SIX NATIONS – Privately owned day care, Little & Littler Treasures may be forced to shut its doors within the next few months if they can’t come up with funding dollars. Owner Sarah Jayne, approached Band Council last week to ask for financial assistance. Jayne, whose day care has been open for eight years now, and services over 60 children from Six Nations and New Credit, was very emotional when speaking with the Two Row Times. She explained the hardships of running a day care on Six Nations with less than stellar monetary assistance.
Jayne can only afford to pay her employees a mere $11 an hour while other day cares on Six Nations pay $18 an hour, which inherently results in a higher turnover rate at her day care. Jayne stated, “It’s hard to keep dedicated staff when they can make $18 somewhere else.” Jayne feels that if she can get more funding dollars, she can pay her employees higher wages which will result in higher job satisfaction and will in turn entice them to stay with Little & Littler Treasures.
But Jayne feels like she is hitting a dead end in her struggle to keep her day care open. Since opening 8 years ago, she has been to Council twice a year to ask for help and was told each time that there just isn’t any money in the budget to help her. She has been to GREAT to ask for help, but was directed back to Band Council. Jayne, along with 45-50 supporters showed up to Band Council last week to once again ask for help.
Jayne has no choice but to charge parents $15 per day for one child to attend her day care while other day cares on Six Nations charge $10 per day. She also employs 13 staff.
Last year, Six Nations received roughly 1.9 million dollars for childcare, which services 111 children on the territory at two day cares.
Elected Council Chief Ava Hill told the standing room only crowd that there was only enough funding to support Six Nations’ two day cares and, “we’re only getting so much funding.” Hill told everyone that, “instead of fighting each other we should fight the government for more funding dollars.” The funding comes through the Ministry of Education, the federal government and also the First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative which combined, totals roughly 1.9 million dollars. The money is administered through GREAT.
Jayne stated her biggest concern is equity for all children. If she closes her doors, 60+ parents will be out of childcare. As some children live in single parent homes, some parents may be forced to quit their jobs to stay home with their children.
Councilor Terry General suggested that perhaps Council should step up and approach the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs on behalf of Little & Littler Treasures because, “they’ll listen to Council more then they’ll listen to community members.”
Hill suggested to those present that, “we need to think of generating dollars for this community. An option is the GRE option. We need community input. We need our own revenue instead of relying on the government for dollars. We can’t go on like that.” Hill was referring to the idea that instead of GRE paying the government millions of dollars in taxes each year, that money should go back directly into the community. But she explained that every time Council has a public meeting to discuss this, very few show up.
Jayne is looking to get $294,000 a year to provide staff with the same wages as other day cares and told Council that if she can’t find the dollars by April 1, she will consider closing her doors. However, she later told the Two Row Times that upon speaking with parents, she was encouraged to not give up.
Jayne currently meets all the requirements of the Ministry of Education’s Day Nurseries Act, and is a fully certified day care. The other two day cares on Six Nations are fully subsidized, meaning that parents don’t have to pay out of their own pockets. Little & Littler Treasures is not subsidized. The only way a parent can get their child’s care paid for is if they are in the Ontario Works program.
On what sets her day care apart from the other two on Six Nations, Jayne explained, “We are more flexible. The other day cares’ drop-off time is 9am and then doors are locked. Our drop-off time is 10am and parents can also text or phone that they are running late. We open and close for parents who work early or work late with no late fees. There is no set drop off or pick up time for non-working parents. We offer pick up and drop off to and from all schools within the boundaries of Six Nations and New Credit. Also, potty training is not a requirement to go to the preschool program.”
Jayne owns a 12-passenger vehicle which, for a small fee of $2.50, she will pick up and drop off children whose parents don’t have transportation.
Jayne is the only licensed private day care on any reserve in Ontario. She currently operates on around $180,000 a year and feels that $294,000 is her ideal financial budget, which would see an increase in staff wages.
Being underfunded is a huge problem, she said. What would make Little and Littler Treasures operate more efficiently is pay equity which would mean consistent and satisfied staff.
When Jayne first approached GREAT for help, she was told that funds are already allocated to Six Nations Council who receives just over 1.9 billion dollars which goes to Six Nations Day Care and Stoneridge Day Care. Jayne receives none of that funding.
The main concern of Band Council, it seems, is that Jayne runs a privately owned day care, which means it is ‘for profit’. But according to Jayne, it’s not about the money. “The goal isn’t to make money, it’s to provide a service to the community and most importantly, it’s about the kids that need the care.”
Jayne is very thankful for the support of the parents and encourages concerned community members to contact their district Councillors.