Crosscheck: Child-care subsidy for young moms trying to finish high school

Robert Matas, Globe and Mail

Children and Families Minister Mary Polak announced a $150 increase in the monthly child-care subsidy for young moms trying to finish high school, boosting it to $1,000 a child. The money is good news for the teen-aged moms, some of whom are as young as 14.

It is best not to look at the big picture when taking the measure of this program. The subsidy increase will affect only 815 of the 97,000 spaces in the province’s child-care facilities. The day-care system has been badly battered over the past decade by shifts in federal and provincial financial support. The announcement may remind British Columbians that the government’s contribution to the province’s child care this year is less than it was in 2001.

A financial fact sheet published by The Human Early Learning Partnership, an interdisciplinary research institute within the graduate studies faculty of the University of British Columbia, shows the B.C. government in 2001 paid the entire bill of $227-million for the province’s child-care programs, grants and administration.

By 2007, government support had increased to $288-million, but almost 40 per cent came from federal transfer payments. The province’s contribution actually dropped to $209-million in that year.

In the current year, around $300-million is being spent on child-care programs, grants and administration costs. But federal transfer payments still account for about $80-million, leaving the province’s share at around $220-million.….The NDP quickly responded by pointing out that Ms. Polak made the announcement at a location that almost closed nine months ago after a cut to its budget. Another young-parent program in the constituency closed last summer after a cut in provincial support.

Programs have been shut down in Smithers, Terrace, Nelson, Kelowna and elsewhere. They served communities with a high incidence of teen pregnancies, leaving the teenaged moms even more exposed to the challenges of raising a toddler and trying to continue their schooling while not yet being adults themselves.

Rita Chudnovsky, a consultant to the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., said the subsidy increase for young parents does nothing for families facing high fees or to provide more child-care spaces. The hike in funds will likely not affect wages, which are still too low to keep qualified early childhood educators in the field. “Every dollar that supports young parents and their children is important for them, but compared to what is needed to build a system, it is a drop in the bucket,” Ms. Chudnovsky said. “The system needs a significant investment of dollars and a plan,” she said.

Yet Joy Chakraborty, the senior supervisor at Tupper Young Parent Services near Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School in East Vancouver, thought the subsidy hike was marvellous. The child-care workers can enhance programs for moms who require much more support than most other families and help reduce the centre’s deficit.