Globe and Mail Series on Child Care – selected articles and excerpts

What might a national daycare program cost?
The Globe and Mail
Research: Lynell Anderson and Paul Kershaw of the Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health

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PEI and Quebec offer lessons on improving child care across Canada
SOURIS, PEI — The Globe and Mail
Oct. 24 2013

For a top-notch child-care system close to home, Canadians should look to the country’s smallest province.

Over the past two years, Prince Edward Island has launched what many experts consider the most comprehensive child-care strategy since Quebec brought in its renowned low-fee program in 1997….

Here are 10 lessons that should guide a national discussion to improve child care in the rest of the country.

1. Make the economic case clear….
2. Call it education….
3. Create enough regulated care spaces….
4. Make fees affordable, consistent – and capped….
5. Train the teachers – and pay them for it….
6. Location, location, location….
7. Infant care is complicated….
8. After-school care shouldn’t be an afterthought….
9. Parents are part of the system….
10. Set a target, track your progress….

Currently, Canadian governments are using drips of money to put a Band-Aid on a broken system, suggests Peter Moss, an international child-care expert at the Institute of Education at the University of London, “instead of sitting down saying, ‘This is the model we want to move towards – and it’s going to be done step by step.'”

That also means, he says, accepting that a high-quality system may take decades to build.

That requires policy-makers to have good statistics to plan where child-care spaces are needed, to track whether program targets are being met and to be accountable to taxpayers. As it stands, provinces don’t clearly know how many families are currently on wait lists for regulated spots, let alone how many are using unlicensed care – which a mandatory public registry could correct….

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The real parent trap: daycare costs
The Globe and Mail
Oct. 23 2013

It’s natural for young families to face financial pressures as they juggle the cost of housing and kids….

Daycare is the hidden menace, financially. It’s amazing that such a massive cost gets so little mention outside gatherings of cash-poor parents. A study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development indicates that upper-income Canadian families with two working parents pay the equivalent of 18 per cent of their net income, on average, for daycare. In a separate study, monthly average costs for infants range from $1,152 in Ontario to $631 in Manitoba. Quebec, the outlier, averages $152.

Average monthly fees, full-day daycare centres by age group in 2012 – See chart


Desperation forces parents into ‘grey market’ of unlicensed daycare
The Globe and Mail
Oct. 22 2013

A shortage of government-regulated space is among Canada’s most pressing child-care problems.

Across the country, families are forced to rely on the “grey market” – leaving their children with caregivers who may not even have first-aid training, paying whatever is asked, and hoping for the best….

But to expand regulated child care, Canada would have to overcome its current shortage of certified educators – a problem compounded by their low pay and high turnover….

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The case for publicly funded child care in Canada
The Globe and Mail
Oct. 20 2013

“In last week’s 7,100-word Throne Speech, child care got 64 of them.”

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The procreative class: How cities can help on the child-care front
The Globe and Mail
Oct. 21 2013

In 2004, when he published his bestselling The Rise of the Creative Class, University of Toronto urban scholar Richard Florida says that cities were neglecting talented young professionals – couples like Gillian and Chris Quigley, cosmopolitan twentysomethings who arrived a few years ago from London, keen to live in the heart of Vancouver.

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Hard on Families, Light on Crime: Some Thoughts on the Throne Speech

Kate McInturff, CCPA Blog Behind the Numbers [Kate McInturff is a CCPA research associate and an expert on gender budgeting and women’s human rights.]

The Throne Speech had a lot to say about Canadian families. The Government promised to make “the right choices” for Canadian families. Just like the choices it has made so far. The Government promised safety and security for Canadian families. Not to mention lower cable bills.

How do those promises measure up against reality?

First, let’s be clear about which Canadian family we are talking about. The Throne Speech, like the 2013 Federal Budget, claimed that the “average family” was now saving an additional $3220 in taxes as a result of specific tax measure introduced in the past 5 years. Measures like the reduction in GST and new child tax credits. However, the Government’s math on this one is a little tricky. So is their definition of “average.”

Assuming the “average family” in the Throne Speech is the same “average family” in the Federal Budget, that family is defined as two parents with two children. However, not all two-parent, two-children families are created equal. Depending on how many parents are working and which parent is working, average family incomes can range from $37,500/year to $136,700/year. The only way the Government’s tax math makes sense is if the family in question is a two-earner, two-parent family with an average pre-tax income of $115,000/year, ruling out the 73% of Canadian families who earn less than that.

