ESTEVAN — The Community Castle invited its first patrons this fall in hopes of taking some pressure off the other childcare organizations in Estevan and helping fill the void. And they still have some spots available.
The before- and after-school childcare for kids from kindergarten to 12/13 years of age is located at the Church of God and has no religious affiliations. The business was started and is operated by Estevan's Madison Wanner, who was a stay-at-home mom of three and like hundreds of other parents in Estevan, was feeling the stress of a lack of childcare in the community. With early childhood education in her toolkit, she felt she could and should do something to address the problem.
"Last year I was going out in public and hearing about how much of a struggle childcare is, how limited resources are in the community, how long the waitlists to get into centres were, and how hard it is to find trustworthy people to care for our children. There was such a high demand for it and so many concerns, leaving so many families not able to work because there was no option for childcare," Wanner shared.
"So, I hummed and hawed and passed the idea around to my husband, asking what he thought if I were to go through the process of starting something to try and take some stress off of some families' shoulders and give them an environment where their kids can feel safe. And then I finally decided to just do it."
With three kids, starting a full-time daycare was a bit too much, she said, so she decided to offer a different service, where she could help parents with morning and after-school hours, no-school days, summer months and also take care of the kids' transportation during the day, which she believes might help open up spaces in other daycares in Estevan.
"I knew that at least this way I could help the families with kids in school who are struggling on PD [professional development] days or during the summer months," Wanner said.
"I felt that maybe this will take some load off of the daycares here for school-aged children, so they can open up those spots for younger kids, infants and preschoolers. My goal is that hopefully, within a year, we can work together to direct more after-school kids to us, [so that full-time daycares could] accommodate more families with babies, infants and toddlers.
"We need nurses, we need pharmacists, we need all these people that aren't able to have childcare right now ... I looked at it as a whole picture and tried finding a way to add more staff back to the community and try to take off some of the pressure on parents."
Wanner went through the process of opening the centre for up to 40 children and also getting licensed, which she said was really challenging. She received confirmation of her licence and that The Community Castle qualifies for subsidies for families in need.
While she doesn't have the final paperwork yet, she said it sounds like she will be able to accommodate families that meet the requirements. And even outside of that, she added, she is offering "a quite affordable payment plan", which is less than "what other facilities are charging." But subsidies will help even more people.
"For families who are struggling, who maybe don't make a large amount of income, there is the subsidy option to help take a load off of their plate. They will have to apply for the subsidy and be approved by the government, but it is an option for them, and we are very fortunate that families can have that support and also a safe place for their kids," Wanner said.
They have part-time, which is up to 10 days a month, and full-time before- and afterschool spots still available. Wanner noted that parents may worry about transportation, but everything has been smooth, and they take busing to and from school very seriously.
"I know families are nervous about sending their kids on buses and a different bus, not being the one to send them on the bus, etc. I know that probably is nerve-wracking for some families to adjust to that, but our system has been so good. It's been running great. Our bus driver has been so accommodating. Our director is amazing. Kids get to and from the school with no problem, everything has been great," Wanner said.
They have the capacity to work with all schools in Estevan. Before school, they are open as early as 6:30 a.m., when they greet and then feed the kids and put them on the bus to go to their schools. The after-school bus brings kids back to the facility, where they have a snack and other activities until the end of the day.
The Community Castle's director is Alyssa Rae and right now they have one staff member, Kylie Peterson. Wanner noted that as the number of kids grows the number of employees will go up as well.
"I hope to get to meet more families and help as many as we can," Wanner said.
For more information, text The Community Castle at 306-421-5882 or email at email@example.com.