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New Magnetawan daycare serves 15 children, but wait list hits 40

A group of us moms each took a day off work every week to help each other look after our children
Sawyer Chambers (left) and his friend, Charlie Munn, enjoying the outdoors at the newly created Magnetawan Daycare Centre. At four, Charlie is now in school and too old to be cared for at the centre, but his 15-month-old brother Austin stays at the centre. Sawyer will stay at the centre until October when he turns four. His departure will create space for another parent desperately in need of childcare services in the community.

“I'm very grateful I get to call Magnetawan home and get to help make it a more suitable place to live”. 

That's how Megan Fincham framed the opening of the Magnetawan Daycare Centre, the facility she and others helped create, during an open house at the centre this week.

When the daycare opened in mid-April at 60 Ahmic Street, some parents breathed a sigh of relief because there was finally someone who, again, could help to look after their children. 

The daycare crisis began during the summer of 2021 when the owner of the only licensed daycare closed the centre in Magnetawan due to health issues. 

Amanda Munn was one of many parents affected by the closure, putting the community ina dilemma. 

Fincham was in Waterloo at the time working with children. 

She heard about Magnetawan's plight, and when her contract ended, she returned to her hometown and opened a small in-house daycare. 

The in-house facility could only accommodate a handful of children and was a stepping stone for Fincham's goal to open a centre that could care for 15 children. 

The larger centre is now a reality, and parents at the open house said it's been a game changer for them. 

Munn says when the daycare crisis hit, her son, Charlie, was a one-year-old at the time, and both she and her husband worked. 

“A group of us moms each took a day off work every week to help each other look after our children,” Munn said. 

“Sometimes we would take more days off during the week, and we did this for six months.” 

Munn, who works at Cedar Land Homes in Parry Sound, is very grateful that she has a very understanding employer who recognized she would need to take time off work to help with the daycare issue. 

“Then when we heard from Meagan that she was opening a daycare, there was some hope”, she said. 

Munn says when Fincham opened the in-house site her “stress and worry decreased dramatically” and added that as good as the start-up facility was three years ago, the Ahmic site “is even better and fantastic.”

At four years of age, Charlie Munn is no longer eligible to stay at the new centre, but he was looked after at the smaller in-house daycare. 

However the Munns now have a 15-month-old son named Austin, and he's enrolled at the new facility. 

Munn is a member of the board of directors of the Magnetawan Daycare Centre. 

She says when the current facility was in the formation stage, she and others received calls constantly from anxious parents asking when it would open. 

“We heard about their struggles and some of these parents had taken time off work to look after their children,” she said. 

Munn says others are a bit more fortunate because they have family or friends nearby who can look after their children while they head to work. 

“But for others, they can't have full-time careers until they can find a daycare service,” Munn said. 

Helen Chambers, who lives in nearby Whitestone, was at the open house, and she is one of the parents that was impacted by the loss of a daycare. 

In her case, the daycare service she used was in Dunchurch, and her son, Sawyer, was at that site for about four months when it closed. 

“We had only a day's notice," Chambers said. 

However, she got lucky because she was able to enroll Sawyer at Fincham's in-house centre soon after the Dunchurch site closed. 

The toddler was about 20 months at the time and will be turning four this October and is now at the Ahmic Street site. 

“Meagan's centre changed our lives 100 per cent for the better,” Chambers said. 

Chambers would have faced a quandary without a daycare because her employment requires her to drive from her Whitestone home to either Parry Sound, Bracebridge and even North Bay, which is more than a 60-minute trip one way. 

Carly Langford, another parent at the open house, considers herself one of the luckier parents. 

Her child Blake is 16 months old and wasn't around for the start of the daycare crisis. 

Blake was at Fincham's first site making life very easy for the Langfords. 

Langford says Blake spends the entire day at the Magnetawan Daycare Centre. 

Despite the new site having the capacity to accommodate 15 children, the waiting list of area parents in need of childcare services is around 40. 

“These parents are where I was a few years ago, and that was heart-wrenching,” Munn said. 

To say Magnetawan can use even more childcare services is an understatement, and the open house didn't just attract parents whose children are at the centre. 

Fincham said she talked to prospective parents in need of daycare for their kids. 

Their hope is at some point more daycare services can be created in the community beyond the current 15 spaces. 

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with The North Bay Nugget. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.