Dawson City daycare crunch means choice between work and kids
'I can't afford not to mine in the summer because I make enough money to support my children'
A lack of daycare spaces in Dawson City is becoming a serious problem for some parents in the community.
Tara Saunders is a single mom with two kids, 10 and 6. She usually works at a mining company in the summer.
One of her kids just got a daycare spot. The other is still on the waiting list. Without daycare for both, she has had to take a more flexible temporary job.
"I can't afford not to mine in the summer because I make enough money to support my children," Saunders said. "And like I said, next month I'm hoping for one spot. I need two."
Dawson City's only public daycare has just 20 spots available, and a waiting list of as many kids. The building is too small and is badly in need of repairs, even after it received $50,000 from the Yukon government in March for some of the work.
A 2013 needs assessment urged the Yukon Government to build new childcare centres in Dawson City and Watson Lake, with daycare, prenatal nutrition and early childhood programs all under one roof.
On the road again
Angela Van Nostrand runs the local prenatal program. She said their building meets most of their needs, but it's located off Bonanza Creek road, which is far from the centre of town and too small for gatherings. She said that means they often have to provide transportation for families and have to rent space elsewhere when they want to have lunches or other events.
She said a consolidated centre would help local families.
"It would make things a lot more simple for them especially in the winter months when it's 40 below."
For Saunders, the lack of childcare is crucial issue facing many parents in Dawson City, who she said face an unappealing decision: working or taking care of their kids. It's even tougher in the summer, when more service industry jobs become available and shrink the pool of available babysitters, she said, which is why Dawson needs more daycare space.
"It's one of the most important things for just about anybody I know in Dawson," she said.
The Dawson Society for Children and Families, which runs the daycare, has plans for a new daycare facility. Chair Elise McCormick said the society needs to finalize a land deal with the City of Dawson before it can approach the Yukon government for the estimated $1 million needed for a new building.
The society plans to bring its proposal to town council in July.