Families moving away as Cromwell childcare scarce

by Lauren Pattemore - Apr 26, 2024

Limited childcare options in Cromwell are putting stress on young families, and forcing some to pack their bags and move away.

Cromwell-based mothers support group Mums2Mums coordinator Kylie Murdoch says she knows of several families who have shifted to bigger cities because a parent has needed to return to work and put their children in care. 

Other parents have had to delay returning to work because they haven't been able to secure a spot for their children at a centre, Ms Murdoch says. 

"This has put stress on the family's wellbeing, but it also puts stress on those who they work for."

Ms Murdoch says the waitlists for the six centres in Cromwell are up to two years long, and pregnant women are putting their unborn children on them. 

But even then, they're not a shoo-in, she says.

"Planning a baby, becoming pregnant, giving birth and raising a small human should be a time full of excitement and joy, not one of stress and thinking about childcare options so early on in the journey of parenthood."

Ms Murdoch says the problem has been caused by Cromwell's population boom.

Another mother, Jeantel Sander, says she and her husband are looking to relocate with their three children to Cromwell and will need childcare as soon as they arrive.

"It's a scary thought that it might be a problem...With the cost of living, we cannot afford for me not to be working."

She says she was "horrified" after seeing a Facebook post last week on a local Cromwell page claiming very long waitlists of up to two years and a prevalent childcare shortage. 

Struggling to get her young one into care was not something she'd anticipated after such an easy time in Hawkes Bay - where her family currently lives. 

She was able to "walk in" to the centre she wanted and have her newborn enrolled straightaway. 

Ms Jeantel has inquired to one centre via email - a week has gone by, and she hasn't yet heard back.

Ms Murdoch of Mums2Mums says that even if another centre were to reopen she doesn't know if they'd be able to staff it, with a shortage of rental properties in the area.

She reckons that more "outside of the box" thinking is needed to solve the problem, and that could include a co-working space or mothers' cooperative where working mothers could have their children close and supervised.

There may be some relief on the horizon, with a preschool under construction in the new Wooing Tree neighbourhood.

Crux reached out to Best Start's head office last week about the opening date for the new centre, to be located opposite the Big Fruit Reserve, but has not heard back.

The early childhood education provider has plans to cater to 82 children.

Ms Murdoch emphasises that all the centres in Cromwell are of a "good standard". 

"We have six fantastic ECE centres in our community alongside very valuable home-based providers that are trying their best in our community to service the needs of families."

And she says it's lucky that they are.

"Parents should be able to choose an early childhood education centre that fits their needs and that they are most comfortable with.

"Not every ECE centre is the best fit for a family, but our parents are just taking what they can get at the moment."

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