After School Care closure comes under fire

Controversy has grown after UVic announced the closure of the After School Care program as part of renovations to the Child Care Complex on June 28. Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

Controversy has grown after UVic announced the closure of the After School Care program as part of renovations to the Child Care Complex on June 28. Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

In the months since UVic announced the eventual closure of its After School Care (ASC) program, students and faculty members have made it clear that they’re unhappy with what they consider to be a lack of proper consultation from the university during the decision-making process.

The closure of the three-hour ASC program, which would take effect June 30, 2017, was announced in a memo this June. The program would be closed in favour of adding more spaces for younger children who require full-day supervision, all part of a “major renewal” of Child Care Services (CCS) at UVic totalling $1.7 million. [You can read our original June 28 report here.]

But those opposed to the closure argue that UVic performed inadequate consultation with key members of the community before the decision to close the program was made.

Jonathan Faerber, a graduate student at UVic with children enrolled in the ASC program, has been seeking answers from the university for several weeks. He was one of two attendants at the President’s Campus Update on Oct. 5 who raised the question of child care, but said he is yet to be provided with answers.

“We didn’t really learn more at the campus update about why this change was made, or who was consulted, or any of the details about when the renovation will be complete, [or] any of the details that we were looking [to get answered],” said Faerber during an Oct. 11 broadcast at CFUV. “Which [is in line with] my personal experience trying to talk to people about child care on campus. This is an issue that the administration is not talking a lot about and they haven’t told us much about.”

Faerber is not the only one concerned by the silence from administration on this issue. In a June 28 post on its website, the UVic Faculty Association (FA) objected to the closure of the program when it was first announced, saying UVic’s decision was concerning and hadn’t “fully explored the potential impacts for parents who work on campus.” The FA is currently in discussions with UVic over the terms of the ASC program closure with talks expected to continue until at least January.

Jim Forbes, the director of Campus Services, directly oversees child care at UVic and says that the feedback has been both positive and negative, with communication between administration and UVic’s community happening on a daily basis.

“I’ve answered all email inquiries from all university community regarding the decision, and I continue to do so,” said Forbes. “The feedback . . . is that the program is important, and we do recognize that, and I think I need to communicate that . . . what we’re planning to do with the facility will have a great impact on the university child-care community.”

But with criticism being levelled at the university from students, the Faculty Association, and even various unions on campus, Forbes did not give a yes or no answer when asked if the university was just as firm in its decision to close the program as it had been in the summer.

“Again, we are engaged with discussions with the Faculty Association to determine what the future looks like,” he said. “There are many ways that we can support the after-school care community, and I think we’re moving through a process of consultation right now with the Faculty Association and trying to determine what the next steps are for the future of after-school care.”

Kevin Tupper, UVSS director of finance and operations, believes that no matter how the closing of the ASC program is resolved, the underlying issue of child care for students at UVic needs to be fully examined.

“Regardless of why this decision was made, or what this decision ultimately is, we need to see something better,” said Tupper. “Whether it’s closed or opened, there needs to be a review of how this space is being accessible for students, and there needs to be an improvement of student access to this space.”

“I’m hoping that the university comes into that consultation with an open mind and is willing to really consider what the Faculty Association brings forward,” he said.

Faerber believes proper consultation is a must for UVic if they truly care about  what is best for students, faculty members, and CCS in general.

“Right now, the truth is we don’t know exactly what students want, we don’t know what students need,” said Faerber. “And even if we do know and understand what students want and need, we don’t know yet whether this solution that the university has come up with actually addresses those wants and needs.

“The university needs to listen and consult with the public.”

24 Comments

Avatar Karla Bens

I am disappointed that UVic is passing the buck on after school care.
This is an important service for students, faculty and staff. Having trustworthy available childcare is essential for busy
parents that are juggling work/study life with parenting. I believe that
the administration has diminished the importance of those “3 hours” of
childcare, when for many it is a lifeline that keeps their family life
manageable. It has not been highlighted that in addition to the “3
hours” of daily childcare, Centre 6 picks up the children from school,
provides early pick ups for half/day school closures, covers all school
Pro-D days and also covers the days (weeks) when school close for
winter, spring vacation. They even covered us (we paid extra) when there was a lengthy school strike last year.

I have relied upon Centre 6 for my two children and have found a true
UVic community with the other parents at the Centre. This is truly the
type of community that UVic references and aspires to in its marketing materials. This
is a meeting place for faculty, staff, students (undergrad, grad,
doctoral, international) and also the child care centre staff. It has
taken years to create this community and it would be a shame to see it
dismantled.

