Daycare to close within month, leaving 69 parents ‘panicking’

Sixty-nine parents are scrambling to find child care for their kids before the end of the month after a Vic West daycare suddenly announced it is shutting its doors.

Babies to Big Kids on Fullerton Avenue told parents Monday that they need to find alternate child care by June 29.

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Owner Amber Lamanes said in an email to parents: “We have recently been informed that the Salvation Army would like to have full access to their building. Though we realize that more notice would have been preferable for our committed families and staff members, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to continue to provide care beyond June 29th 2018.”

“Parents are panicking, they don’t know what to do,” said Christopher Minel, whose four-year-old and two-year-old sons attend the day care.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s not fair.”

When Lamanes found out Minel had contacted the media about the closing, she told him not to bring his children to the daycare today. Minel now fears he will not be reimbursed the more than $1,700 he paid for the month.

“I don’t know what to do with my kids for the rest of the month,” he said.

The daycare is located in High Point Community Church, which is owned by the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army told Lamanes on April 20 that they were ending her tenancy but that her lease could be extended until January 2019, said Michael Leland, a spokesperson for the church. “We agreed to keep the lease extended until January 2019, knowing full well how hard it is to get daycare,” he said. “It’s our understanding that the owner has sent out an email to the parents telling them it’s ending in three weeks.”

Leland said the upkeep on the century-old building was more expensive than the subsidized rent the daycare was paying, so the tenancy became unsustainable. “This is a horrible situation. We certainly empathize with all the parents who are having to deal with this,” Leland said.

The Salvation Army has reached out to parents and offered them as many resources as possible to help them find care, he said.

Lamanes told the Times Colonist she decided to close by the end of the month in anticipation that staff members would leave when they found out the tenancy was coming to an end.

“[Salvation Army] asked me to leave and we chose when we left. They said: ‘This is when you can leave, any time between now and then’ and we chose now,” she said.

Lamanes said one staff member has already quit.

“And if we don’t have any staff we’re not going to have any way of caring for children,” she said.

“I don’t want to close. I would love to stay open forever, but I also have to provide quality care to these children and it’s not possible without the licensed staff in place. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to stay open until the end of the month, to be honest with you,” Lamanes said.

“So people who are whining and complaining about a month, in my mind, I’m thinking: ‘How am I going to make it through a month?’ I’m terrified.”

Lamanes would not answer questions about whether Minel’s two children were asked to leave the daycare.

According to Island Health’s registry of community care facilities, Babies to Big Kids was found to have 10 violations under B.C.’s Child Care Licensing Regulation during inspections in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The daycare received notification of at least two violations for failing to ensure that “children do not have access to any object or substance that may be hazardous to the health or safety of a child,” two violations for employing staff without obtaining a criminal record check and a violation for having too high a ratio of children to employees.

Lamanes also runs Leap Forward Childcare and Leap Forward Dance School in Langford.

Meagan Brame, an Esquimalt councillor who operates Saxe Point Day Care, said she has already heard from about a dozen parents desperately trying to find daycare for their children.

“You’ll be lucky if you find something for infant-toddler care in three months let alone three weeks,” she said. “Child care is in such a crunch right now. To lose those space is pretty devastating.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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