Scramble on to meet daycare needs of refugees in Sask.
Agencies juggle daycare spaces to serve more newcomers
Refugee agencies are scrambling to ensure they have enough daycare spaces for Syrian refugees arriving in Saskatchewan.
Daycare spots are used for a variety of reasons, including freeing up parents so they can improve their English.
The agency tries to have about 70 per cent of their spots used by newcomers. The other 30 per cent are open to anyone in the community.
A week ago, on Jan. 13, the society saw a potential crunch when it came to daycare spots and sent a letter warning clients using community spaces that their children could be bumped to make room for refugees.
On Thursday, however, the agency said it has worked things out and the letter was just a "heads up".
"No one will be bumped from any spaces," Darcy Dietrich, executive director of the Regina Open Door Society, told CBC News. "We re-grouped here to make sure everyone at RODS is on the same page that no one will lose a daycare seat/space. We will work with our partners and community to meet everyone's needs."
More spaces will be found, Dietrich says
According to Dietrich, so far Regina has received 253 Syrian refugees, including 70 children under five years old, and more are on the way.
"We've been feeling pressure that, you know, the number of children will be huge," Dietrich said, adding their daycare manager sent the letter too hastily before the agency could exhaust all possibilities.
There's language modelling from the Canadian kids and a really great intercultural experience as well.- Darcy Dietrich, executive director of the Regina Open Door Society
Dietrich said they will work with the community to either find or create more daycare spaces.
An additional 90 refugees are expected to arrive in Regina in February and Dietrich said as many as 60 may be children.
Dietrich noted that having refugee children in daycare, along with other children, is important.
"We actually really love having the community kids in there," he said. "It's a huge benefit to the newcomer and vice versa. There's language modelling from the Canadian kids and a really great intercultural experience as well."
The provincial minister responsible for immigration, Jeremy Harrison, noted the daycare challenge is one reason why Saskatchewan is reaching its limit for refugee arrivals.
"There are challenges there, the daycare issue is one of them," Harrison said. "We want to make sure folks who arrive are going to be successful. And we're coming up to the limit, I think, of the ability to provide that very top level of service."
CBC News also contacted the Saskatoon Open Door Society and learned they were making adjustments to handle the influx of Syrian refugees. They said they will be be able to handle more children by creating spots that match up with the parents' time in English classes.
Saskatoon has 80 spaces in total and, like Regina, provides service to many more children by making use of part time attendance.