Central Alberta Refugee Effort playschool teacher Vesna Glamocak helps students Jana, Lamar and Hamsa make a bear craft at CARE on Friday. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Childcare for immigrant children means their parents can attend ESL classes

Partnership between CARE and Red Deer Child Care is called “a win-win”

Learning English is a vital step towards adapting to life in Canada for immigrants and refugees.

But many newcomers to Central Alberta have had trouble attending ESL classes because they lacked money to pay for childcare for their preschool kids.

Now more immigrant parents are getting to attend English classes through a partnership between CARE (the Central Alberta Refugee Effort) and Red Deer Child Care Society.

A pilot program that started Feb. 1, and will continue through June, makes smart use of available daycare programs in the community to accommodate immigrant preschoolers, which frees up their parents to attend ESL classes.

Rob Elliot, executive-director of the Red Deer Child Care Society, said CARE has so far recommend 10 children to the society’s daycare programs, and he describes the arrangement going very well. The only adaptions have been taking dietary preferences of some cultures into consideration.

Although the focus is allowing more parents to attend ESL classes, Elliot sees other positive side-effects: immigrant kids also learning a new language by mixing with English-speaking kids at the daycare. And other non-immigrant kids are getting early exposure to other races and cultures, presumably expanding tolerance.

The children’s immigrant parents get the usual subsidy that’s provided for low-income families. The rest of the daycare fee is topped up by a federal grant obtained by CARE for the pilot program, he added.

“We’re very pleased to be able to offer this to the community.”

Anna Morgan-Wold, ESL manager at CARE, is also very happy with the arrangement, calling it a “win-win.”

Although CARE operates its own child care program, which was recently expanded to accommodate about 60 kids throughout the day, she said there’s always more demand than can be filled.

CARE officials studied a successful Edmonton model and based the Red Deer pilot project on it. Morgan-Wold hopes it can be renewed in September if federal funding continues to be available.

Knowing how to speak English “opens all the doors,” and is important for new immigrants, she said.

Ajulu Okello, who came to Red Deer from Ethiopia, was able to obtain a childcare spot for her four-year-old son while she studies ESL. “It makes me proud,” she said, to be able to learn English, knowing her young son is well cared for.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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