Leaders in and around Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and Nekaneet First Nation knew that a lack of childcare spaces in the area was making it difficult to grow. Employers had trouble attracting new workers or convincing young families to stay, because there were few childcare options.

Representatives of the Town, First Nation, and RM realized they could take matters into their own hands and work together to start a childcare co-operative.

Gillian LaBoucane, Maple Creek’s Economic Development Officer, said the goal of the three partners is to provide a resilient economy for the community, and childcare has a significant role to play.

“Maple Creek has experienced a lack of childcare services since 2010,” she said. “This has impacted the ability of residents to take on full-time employment. Families have chosen not to make Maple Creek their home as they cannot find childcare. Having reliable, affordable childcare in our community has become a determining factor in the growth of our community.”

By reaching out to Co-operatives First, these leaders have incorporated a childcare co-operative and secured funding to build a new facility that will provide 42 new childcare spaces to the region.

Widespread problem – but with solutions

Parents across western Canada are familiar with this situation. Families in many communities know they need to put themselves on a waitlist before their child is even born – and even this isn’t a guarantee they will get a space. Though all rural areas experience a shortage of childcare, in some places, the need is acute. In northern Saskatchewan, there are enough childcare spaces for only 8% of children – in northern Manitoba, only 2%. Parents are resourceful and often patch together childcare options between friends, family, preschools, shift work, and school. It is a logistical juggling act for most parents who decide not to have a dedicated stay-at-home parent.

The good news is the support available for adding childcare in your community has never been higher. The federal government’s goal of providing $10/day childcare means grants are available for setting up new licensed spaces (which means less fundraising for you). These subsidies also mean fees for parents are going down. The decision for a parent to return to work makes more economic sense for families.

Having more childcare options is a win-win for parents and their communities. For regions experiencing labour shortages, providing high-quality, nurturing experiences for children means that parents can return to work. Creating childcare spaces also creates jobs (like ECEs, cooks, and cleaning staff). Reports have found that for every childcare job created, over two others are created or sustained.

Collaborative solutions

Co-operatives are an ideal solution to childcare shortages. A co-op is a business structure that allows the people who need a service to come together and create that service for themselves. Childcare co-ops are non-profit, can be licenced, and are overseen by boards of directors typically made up of parents. They allow parents, economic development professionals, municipal staff, and elected officials to collaborate to create this vital service.

Interested in how you can start a childcare co-op in your community? We can help! Watch our childcare co-op info session to learn how you can get started, and access our helpful resources and templates. Whether you’re an economic development officer, a parent, or another concerned resident, you can create a childcare centre in your community. Get in touch to find out how!