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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 6 | April 4, 2002

Desperately Seeking Daycare?

UBC's award-winning facility looks at expansion.

By Hilary Thomson

Demand for limited daycare spaces is always high, but especially when those spaces are among the best in the country.

As the UBC community continues to grow, those with young children are hoping UBC Child Care Services will expand as well. The service - recognized nationally for its consistent quality - has expanded by 50 per cent since the university assumed management in 1991. As younger faculty are being recruited, however, the need for service is building and has resulted in a three-fold increase in demand, especially, for care for kids up to the age of three years old.

Accessibility of childcare is a significant factor in people choosing to come to UBC, says Darcelle Cottons, who has administered the service since 1991.

She receives e-mails from around the world from prospective faculty and students wanting to know if they can get on the list for enrolment. She is actively working on an expansion plan that can meet the growing needs and keep the service cost-effective and sustainable.

Started in 1967, the services were originally housed in WWII army huts on campus. Now they comprise 16 childcare programs with 330 spaces for children ranging in age from infant to 12 years in custom-designed child friendly playspaces.

UBC childcare services were the first in the province to offer toddler care and infant care programs and were the first to be unionized in B.C.

"We've really structured the system to meet a wide range of needs," says Cottons. "We work with a very diverse demographic - we have kids and parents from all over the world coming here."

Half the enrolment is students' children, with staff and faculty members' kids accounting for about another 40 per cent of enrolment. Almost 10 per cent of the group are children from the local community.

In addition to full-time and part-time daycare services there is a preschool and an independent school kindergarten. The 16 programs are operated centrally with a $2.5 million budget yet all "have their own soul", says Cottons.

"I don't know too many people who go to work every day and adore their clients," says Dorota Bartnik-Kapsa, senior supervisor at Summer of '73 Child Care that is licensed for 25 three- to five-year-olds.

A BCGEU member, she has worked for 13 years at the centre that is named for the season and year it was established. She takes care of the children, plans their programs, interacts with families and supervises her co-workers.

One of the job's challenges is the feeling of responsibility and impact on kids' lives, she says, but the reward is being able to see how children grow and develop while in their care.

"This is more than a daycare," she says. "It's a community and a support system."

Because of the comprehensive range of services, many children stay at the centres for upwards of 12 years and bonds between staff and families are strong. About 25 per cent of staff stay for 10 years or more.

"For many people, the strong attachment they have formed with UBC was formed at childcare," says Cottons. "It creates its own community of parents - a network across and within faculties that strengthens the university."


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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