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Ucluelet welcomes new infant-toddler daycare as need rises

Cheers from a particularly adorable celebration recently rang through Ucluelet from Little Beans Infant Toddler Centre.
Massive and adorable cheers vibrated through town as the Ucluelet and Area Child Care Society celebrated the official grand opening of Little Beans infant-toddler centre at 1604 Peninsula Road on Friday, May 17.

Cheers from a particularly adorable celebration recently rang through Ucluelet as the community revelled in the official grand opening of Little Beans Infant Toddler Centre.

The space, which formerly housed Ucluelet’s chamber of commerce office and visitor centre, is now owned by the Ucluelet Co-op and is being leased to the Ucluelet and Area Childcare Society free-of-charge to provide much needed daycare for the town’s youngest residents.

The society scored $27,000 from the provincial government’s ChildcareBC New Spaces fund to convert the building into a safe play-haven for local tots and Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne joined May 17’s celebration.

“More childcare in our community means more people can get support where and when they need it, so they can pursue careers or education and know their kids are being well taken care of at facilities where they can learn, grow, and thrive,” Osborne told the Westerly News. “The opening of Little Beans is a testament to the hard work and vision of the Ucluelet Co-op and the Ucluelet and Area Childcare Society, and I’m thrilled the Province has been able to support these new spaces. This facility will support more families here in the community now and well into the future.”

Elyse Goatcher-Bergmann serves as secretary on the Ucluelet and Area Childcare Society Board and said infant toddler spaces are a tremendous need in town as, prior to little Beans opening, the society only had three infant-toddler spots available.

The new facility has added eight new infant-toddler spots with capacity for up to 12.

“We just celebrated how much hard work it had taken to get to opening and we also acknowledged that we could open three of those centres right now and not meet the needs of our community. We wanted to highlight how important infant toddler care is and we’re really excited to be able to offer it,” she said. “We don’t have staff to go to its full capacity yet, but that is a huge increase in our capacity and we’re just starting to get our feet under us and get that space to its full potential.”

She noted the facility has been operating for several months, but had not had time to host an official celebration to thank funders and donors for their support.

She added May 17’s celebration was doubled thanks to a thrilling funding announcement from the West Coast Sustainable Tourism Association for $15,150.

“We talked to them about the importance of adequate, affordable childcare for all of the communities on the West Coast and they got it. They totally understood and saw the need for supporting our organization,” she said. “We are just so grateful that they recognized how important childcare is to all the communities and supporting a centre in Ucluelet just speaks to how important and regional this issue is. People in Ucluelet work in Tofino and they have kids that need care during the day.”

She said the funding will go towards enhancing and upgrading the facility’s backyard.

“We didn’t have a budget leftover for the backyard space. We got it to an acceptable level of safety, but it’s certainly not that fun for kids and there’s also pea-gravel in the back which, for this age group, is appetizing. They just put it in their mouths,” she said. “That’s what we’re working on now. We’re going to program that back space with age-appropriate, safe, fun activities for the kids and we have a good team to do it.”

The society operates two facilities and three programs on the West Coast with the Ucluelet Children’s Centre at the community centre which runs a multi-age program and a group daycare as well as the new infant toddler centre at Little Beans.

“I think we’re living on the edge of a childcare crisis in Ucluelet. By that I mean there are so many centres offering more and more, but it’s always precarious because one staff member down can lose a whole program,” she said. “I don’t know that I want to say that we’re in a childcare crisis, but I think we live very close to that edge.”

She added the society currently has 53 kids on the waiting list for a childcare space and that infant-toddler care is particularly hard to find due to the certifications and staff needed and the required ratio of one care provider for every four infants or toddlers.

“It’s a whole other certification on top of your Early Childhood Educator Certificate and there aren’t that many people who want to do that job,” she said. “We try to pay a competitive wage, but you can make a lot cleaning out there these days and it takes a special person who wants to work with infants and toddlers. We’re really talking the littlest of kids coming under your care…It’s a special person who wants to work with really little kids and there’s not that many people who take that extra step in their education to do it.”

She said hope is on the horizon for the 53-kid long waiting list the society is trying to find space for, but added support is needed and noted donations and volunteers are always welcome.

“We operate on super thin margins. The vast majority of all of our parent fees go to directly to wages and affording things like upgrades to the washing machine or the lunch tables are decisions we have to make as a board. Those are trade-offs that we’re put in the position to make for little kids who just need a clean blanket to lie under,” she said. “We want to expand our services, but we operate at a really thin margin so any help is really appreciated.”

The society currently has a GoFundMe underway titled Ucluelet Child Care Society Fundraiser that had raised $2,590 of its $20,000 at the time this story was published and is also reaching out for volunteers willing to lend a hand.

“Gifts of any size are welcome,” the GoFundMe page reads. “Businesses, individuals and organizations who would like to support our vital community services through donations or sponsorship are encouraged to reach out to start a conversation.”

Volunteers will require a criminal record check and a confidentiality agreement.

“Our staff are working really hard, so anyone who could give them a break and likes working with kids, we would love to hear from them,” she said.

She added any businesses willing to offer in-kind services in construction or maintenance would also be very warmly welcomed.

“If anyone feels that they want to be generous with their time, or their business or their energy, we can use it. We really can,” she said. “Any help that someone wants to offer in terms of sweat equity or playing with children, we would gladly take it.”

Anyone interested in helping out is encouraged to reach out to daycare director Natasha Bernard at

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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