"You're going through it for the first time, you don't know what to ask and what to look for, and I would have to get a referral from somebody I knew who had a child out somewhere. But the resource centre was great." - Cathy Carroll, parent
When Cathy and Keith Carroll had their first child, they had a lot of questions about child care but few places to look for answers. Newfoundland provided little child care funding and had only recently only recently brought in legislation on family child care, so the province’s child care resources are few.
CUPW recognized this problem and decided to do something about it. In 1996, the union opened the CUPW Family Resource Centre in St. John's, a comprehensive child care support, referral, information and resource centre.
At the time, child care received in a provider's home was not regulated. So the resource centre developed policies, guidelines and procedures to ensure that all aspects of child care delivery would strive to promote children’s health, safety and well-being. The centre's regulations subsequently became a model for Newfoundland's provincial family child care regulations.
The CUPW Family Resource Centre recruits, screens, trains, monitors and supports family child care providers. It operates playgroups for caregivers and parents, provides caregiver transportation to playgroups, and delivers workshops and training sessions. Caregivers and CUPW parents can drop in whenever they want to. CUPW families and affiliated caregivers have access to a toy and equipment library, a resource lending library that includes books, journals, and multimedia materials on child development, children's issues and ideas for activities and programming.
"We asked the resource centre to find someone who'd be suitable and be a good caregiver," says Keith, a mail handler. "They were able to do the screening process and background checks and in-home interviews and we ended up with a good quality caregiver."
The centre provides a critical support to caregivers working in family child care: it helps them to be less isolated.
"You can become very isolated when you're doing home care in your home for children," says caregiver Linda Au. "But [we're] able to get transportation and go over to the centre where you can interact with other adults that are doing the same thing, and the children get a chance to play with other children."
Years of lobbying the government by the child care community and the union finally paid off. In 1998 the provincial government announced that the centre would become the first licensed and government-funded child care agency in the province. It will now be able to serve the entire community, not just CUPW members.