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Alberta parents of children with disabilities say they're running out of daycare options

Some Alberta parents of children with disabilities say their daycare options are limited. (CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Some Alberta parents of children with disabilities say their daycare options are limited. (CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Some families with kids that have disabilities in Alberta say they are having struggles finding daycare.

Colleen Taylor's son Logan is four-years-old and attended a daycare in St. Albert for around three years — until last fall, when the daycare told Taylor that they needed more support to look after Logan.

He has cerebral palsy and a developmental disability called Williams Syndrome. He's also non-verbal. Taylor said the daycare didn't offer any solutions.

There is support for parents like Taylor, in the form of a program called the Family Support for Children with Disabilities program (FSCD).

One of the things a daycare can do is access FSCD funding, which can pay for extra staff to help. It can also pay for medications, counselling, medical supplies, and even clothing or footwear that relates to the child's disability.

Taylor says Logan, pictured, learned important skills at daycare.
Taylor says Logan, pictured, learned important skills at daycare.

Taylor says Logan, pictured, learned important skills at daycare. (Submitted by Colleen Taylor)

However, Taylor said it can be challenging to work with them.

"I can't even get ahold of my caseworker," she said in an interview.

"Like I tried calling her for advice and then I called the social worker at the Glenrose and she's tried calling her … and she doesn't get back to anybody and that's not unusual for her."

Being around other children was hugely helpful for Logan. Taylor said her son saw other kids using cutlery and picked up that skill himself.

Province says support is available

In an emailed statement, the province said it does what it can to ensure daycares are inclusive for all children.

"All licensed child-care programs are required by the Early Learning and Child Care Act to demonstrate how they will meet a child's developmental needs, including supporting inclusion for children with extra support needs or disabilities," Heather Barlow, a spokesperson for the Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services said.

According to FSCD data, caseloads for the organization have almost doubled in 10 years. The funding has not. The expenditures of the program depend on the number of families on the caseload and also the services that are accessed by those families, according to the province.

Kerry Coroy is now in a similar situation to Taylor. Coroy's five-year-old son lives with autism and a severe language delay. She said her daycare in Stony Plain also said they needed more support to look after her son, so she too needed to find an alternate solution.

She said it surprised her; she hadn't been getting incident reports or calls home indicating he was having difficulties at daycare.

"But then to have the decision of the owner to be that he would no longer have a spot there, I guess it was very much shocking," Coroy said in an interview.

"And then it is a bit of a state of panic. Where do we go from here? Like there's no options … and the thought does cross your mind: At some point will one of us have to just stop working because we don't have an option?"

Shantel Sherwood, one of the co-founders of Hold My Hand Alberta, said she is concerned about potential discrimination.

Hold My Hand is a volunteer organization that helps parents of kids with disabilities.

"Most daycares don't wish to take our children, because they won't unless there's additional supports," she said in an interview.

"Our kids essentially have to be kicked out of two or three daycares before FSCD will say, 'Yes, your child needs this support.' … And you take having a single parent and then what? Or you're new to Canada and you don't understand how to access that secret menu. You don't know how to tell FSCD you need this additional help."

Both Taylor and Coroy found other options in the end. Coroy moved near Onoway and found a daycare that had just opened.

Taylor said she couldn't find $10-a-day daycare but she did find a dayhome — a smaller, private option. She said she now pays a few hundred more per month in child care but that she's happy she found a place.