Smithers Child Care Plan

Project Type

Why is this plan needed?     

The Town of Smithers recognizes that access to quality child care is an essential service that benefits children, families, local economy and the larger community. Province-wide there has been a recognized shortage of licensed child care spaces that have left many families struggling to find quality care. Locally, child care space shortages have long been a concern in Smithers.

The COVID-19 pandemic further illuminated the vital role of access to child care to the community. Taking the opportunity to better understand local needs and working together as a community to address child care shortages is essential to economic recovery, community growth and overall quality of life.

With Community Child Care Planning funding received from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), the Town been able to take a leadership role to understand and proactively plan for child care by completing a Child Care Space Creation Action Plan.

Plan Highlights

(See the complete plan for full details)

The Town of Smithers Child Care Plan provides a snapshot of current + future child care needs and identifies actions that the community can take to support child care space-creation. The plan was shaped by community engagement, results of a child care inventory & projected child population data.

Smithers Child Care Needs

  1. Infant / Toddler Spaces: The Draft Childcare plan and a short 3 question poll will be available here and on social media. Please take a moment to share your thoughts and feedback in our Community Poll.
  2. Flexible + Extended Hour Options: There are no licensed care options for those requiring care beyond traditional working hours, including before school care & drop-in.
  3. Family Hub Approach: There is a lack of child care co-located with uses that serve families, such as schools, civic, recreation & family service organizations.
  4. Space Creation Barriers: Suitability and availability of potential child care facilities, lack of affordable purchase / lease rates & Staffing challenges are key barriers to space creation.
  5. Affordability: There are affordability challenges both for child care fees and within the overall high cost of living in Smithers. Accessing affordability benefits and child care information is also a challenge.
  6. Care + Support for Vulnerable Families: Care for vulnerable families are limited, notably indigenous-led care, no Young Parent Program, and care offered in conjunction with wrap-around services in safe & trusted environments.

Ways to Support Space Creation

While there are ways the Town of Smithers can influence child care, it is limited in its staff capacity, budget and lack of childcare mandate or legislative role. Addressing local child care needs is a shared responsibility that requires community partners to work together. The strategy areas and actions are a starting point to address local space needs that will evolve into the future.

  1. Create a Local Framework
  2. Actively Partner in Space Creation
  3. Advocate + Communicate

Moving Forward

Looking to the future there are a number of opportunities that the Town can take to address child care space shortages. Theses may include: 2021 Official Community Plan & Zoning Bylaw Update is an opportunity to incorporate child care policies in the OCP and Broadening land use regulation. Future Town Planning Projects are opportunities to consider the potential for child care as a vibrant mixed-use element. Examples include the new Central Park Plan & BC Housing projects. Town’s Asset Management Plan for Town-owned buildings is an opportunity to consider leveraging available child care funding to upgrade and enhance aging facilities.