As a staff member, one of the most valuable aspects of C6 is the
professionalism of the centre. I do not have to worry about my children at
2:45 everyday and wonder if their caregiver will arrive on time to pick
them up and look after them safely until I can pick them up after work. I
don’t have to try and find a substitute at the last moment because
their childcare worker has missed a bus, has a cold, has a mid-term, has
eloped to Mexico (true story) or just doesn’t show up! These scenarios
do not distract me from my work and allow me to productively work f/t.

Centre 6 is a fantastic program that provides healthy options
(electronics free) with familiar faces. I have paid dearly for this
program and centres 1-5 and I hope that other UVic
students, staff and faculty have the same opportunity, I have had a couple of opportunities to reduce my children’s attendance to part-time and there has always been another child to fill the gap. Last year, the parent whose child took our spot for several months was able to complete his PhD with that “extra” time he was able to work freely.

I hope the University can find space on Campus for this program to continue to care
for our primary school aged children and recognize their role in a healthy and balanced community.

Avatar Uvic child care employee

I’ve been following this for some time. The entire reasoning behind closing the ASC program is completely flawed. Centre 6 has always had one of the strongest communities on campus. Just because there is a need for 3-5 year old spaces does not mean that we should give up almost 50 spaces for older children. The current management do not prioritize or even value that community.

The “research” on this project was entirely biased and does not reflect reality.

There are going to be hundreds of people, particularly children, who suffer if this decision goes forward.

As a staff member, I have never felt that management at Child Care Services values or takes care of the staff or families in the ASC program. What a horrid and thoughtless act this was, ethically, professionally and emotionally.

You can’t create one community by breaking another.

Avatar Jonathan Faerber

So sad but true. The Centre 6 program is decades old. CUPE 951 staff have put their heart and soul into this program, and it shows. They make our children better people, they make our university a better place. UVic should be proud of these employees; they should reward their work. These brutal cuts speak volumes about the kind of university this is becoming. We are just a business–another corporation that could care less about relationships and community among its faculty, staff, and students. This isn’t just about ASC and children, it is about the way UVic treats its people. And the way they have and are treating the staff and parents at Centre 6 throughout this process is despicable.

Avatar Uvic Parent

1. Working parents at UVic are betrayed by the current leadership
2. A gag order – exercising power over the vulnerable
3. Precise ambush strategy designed to eliminate opposition
4. Deliberately evasive and premeditated secrecy
5. Misinformation to public about expansion while enacting a contraction.
6. Zero community engagement/consultation
7. President concedes he is ultimately accountable but refuses to talk about it

Please have the decency to apologise.

Avatar L Carroll

I am so saddened by this experience to date. We should not have to fight to keep this wonderful facility open; the university need to invest in it, as well as expand care out for all age groups. There is a deep need for quality care for children ages 0-12 years in the UVic community: as evidenced by long wait lists across all programs.

Children do not age out of care at five years old. This decision puts UVic families in a very difficult situation, which will worsen as the current pre-school age students move into elementary school. There are not adequate programs in the community to absorb the need for after-school care.

If UVic truly aspires to be a twenty-first century leader, with an edge in learning and research, it has to offer support services to its students, faculty and staff; and engage them in meaningful conversations when considering changes that will impact their ability to study, publish and teach.

Childcare is an effective and proven recruitment and retention tool. Peer institutions invest heavily in providing accessible care. By next year, UBC and SFU will have expanded their services to provide one childcare space for every 88 and 70 registered students, respectively. UVic will have one space for every 270 students in 2017. This is the core issue that needs to be addressed.

Avatar ParentofTwo

We are one of the lucky few families who won the “lottery” of getting our children into UVic Child Care when they were infants and it has been a lifesaver for us to have our children close by the university. Both my partner and I have demanding work schedules on campus and would not be able to make it to the after school care program in our catchment before closing time (assuming we could get in, which is unlikely). We were absolutely devastated by the proposed closure and were unable to sleep for days with the stress that this announcement has caused. We feel completely abandoned by university administration, who clearly care much more about looking good than actually doing good for parents in the UVic community. Having children while working to get tenure in a very demanding field is a frequently heart-wrenching and seemingly impossible task, and removing this important support for stressed out parents is just heartbreaking. I truly hope that the University commits itself to actual child care expansion and not just ripping support away from one group to give to another.

Avatar Centre 6 Parent

School ends at 2:40 each day – this would be a major disruption for UVic faculty, staff, and students with school-age kids. It is almost impossible to get after school care at other places. All in-school programs are over-subscribed.

