Child care crisis deepening in B.C

Siobhan Burns, Alberni Valley Times

The child care crisis in B.C. is deepening. There are many issues contributing to this, including a lack of spaces.

There is only a regulated space for about 20 per cent of B.C. children. The lack of spaces could lead to dangerous situations similar to the one where a woman in Vancouver was caught in 2010 with 10 children attending her home daycare facility.

If a caregiver is not licensed, they are allowed to care for only two children.

These situations are becoming more common. If the provider has several children in their care, they can decrease the amount parents pay. And with daycare fees being the second highest expense for parents in B.C., it may sound like a good option for those parents or the ones who pay more in daycare fees than they pay for a mortgage.

These “underground” daycares are not a healthy option, but for parents who are struggling to make ends meet, they might feel like it’s their only option to reduce their fees.

Often, families with two incomes face the reality of whether it is worth it for both parents to work. And for single parents, it is often not worth it to work.

With access to income assistance, for some single parents they have more money in their pockets when they choose to access that service than if they choose to work. This is also contributing to our crisis.

For a single parent with three children to stay home and collect income assistance, their income, including child tax benefits and the universal child care benefit, would be approximately $2,370 per month.

A parent working full time at minimum wage would only take home about $200 extra, and there’s a chance that they would have a small daycare bill as well. How do we encourage these parents to work? It hardly seems worth it for only $200 or less per month.

For every person who chooses to access this service and spend the extra years at home with their child or children, that’s one less person we have in the workforce.

If it is worthwhile for a parent to work and they are guaranteed safe, healthy options for child care, our economy would see a boost.

In 2011, the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. launched the $10 a Day Child Care Plan. The plan mimics the child care system currently in place in Quebec, which was gradually introduced beginning in 1997.

The proposed plan for B.C. would see parents with an income of $40,000 or less receiving free child care. For those whose income exceeds the $40,000 cap, they would only pay $10 per day.

The Alberni Valley Childcare Society created a mock bill to show the benefits of the plan. For a family with two children, one school-aged and one in an infant and toddler program, that does not receive child care subsidy, they would pay just $400 per month if the plan were implemented. Without the plan in place, the same family accessing Alberni Valley Childcare Society programs would pay $1,275 per month.

The savings of $875 per month to those families is huge.

The $10 a Day Child Care Plan would also see an increase in spaces. It would also see better planning in the placement of child care facilities to avoid clusters of centres.

And last, but not least, among many other things the plan offers, one would be an increase in wages for early childhood educators.

The average wage in B.C. for an early childhood educator is $14 to $16. Caring for children can be one of the most difficult jobs there is, as well as the most rewarding.

If the plan were implemented, child care providers would receive $25 per hour, and so they should.

We need to start investing in our children and it needs to start at an early age. Public education is funded and is a necessity. Child care should be treated the sameā€¦.