Here is a little more tricky math for Canadian families: in order for that particular double-earner family of four to save that extra $3220, they have to spend $2000 on fitness and art classes for their children (to get the maximum $300 tax credit) and they will have to spend a whopping $50,000 on taxable goods and services (to save $1000 from that 2% reduction in GST).

The final irony is that with two working parents and two children, this “average” family will certainly need childcare. For a government that claims to understand “the daily pressures ordinary Canadian families face,” they seem to be significantly underestimating the pressure of finding affordable and safe childcare spaces. The government has done nothing to increase the number of safe, affordable childcare spaces available to working parents, and the Universal Child Care Benefit, at a maximum of $1,200/year, doesn’t come close to the cost of having two children in childcare (which can exceed $24,000/year depending on where you live).

The majority of Canadian families are left out of this picture. Not to mention the majority of Canadians. While the Government promises to be guided by the choices families make in its own economic policies, those policies have consistently left the female half of Canadian families out in the cold….

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Childcare red tape is keeping children safe

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

By Lisa Bryant, childcare consultant and NSW convener of Australian Community Children’s Services, an advocate for not-for-profit childcare centres

Nine children died while in childcare in Minnesota last year. In the same year in Australia, no child suffered an accidental death at a childcare service.

In the US, where there is great resistance to the intervention of government into business, the lack of regulation of childcare has resulted in a shambolic system in which children’s lives are often in danger.

Australia, on the other hand, has had regulated childcare for decades. Companies and organisations that care for children are bound by numerous regulations that spell out everything from how much indoor and outdoor space each child must be allocated to the number of educators centres must employ and the qualifications these educators must hold.

Regulating childcare in Australia used to be a matter for individual states and territories. Last year, after a long process of negotiation through the Council of Australian Governments, the first national regulations for education and care services were introduced.

In opposition, the Coalition long complained about these regulations, but waited until just two days before the election to release its ”Better Child Care and Early Learning” policy. Its second pledge was to reduce the ”red tape” of the regulations that govern the sector.

The particular regulations highlighted for review were staffing ratios and qualification requirements for childcare workers. Interestingly these were the two areas that necessitated the development of the new national regulations. The Rudd-Gillard governments, in an attempt to raise the quality of childcare, had focused on the two elements that research over decades has unequivocally shown raises the quality of early education for children: having more and more qualified educators within our childcare services. These two components are now the ones on the chopping block.

When childcare services were first established in the Whitlam era, most were community based, set up by local councils or groups of parents. During the Howard era, the dominance of these not-for-profit childcare services dwindled as operational subsidies were removed to allow for for-profit private operators to the industry. It was then that the now defunct ABC Learning grew until it provided 25 per cent of all childcare in Australia – before going into receivership. While these services are now owned by the not-for-profit organisation Goodstart, many smaller companies, including small family-owned ones, entered the market after ABC Learning talked up the profits that could be made.

What these operators failed to realise is that it is actually difficult to make money in childcare. There is an inevitable tension between quality and costs. The families who are your customers demand higher quality and yet it is this same high quality that cuts into your profits.

And it is along this line that support for the red tape of childcare cleaves. The majority of not-for-profit providers support the red tape that demands higher qualifications and more staff in centres. A vocal majority of for-profit operators oppose it. In an industry in which between 60 and 80 per cent of turnover goes to wages, every extra staff member you are required to employ cuts deeply into profits.

Market researcher IBIS World describes the industry as having ”shrinking margins for operators” where ”the dominance of non-profit operators … promises to be the defining story of the industry in the long term”.

While in opposition the Coalition took the complaints of the for-profit operators to heart. The story of an industry beset by nasty red tape put on it by the Labor government was easy to sell. But the red tape the Coalition is promising to cut is the same tape that improves the quality of childcare and, at the extreme end, saves children’s lives.

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Is federal child care benefit good use of tax dollars?

By: Laurie Monsebraaten

Before Ottawa doles out any more financial goodies to families, it needs to tell taxpayers where the child care money went, researcher says.

By the end of this fiscal year, the Harper government will have spent about $17.5 billion on the Universal Child Care Benefit.

But nobody knows how parents are actually spending the monthly $100 benefit that goes to every child under age 6, says a new research paper being released Tuesday.

Ottawa can’t say if the money has eased the severe shortage of child care in Canada where more than three-quarters of mothers with young families work and where there are licensed spots for only 21 per cent of kids under age 12.

It doesn’t know if the money has made child care more affordable. Nor can the government say if the monthly cheques have helped more parents stay home with their young children, said child care expert Martha Friendly in her report…..

If Ottawa had put the money toward a national child care program, it would have funded an additional 700,000 spaces at the current average of $3,615 per space in public spending, she said….

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