The Child Care Nightmare from a Grandparent’s Perspective
There is nothing more wonderful than watching your children parent and nothing more difficult than watching them suffer for the lack of something that should be as basic to the infrastructure of our neighbourhoods as the local public school: I am talking about the need for quality, accessible, affordable child care services to support working and studying families.
When our daughter had her second child 18 months after the first and was ready to return to the job she loves in the hospitality industry she was unable to find two placements in a quality child care either in her neighbourhood or near her work. Despite being on lists from the conception of the first child and updating information when she conceived the second there was no way she was going to be able to have the two children in care in the same neighbourhood let alone the same location. Transit is difficult, the family lives across a bridge and commutes into the city for work. Additionally, finding a centre that is open long enough hours to accommodate the couple’s shifts seemed next to impossible.
Matching spaces were finally found in an owner operated child care. The daycare was located in a dingy, old (should be condemned?) church hall on a busy street with a tiny gravel pit for a play yard. A provincially licensed child care centre, the building includes 4 programs stuffed full of children (maximum capacity, minimum standards), smells of mold and bleach and has hard working kind staff who seem constantly stretched to meet the needs of the children. Toys are old and few, there isn’t much for little children to look forward to or engage in. Staff turnover is constant so the children must get to know new caregivers. And just in case you think it’s cheap it’s not. Fees are $ 2,300 per month for 2 children 4 days a week.
One day I asked my daughter if she wanted me to give feedback on what I saw and to my surprise this mid 30”s mature executive manager burst into tears. “Please don’t Mom; it’s not as if we have any other options.”
The months went by and then it came, my daughter received the dreaded phone call at work, Ms. R we need to inform you that H (your 28 month old) escaped the daycare and was found on the corner of the busy street, he’s fine but…- and this was not the first time it had happened. The children were pulled from care, a licensing report was filed and many work shifts missed. The parent’s employers became frustrated with unplanned, unanticipated absences as the days turned into weeks while the family searched for alternative care options. In touring programs again I have never been so saddened and ashamed to see what passes for child care in our city. 40 year old portables, dingy church basements or the back end of a mall with a fenced parking stall as play space, places that have been rejected for other uses are good enough for our preschool children? Its’ no wonder the few programs that attract more qualified staff , offer better wages and working conditions and are located in more suitable child friendly spaces have insurmountable waiting lists. If this is considered having child care choice, I don’t see how.