Avatar Elizabeth

I am a parent with children in the UVic daycare. I can confirm that there was absolutely zero consultation with parents who were not on the parent advisory board for the daycares, and that the parent advisory board was directed not to communicate with parents about the plan to close the after-school care. The after-school program is needed, as are more childcare spaces at UVic– but the preschool spaces that are being planned are the age group for which daycare is most available elsewhere in the community. This decision is definitely not about creating childcare where it is needed; I can only assume it is about money, as infant and toddler care, which are desperately needed, are expensive to operate.
Meanwhile, the existing daycare spaces are in desperate need of some basic renos (lighting, paint, carpet underlay so the little ones are not falling on concrete), but because of this terrible decision by the administration, those renos are delayed for at least another year.

Avatar ouruvccs

“Forbes did not give a yes or no answer when asked if the university was just as firm in its decision to close the program as it had been in the summer….”

Outrageous. What is UVic on about? What’s the point of negotiating with someone who is this inflexible and immune to criticism and feedback? And why is this “process of consultation” limited to the FA? And what positive feedback is this man alluding to? It seems from the comments section here alone that most feedback on closing ASC is overwhelmingly negative. If UVic thinks there’s anything positive to say about pulling the wool over peoples’ eyes like this, I’m afraid it’s just an uphill battle from here.

Avatar Max Power

It’s disgusting how UVic administration is handling this issue. They are acting in bad faith by acting like the ASC closure is already going forward – despite the decision being deferred, pending negotiations with the Faculty Association.

Worse yet – and even worse than Cassels’ “let them eat cake” response – is how they’re characterizing this move as an increase to child care spaces. It’s almost Orwellian – telling us that they are increasing spaces while they are decreasing services.

One has to wonder what UVic’s endgame is in all of this. If I was to hypothesize, it would be to reduce its overall funding contribution to childcare services. If they were really concerned about need, they would increase infant and toddler care, rather than 3-5 year old (I.e., preschool) care, for which the private sector more than provides adequate space. 3-5 year old spaces are the most revenue efficient and subsidize more expensive care options, like infant and toddler spaces. By adding higher revenue generating spaces, UVic child care becomes more reliant on user fees and less on UVic’s funding contribution.

I’d be convinced that they were so Machiavellian – except UVic Childcare administration haven’t demonstrated that it is intelligent enough to have such forethought and cunning.

Avatar Concerned Parent

This decision is unfair and unreasonable and should be overturned immediately. It will cause great disruption and harm to the families involved, and for what? This directly affects your students, faculty and staff and puts the university in such an unfavourable night. You could expand the program and fill every spot, cancelling the ASC is short sighted and wrong.

Avatar Sheryl Donner

I’m trying to figure out what are the “many options” Jim Forbes thinks he can offer to those in our campus community with our children in care here. I don’t live next to the university but I had THOUGHT that the fact that had a UVic after school care meant that they understood how important it is for faculty to have their children close by because of the long and sometimes odd hours we work. If my child went to school where I live, I would never get to the after school care in time (provided I was lucky enough to get a spot I need the childcare lottery this February). There isn’t enough room for all of us to move to the two after school care options in this community either. They are already overloaded. And what do I do now for ProD days? Did you know there was a wait list for over 20 places I called this’ll September? Did they even check this out? What are his options? I’m willing to bet this man has never had to contemplate childcare and that they didn’t check what was actually a possibility. What happened to continuity of care? What happened to supporting the campus community? What is happening to UVic?

Avatar getreal

You’ll notice that in the Campus Update, Cassels brags about our status as a “destination university”, meaning that 70% of us come from outside Victoria. Surely, UVic ought do more for the capital region then offload these peoples’ kids on crowded waitlists for after school care programs. Cutting this program just makes it that much harder for everyone to find solutions for their children. We need more options in this community, especially for the school-aged category, not less!

Avatar LeAnne Golinsky

Sheryl, I have spent many hours thinking about these same things! I think about the students that living in Family Housing who’s children go UVIC Childcare. For them, Centre 6 IS their afterschool care! So for student parents who’s little ones eventually age out of the preschool program, BUT are not yet done their degree programs, what do these students do??
For the faculty and staff who work at UVIC and have their children at Centre 6, they are able to work a full day, and still have time to pick up their child before the Centre closes. Without this resource, what do these working parents do?? Does the grad student have to make a choice not to work after 2:30 pm so they can pick up their kids from school? Does the faculty member have to NOT teach, run their labs or have their office hours in the afternoons, so they can do the same? Heaven help them if they are single parents, and there isn’t an option for a partner help shoulder the load.

Avatar Mari Imahori

UVic needs to remember that decisions like these directly affect one of the most vulnerable populations in our community: children. I sincerely hope that the university will carefully reconsider closing an existing program.

Avatar LeAnne Golinsky

Well said Mari! This program means so much more to the community than the University realizes. Not only does it provide the much needed care for our children, but also a sense of community, friendship and continuity that goes far beyond the afterschool care program.

