After five years without formal child care options in the community, Fort Chipewyan, Alta., now has a day home that will soon be a licensed daycare. It’s helping fill a need for families in the region.
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation and Fort Chip Métis Local 125 came together to start the daycare in the northern community.
Kendrick Cardinal, president of Fort Chip Métis Local 125, said the groups have been working on the project for about a year.
“I was concerned about the well-being of the single parents that are stuck at home, and wanting to excel at life, but they couldn’t because they were limited to daycare … their options were limited,” said Cardinal.
Before the new daycare, many in the community had to rely on family and friends to take care of their kids during the day.
There has already been demand for the service. Corinne Rainville, interim director of the Fort Chipewyan Community Daycare Society, said as soon as applications were accepted, the spots filled and the wait list grew.
It’s a service that’s been been in need throughout the community, Rainville said.
Day home to daycare
The daycare is still going through the licensing process, and is technically a day home at the moment. Six children are enrolled, with 15 more on the wait list.
Rainville expects the licensing to be finished in January. At that time the daycare will be able to accept up to 40 children.
“It’ll be really exciting when we’re able to run it at full capacity.”
The daycare will also include a focus on Indigenous cultures, so Rainville said she’s looking at bringing in elders.
Cheyenne Hall has two kids with her partner, and she struggled to find child care over the last few years.
“Not having daycare, it’s been extremely stressful,” said Hall. There were days when she didn’t know if she’d be able to go to work, because of child care limitations.
She was working at the health clinic in Fort Chipewyan, and had to drop her hours to part time.
Friends, family members and her mother-in-law would watch the kids.
It’s like extremely hard to find child care in Fort Chip, she said.
“It’s honestly game-changing.”
The regular child care meant Hall was able to get a new job with better pay.
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam said the nations wanted to come together and start a daycare again because there was a gap in services.
“We said enough is enough and let’s get this daycare going,” Adam said.
“We looked at … what was going on, unemployment-wise, work-wise, people going back to school, upgrading — and it was evident that a daycare was needed. And the cry-out came from the community itself,” said Adam.
Shaye Chapdelaine sends her 15-month-old son to the new daycare. She took recently returned to work after her maternity leave. Her boyfriend took a break from work so Chapdelaine could work again.
“As soon as the daycare opened it gave us the opportunity for both of us to be able to go back to work,” Chapdelaine said.