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Wee Watch has a very large problem

Affordable childcare is great 'but where are they going to put the children?' provider asks

It takes a village to raise a child.

In Orillia’s case, it will take several more home daycare providers than are already operating in the area.

“There’s a need for childcare spaces,” said Pam Spurr, area supervisor, Wee Watch Orillia. “The government has talked about paying for childcare for pre-school aged children, and that’s great. It’s fantastic if parents can get more affordable childcare, but where are they going to put the children?”

While the government’s plan looks great on paper, she said, there might not be enough daycare providers in the area to meet the needs.

“I have applications from maybe 50 families looking for childcare, between now and September,” said Spurr, adding she gets calls from families daily. “They could be parents moving to the area or going back to work after maternity leave.”

In this day and age, both parents in most families have to work to make ends meet, she said. To do that, they need to have childcare.

And the children need a safe place to go if they can’t stay home with their parents or grandparents, said Spurr.

Right now, there are 80 children, up to 12 years of age, being served through 17 Wee Watch Orillia home daycare providers operating in Orillia and area, going as far as Victoria Harbour in the west and to Udney in the east.

In addition to these, there are daycare centres operated by the YMCA and Orillia Central Preschool.

Wee Watch started in 1984 and the Orillia franchise opened in 1995.

Spurr, a registered early childhood educator, took over the franchise because she liked the home-based model.

“Wee Watch Orillia gives its providers work flexibility to be able to manage their personal errands while being registered providers with Wee Watch,” she said.

Being a home-based business, it works for parents who are willing to stay home and provide quality care for other families, and their own kids, too.

In doing so, she said, they can earn an income, anywhere from $500 to $1,500 every two weeks.

“Providers can run it out of their apartments, too,” said Spurr. “Your space needs to be enough for kids to be able to eat, sleep and play.”

If they are renting, she encourages them to clear the intent with the landlord, as he/she would be responsible for meeting requirements for fire safety compliance, which is one part of the approval process carried out by Wee Watch Orillia.

Once the application has been filled out, Spurr meets with the applicant and visits the home/apartment to ensure all provincial and Wee Watch rules and regulations are being followed.

Other elements of the approval procedure include a medical reference by the applicant’s doctor, immunization records of all family members, records of pet vaccinations and a criminal reference check.

Providers are also given the opportunity to do 10 hours of professional development courses throughout the year. Follow-up visits are also completed to ensure standards are being maintained, Spurr said.

Once providers are set up and running, she added, Wee Watch Orillia assists them with the educational part of daycare.

“We have a couple of programs for that,” Spurr said, referencing “the We Learn program, which gives play and learn books that provide activities around school readiness.” The second program, she said, is Together Wee Can, which gives providers monthly resources, including educational toys and equipment.

For example, Spurr explained, Mad Science Week fell during this month, and kids were given learning tools, such as measuring tapes, binoculars, tweezers, eye-droppers and other items that could be used in scientific experiments.

They then used these tools to experiment by mixing colours, measuring their height, plants outside, etc..

“Through the learning activities, the providers are making sure the kids are given a sense of belonging, well-being, engagement and expression,” said Spurr.

Wee Watch providers can only take on a maximum of six children, including their own, she said, noting the agency abides by a smaller child-to-adult ratio.

“This is good because it gives more individual attention to the child in meeting their needs,” Spurr said. “It gives a personal touch with each child and the family.”

Wee Watch Orillia also supplies providers with equipment they need, for instance, play pens, gates, cots, wagons or double strollers.

“We’re always looking for quality providers to make a difference and become a part of our team,” Spurr said.

Prospective home daycare providers can contact her via email at or by calling 705-326-5015.

Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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