Avatar children on the edge

As a student with a younger child currently on the waitlist, I suppose this “expansion” was supposed to benefit someone like me. However, I’m telling you now, UVic: This is NOT helpful. Once my kid starts school, I will be without full-time care for him, and I’ll have fewer courses to choose from, and less time to study. If I can’t keep up with full-time studies, I will be ineligible for scholarships, the work study program, and on-campus housing. These are consequences that make it very unrealistic for me to continue studies at UVic. I just wouldn’t be able to afford it.

I’ve had my kid on the waitlist for 3 years now. I just wish I knew about this closure before I moved here. And I only found out about this through The Martlet – as a parent with a child on the waitlist, shouldn’t I have been one of the first to find out? I need to KNOW what’s going on. I need to get out of here as soon as possible if I won’t be able to study here.

And finally, as a parent, I cannot but feel empathy for kids and families affected by this closure – these are kids with feelings. They have friendships. UVic will never be able to fix the damage in all these people’s lives if they go ahead with this closure.

Avatar LeAnne Golinsky

Hello ‘children on the edge’ So are you saying that UVIC Childcare Services did not communicate with waitlisted parents that they have proposed to close the after school are program??

Avatar children on the edge

I still have yet to hear directly from UVic about this possible closure. In my opinion, this is the sort of thing that they need to share more widely with the community. (esp. if UVic considers this to “have a great impact,” I don’t know why they’re not making it more public???) And not only students currently enrolled, but prospective students need to know about this too. But has the child care website been updated? No.
Before I decided to come to UVic, I checked out the child care page, I saw that it has a Family Centre, and I got the image that UVic cares about students with kids. Sadly, I’m finding out now that UVic just wants to look good but not actually BE good. The way Cassels says “I just don’t want to talk about child care anymore” and chuckles?! when there are so many of us struggling to keep up with school, work, and parenting?! – I feel powerless. There’s nothing I can do, if that’s the way he sees us.

Avatar Jonathan Faerber

Small correction: “The closure of the three-hour ASC program, which would take effect June 30, 2017, was announced in a memo last June…”
This June. June 2016. As in earlier this year. You wrote an article on this then. Thanks.

Avatar Jonathan Faerber

I should clarify too that I had no idea this was happening in June, and I found out about it far too late “to make alternate arrangements”. And I still come across parents on campus who are surprised to find out that UVCCS is cutting this program. Hopefully, this article goes some way towards changing that.

Avatar Jonathan Faerber

I’ve also just found out that UVic had not (and still has not) informed the principals and PACs of Campus View and Frank Hobbs Elementary Schools of this closure. These are the schools most of these 46 children attend for most of the week, and it is simply astounding that UVic never thought to talk to CV and FH administration about how their changes to UVCCS would impact the students at their schools.

Avatar Jonathan Faerber

“I’ve answered all email inquiries from all university community regarding the decision”

This is not true. Forbes lied to The Martlet. I’ve sent and copied him on many e-mails since August. Two this week. Two last week. I haven’t heard back.

So I’d like to see Forbes support this claim. I’d like The Martlet to follow up and ask him to send receipt of an e-mail response to me. The Martlet knows my e-mail. Forbes could forward his e-mails to me to The Martlet that he had sent at the time of this interview. He hasn’t. He can’t. And he’s effectively called me a liar in his interview with The Martlet. I told the truth when I stated on the radio last week that Valerie Kuehne, Jim Dunsdon, and Jim Forbes have ignored my e-mails. They simply haven’t responded. No one, except the president, had. I dare say someone will respond now, but I’m past the point of trusting administration. This whole process has been dishonest so far, and our administration needs to do better. I don’t trust them to tell the media the truth, and since they haven’t, it’s on us to tell our campus and our local media what’s happened.

What’s happened so far: parents at UVic are being shut out of the process of deciding how UVCCS cares for their own children. This isn’t about money. UVic doesn’t want to spend more on child care, and I haven’t asked them to. But the least they could do is tell us the truth about what their plans will do to do to our children, and/or involve us in improving child care for our own children. They won’t. They won’t tell the truth, they won’t talk to us, and they won’t improve child care. Cutting ASC after decades of stagnation is the final straw. Enough is enough. It’s time to expose the whole process of “child care expansion” dating back to 2009 for what it is: an illusion. A scam. A pretense. A lie. We can do better. We can care about child care. Please, if you’re reading this, e-mail jdforbes@uvic.ca stating simply that his changes to child care are not enough for this community. After all, he “answered all email inquiries from all university community regarding the decision” and “will continue to do so”. Find out for yourself whether that’s the case.

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