As we have heard, the situation in the world of childcare is dire! Fees are out of reach for many families, making it difficult to maintain or find employment or continue educational plans. At the same time, fees are the primary source of funding for most centres, but are not sufficient to allow better wages for child care staff. Enter the $10/day plan which is a well developed plan, evolved over the past several years by a dedicated group of people who highlight the need for a better system of childcare. This plan, in a nutshell, advocates for a redistribution of provincial funds to ensure families are paying no more than $10 a day per child for care, and that childcare staff are getting a starting wage of $20-25/hr with benefits. Supported by our current government, and a talking point in most platforms at our recent election, you would think we would be moving ahead on this plan with more vigour! Not so.
Currently, childcare staff are making between about $14-$25/hr, at Licensed centres, with a slightly higher starting wage being paid at non-profit childcare centers. Staff may not have any other benefits, and are rarely able to have their own children attend where they work.
Fees range from about $30 to $97. These fees reflect the range of options for all ages of children in licensed childcare settings. Unlicensed care arrangements could charge significantly different amounts. Part time care is not usually a choice at licensed centres, but can be easier to find in a home based setting. Infant/toddler care is very difficult to find, or afford.
On the other side of this equation is the subsidy system. At this time, the maximum subsidy available to a family with a child in childcare (3-5) is $550/month. If a parent is paying an additional $200 - $300 each month for a childcare space at $750-$850/month the subsidy amount leaves the family paying between $9.52 and $14.28 per day. So, with that math we are already close to the $10/day, at least in this area where the fees noted are reasonable. (Other jurisdictions may have very different fees, based on overhead and demand). Fees for infant and toddler care, with this same calculation, amount to about $29/day at the top of the scale. But, the trouble with this funding program is that so few people qualify for full subsidy. A family income that tops out at about $40,000/yr before taxes will be considered too high for subsidy... and just how much can you do in this city with $40,000 a year, particularly if you are a single earner supporting a family!
From my perspective, the infrastructure to implement the $10/day plan already exists, but the will to move may be slow to catch up. My concern is that once the wheels are in motion to get this plan underway, there will be a perceived need to create a whole new, top-heavy and expensive governmental arm that will eat up too much of the funding in administration costs, rather than sending the money down the line to the folks who really need it.
If the qualifying threshold for full subsidy was doubled so more families could qualify, and the monthly amount was raised by a couple of hundred dollars a month, a plan that reflects the $10/day could be easily implemented. It may not be a blanket $10 a day for every family, but it would be very close for many more people.
Also important in terms of accountability, the funds as a subsidy would go directly to centres, and be directly tied to the cost of the space being used. Families will still be able to choose the kind of care they prefer, and centres will be assured of the funds required to keep spaces open and pay fair wages to their staff.
A lot of research and evaluation has gone into the plan, and at every turn it has been shown to be financially viable and also to make significant contributions to communities as families are able to work more (pay more taxes, buy more things), rather than being a bottomless expenditure as some might believe.
Childcare is a community resource, and needs to be funded like any other community resource rather than left to the relatively few people (families) who are actively involved at any given time. Our hospitals are not paid for only by those who need them at the time they are needed, nor are our schools, libraries, rec. centres. The people who work in these places are not dependent on just patient, program, or late fees, donations or grant funds to ensure their wages each month.
Why are childcare professionals treated so poorly in comparison? Worth considering? I think so....
Since 1986, I have been working with, and on behalf of young children. As an ECE and a Mom, I have gained some insights and made some mistakes that I am happy to share with others, in hopes that some of what I have learned will be of use to others. Corinne