brandon according to 2011 census data, a number which jumped by more than 1,000 from 2006.
Progressive Conservative Family Services critic Leanne Rowat went on the offensive and said the online registry has created more confusion for parents.
“I feel extremely sorry for the families that have been led down the garden path,” she said.
Glen Cassie, a spokesperson for the Manitoba government, said the registry was never meant to be a waiting list at all, but rather a simple way to connect parents with daycares in their area.
“It’s not a waiting list, it’s a registry that lets you connect and it’s designed to ease the workload on the centres because they told us the paperwork is killing (them),” Cassie said.
The province has said the system has placed more than 4,000 kids, and Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard said her department could perhaps make the website clearer by stating it cannot guarantee a daycare spot for kids when parents sign up.
Cassie also noted wrinkles in 2011’s transition from paper waitlists to the online registry and some daycares are still working off their private list because it can be a logistical nightmare to input all the waiting names into the province’s system.
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from Winnipeg Free Press