British Columbia

Snow day stresses: Parents struggle with emergency child care as classes cancelled

Dozens of school districts and child-care centres on B.C.'s South Coast are closed this week as snow pummels the region, leaving many parents scrambling to find someone to look after their children while they work.

Dozens of school districts closed across B.C.’s South Coast

What child doesn't love a snow day? For parents, it's a different story. (Clay Jackson/Associated Press)

Snow days cancelling classes is reason to rejoice for most children, but for parents, finding emergency child care is a major source of stress.

Dozens of school districts and child-care centres on B.C.'s South Coast are closed this week as snow pummels the region, leaving some parents scrambling to find someone to look after their children while they work.

For single parents, it can be especially challenging.

"There isn't another parent who can maybe take a day off work and stay home or help figure it out," said Marianne Sorensen, executive director of the 1Up Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre.

Children tobogganing at a golf course in Victoria, B.C., as snow pummels the South Coast this week. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

Many of the parents her organization works with don't have anyone to turn to for last-minute babysitting— grandparents and family don't live near enough to help, and friends can't step in.

"Lots of the single parents we work with are relatively isolated," Sorensen told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC's On The Island.

"They're really busy taking care of their kids and working jobs to make ends meet, and so many of them don't have a strong social network of support."

Without a flexible work arrangement, the choice is stark: take the day off — which, for some, means not getting paid — or leave the children home alone.

"They need every dollar that they're earning but they're not wanting to leave their children at home on their own," Sorensen said.

"It's hard and it's very stressful."

B.C.'s South Coast saw incessant snowfall starting on Sunday. As of Tuesday, a snowfall warning from Environment Canada remained in effect for parts of the coast including Greater Victoria. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Safety considerations

Those making the decisions to stay open or close say it's not an easy choice.

Shelley Morris, CEO for the Cridge Centre for the Family in Victoria, laid awake last night thinking about whether or not to close the child-care program.

The last time she remembers the centre closing because of snow was in 1996 and maybe once or twice since then.

"If we were talking about two inches of snow, we'd power through those kinds of situations," she said.

"Ultimately, safety was the overriding factor for us, she said of her decision to close — not only the families trying to get their kids to care but also our staff trying to get here."

With files from On The Island

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