It’s a hard school to findchildcare places

FOR Casey and Murray Challacombe deciding on a childcare centre for their 14- month-old daughter Poppy came down to availability not choice.

Like many Orange families struggling to find a spot for their children they took whatever space they could get.

But all that is expected to change when a new centre planned for Telopea Way in north Orange opens as early as Easter next year offering 152 additional childcare spaces.

Another centre earmarked for the corner of Dalton and McLachlan streets is expected to bring 120 additional spaces.

While the Challacombes were lucky to find a space for Poppy relatively quickly, they witnessed the Orange’s childcare shortage firsthand when Mrs Challacombe’s work roster changed and she was forced to find another centre.

“It’s hard to get the centre you want the day you want,” she said.

“Some people have kids in two centres to get the days they want.”

Nurse Christine Stevens put her daughter Alexia’s name down for childcare before she was born and still struggled to secure a spot.

The two-year-old now attends The Willows and while the available days fit around Mrs Stevens current work roster she is concerned what will happen when she goes back to a rotating roster next year.

“Every childcare centre I went to said you have to put a set day down,” she said.

“They said they can’t make it suit your needs.”

Both mothers agree the north Orange centre was a very much needed addition for Orange.

Waratahs Early Learning Centre director Kelly Doulin said her centre like many in Orange had a lengthy waiting list with spaces especially limited in the birth to two year old age group.

“Our waiting list is chock-a-block full,” she said.

“Very few people got a position here so its good that another service is opening up.”

At enrolment time last year eight families out of 230 on the waiting list were able to secure a place at the Waratahs centre. 

“Those eight to 10 families that got in had been waiting since 2010,” Ms Doulin said.

While the influx of childcare centres planned for Orange will give parents the chance to choose the centre with the best price, Ms Doulin was unsure if two centres were needed.

Ms Doulin said the centre is licensed to take up to 90 children but chooses to run at a lower ratio of children per staff by taking only 74 children.

She estimates Orange lost between 35 to 40 childcare spaces when the federal government tightened child-to-carer ratios forcing centres to lower their intake. 

Mrs Challacombe said she feels more comfortable knowing there are extra staff on hand.

“I’m willing to pay more for the quality of the care,” she said.

clare.colley@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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