Bumpy ride expected on $10/day childcare road

Ten-dollar-a-day daycare is coming to Waterloo Region, but access for all could be a rough road

Anticipated problems include lack of space and staff. Families who do not use licensed care providers cannot access the funds.

Barb Cardow, Director of Children’s Services for Waterloo Region, is excited about the new $10-a-day early learning and child care program across Ontario, but acknowledges that implementation could be tricky.

“[The plan] will address affordability in a way that we have never been able to address before,” Cardow said. “It will make a significant difference for women and for all citizens to be able to go to work and go to school and know that their children are well taken care of.”

“This is, I think, the most exciting time for families, women and children.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced last month the signing of a Canada-Ontario agreement on early learning and child care. It’s a five-year agreement between the province and the federal government to reduce the cost of licensed child care to an average of $10 a day by March 2026.

The program started with an average cost reduction of 25% starting this month. The cost will be further reduced by an average of 50% by the end of the year. The program applies to children under the age of six.

The initial subsidy will be retroactive to April 1, with refunds directed to parents through their licensed care providers.

Only families who send their children to approved providers will be able to access the subsidies.

Cardow said there are about 130 licensed child care centers and about 350 to 400 licensed home child care providers. Together they provide approximately 6,000 licensed places.

Cardow said research shows a community needs enough spaces for about 40% of its population under the age of four to meet demand.

“Right now we have enough places for about 25% of the population aged zero to four. So we know that we have to grow considerably.

“We know that to meet demand, we need nearly 3,000 additional spaces in Waterloo Region based on our current population. So that’s a lot of growth that’s needed and we’re continuing to work on that,” she said.

Cardow said the region is working to increase the number of licensed spaces by accessing provincial capital funding to create more centers and continuing to expand the licensed home care program.

She expects cost-cutting to further increase demand, but it’s unclear by how much.

She also estimates that there are around 2,000 unlicensed child care providers in the area, each legally allowed to care for up to five children. Unlicensed providers are expected to follow the same standards as licensed providers, but the Department of Education does not inspect them regularly unless a complaint is received.

These unlicensed providers will need to obtain a license in order to access government funding. Cardow said the region will work with service providers to overcome any barriers to obtaining a license, and predicts that many will decide to obtain a license.

Becky Riddle is an unlicensed childminder based in Elmira.

“I think it’s a very good idea to help young families; everyone could use some help,” Riddle said. “I think it’s not enough to just offer support to families who want their children to be placed in home child care or who want their children to be placed in licensed child care. »

Riddle said there are many cases where granting grants only through licensed facilities doesn’t make sense. For example, many families pay a grandparent to babysit. Or, if a family has found an unlicensed child care provider they like, getting that family to switch providers doesn’t make sense, Riddle said.

” It’s a question of choice. So, if I want my mother to take care of the children, I should still receive a subsidy. Or if someone wants to stay home with their children, why can’t they apply for this grant to care for their own children? »

“At the end of the day, childcare should be where parents see the best match, not where the government decides they should go.”

Another issue Cardow anticipates is staffing. She said the region is already hearing from child care operators that they can’t find enough staff to hire, even though they have extra capacity.

“It will be difficult to expand if we cannot recruit enough workers,” Cardow said.

Riddle doesn’t think the government subsidy will take her out of the market anytime soon, due to the lack of available child care spaces. If it ever gets to that point, she doesn’t plan on getting a license.

Riddle said she became a licensed caregiver at some point in her caregiving career and decided not to continue because she felt it was too regulated.

“It’s not about security,” Riddle said. “There are a lot of unlicensed and safe family daycares. And there are, I’m sure, some dangerous ones. And I’m sure there are unsafe licensed daycares as well.

“For people who choose to do it from home, a lot of the things that we love about doing a business from home are taken away. [by becoming licensed]. So for me, I will not change.

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