Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy was in Grand Forks on Tuesday to visit Play School Platoon, one of 53 child care centres in the province to participate in a universal low-cast child care program. Families will pay only $200 per month per child. Pictured, Conroy with Play School Platoon owner Yvonne Coupland, who applied to have her daycare as part of the pilot project. (Kathleen Saylors/Grand Forks Gazette)

Grand Forks daycare now part of universal childcare program

The spaces will now cost a maximum of $200 per month.

Several families in Grand Forks will now pay just $200 per month for childcare, after a local daycare was selected to participate in an affordable childcare pilot project for the next 18 months.

Play School Platoon is one of 53 child care centres that will now offer child care for just $200 per month per child. It is a multi-ages, home-based licensed facility that offers care for eight children.

Katrine Conroy, Minster of Children and Family Development, was at Play School Platoon on Tuesday to see the daycare and chat with owner Yvonne Coupland.

Conroy said she was thrilled with the project, and noted the province is testing the low-cost daycare project in communities and daycares of various sizes.

“We have to make sure [universal child care] works in small towns as well as it does in big centres,” Conroy said. A committee whittled down over 300 applications to the 53 selected, and chose a mix of sole-proprietor, non-profit, large group and home-based care faculties, she said. Another priority were centres that were inclusive of children with extra or specialized needs.

“This is a prototype, it’s our way of figuring out of this will work,” Conroy added.

The affordable child care pilot will run for 18 months, and was effective at Play School Platoon from Nov. 1.

Coupland applied for the pilot project earlier this year, and said there was a time between when her daycare was approved and when she could tell her clients when it was tough to bite her tongue. But the reaction from families who will be benefiting was worth it, she said.

“It was a big surprise for the parents,” Coupland said. “The parents had questions, asking ‘This is for every month, not just this month?’ and saying yes, for 18 months. They were pretty excited.”

Conroy said the pilot project is partially federally funded, and said she is optimistic that once B.C. can show the benefits of affordable universal childcare, it will keep it going.

“When you add up how much [parents] save, it is huge,” Coupland said. “In this town, it’s a small mortgage payment.”

Although the eight spaces in Grand Forks are now full, there is other assistance for families with an income of less than $111,000 per year: parents may access the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which provides up to $1,250 a month per child.

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