The District of Muskoka has added another 10 full-time child care spaces.
That’s through a partnership with two new providers in Utterson and Port Carling, opening Feb. 12 and Feb. 20, respectively.
Heather Elliott, Director of Human Services for the district, says the need for child care is high in Muskoka, as only 28 per cent of children under five currently have access to a licenced child care space.
“We know that licenced child care and high quality early education are imperative to a child’s overall well being and development,” says Elliott. “It is also such an economic driver for families, caregivers who need to go to work or attend training, et cetera. Child care is the workforce that supports the workforce. Without those spaces, economic recovery simply won’t happen.”
She says the 10 new spaces currently have no waitlist, and come as part of an ongoing push to create 373 new licenced spaces by 2026.
“The expansion that we’ve experienced over the last six months has been significant,” says Elliott. “We increased capacity by 88 spaces the last quarter of 2023, and we’re on track to increase a similar number before June of this year.”
Elliott says that includes 39 new spaces at Huntsville’s Chaffey Hall, which are currently going through final licencing stages and are set to open “in the next several weeks.” She says it’s a combination of centre-based spaces and home providers, and the district is actively recruiting for more.
According to Elliott, it takes an average of two to four months to get set up as a licenced home child care space. Applicants must go through an interview process, a visit by the Muskoka Home Child Care Agency, criminal record and health and safety checks, and Ministry of Education licencing.
“That may sound a bit overwhelming, but the team is there to help the potential providers, and it really is a partnership,” says Elliott. “There’d be reimbursement for costs such as criminal record checks, and funding available for startup costs.” She says that includes a $6,000 startup grant to outfit a space and help with up-front costs.
Elliot adds keeping the standards high means parents and guardians don’t have to worry about whether their kids are in good hands. “You can be reassured their health and safety, and quality of care, is second to none.”
You can call 705-645-2412 with questions about signing up for child care through the district, or for more information on becoming a licenced provider.