By Olivia Robinson
Published June 21 2018
Parents and caregivers of children enrolled at the Ontario Early Years Centre in Minden are scrambling to find child-minding after being notified with just one week’s notice that the daycare would close on June 22.
The OEYC in Minden provides services for close to 50 children with another 40 names on the wait list. In addition to the loss of childcare in Minden nine employees will lose their jobs on account of the facility’s closure.
In a June 15 letter Ryan O’Neill board member of the OEYC said that “ongoing concerns regarding the level of funding for the childcare coupled with the growing administrative burden led to a Board decision to cease to operate the childcare” ultimately led to the closure.
The letter goes on to explain that the OEYC had hoped to transfer the service to another “established childcare organization” and that discussions had already begun with another operator but to date an agreement hadn’t been reached.
A meeting had been scheduled Wednesday evening to discuss a potential action plan to save the daycare. CAO Mike Rutter Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin and a representative from the City of Kawartha Lakes had planned to attend.
In a June 18 press release the City of Kawartha Lakes wrote: “In response to this unexpected and last minute decision by the OEYC Board Social Services staff at the City of Kawartha Lakes is working diligently to find alternative care options for families.”
They said they would not be offering up any more comments to the media until after the June 20 meeting.
Kinga Baricz the daycare’s supervisor who has been with the OEYC for 10 years said she was only notified of the closure in the afternoon of June 15. She along with concerned parents and caregivers want to know who was ultimately responsible for this outcome — whether it was the Ministry of Education the OEYC board or something else.
“Even for me as a supervisor not to know anything? That really worried me” Baricz said. “I was a mess. This place means everything to me. It’s my family. You mess with my family you hurt my family — I’m not going to back down.”
Parents and caregivers met with Baricz on June 18 for an emergency meeting to ask how they should proceed — a conversation that Baricz said was extremely productive.
“We are very appreciative of the community’s support. It’s just been phenomenal and it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together and that it takes a community to raise the children.”
Local resident Richard Bradley also began circulating a change.org petition which has amassed more than 625 signatures as of June 19. A Facebook page called “Help SAVE Ontario Early Years” has also been launched to co-ordinate efforts to save the daycare.
Christine Kemp a mother of four and a student at Georgian College in Orillia said she needs the daycare and the school-age program for her children.
“My kids love it there and I feel it has been imperative to a lot of their well being and personality development. The staff is amazing with my kids and my children are happy there” she wrote on the “Help SAVE Ontario Early Years” Facebook page.
“Closing this daycare will create a devastating ripple effect. We need more licensed daycares not less; and definitely not none.”
The reaction from the community has been swift and strong including many emotional social media posts by parents concerned about the closure of the daycare and the extremely short notice. The public’s outcry hasn’t been limited to parents – local politicians have also started to weigh in on the closure.
MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock Laurie Scott tweeted on June 18: “Working on the Minden Childcare Centre closure with the parties involved to try to find a solution. The short notice given has left many families in the Minden community struggling.”
Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt replied to Scott’s post expressing her concern about the daycare’s closure with hashtags “#unacceptable #disappointed #seekingsolutions.”
In the meantime the City of Kawartha Lakes is encouraging parents and caregivers to put their name on the new childcare wait list service One Human Services Network which was implemented last spring. The service is set-up so that families can apply to multiple licensed childcares at one time. It can be accessed on the One Human Services Network website.