April 11, 2020
Dear friends and supporters:
Like you we were very relieved to hear BC’s Provincial Health Officer report on April 6 that, “Our percentage of new cases, as you can see, has been slowing, it’s been bending, and that’s really important.” It feels like good news that our collective efforts around physical distancing and hand-washing are seeing results. Together we are getting through these unusual and challenging times.
At the outset of the pandemic we shared our strong message to government that, as in other provinces, all child care programs should be closed to regular users with an immediate plan to ensure designated essential workers can access the child care spaces they require - spaces close to their home or work.
We called for:
- Suspending parent fees for essential workers using child care and for families who are taking the Provincial Health Officer’s advice to stay home with their child if they can, and
- Sustaining the wages of all early childhood educators
- Compensating programs appropriately for the loss of income
Since then, families enrolled in child care programs were extremely relieved to hear from government that in most cases they will not have to pay fees if they are not using their child care space – either because their program closed or because of concerns about the virus - and, that their space will be available when they are able to return to their program. This is as it should be.
However, government is using large financial incentives to encourage programs to remain open but the decision as to whether or not to stay open, work in or attend child care is still left with individual child care providers, educators and parents – rather than being a province-wide coordinated plan. This remains disappointing.
Tier 1 emergency workers with young children now have access to a provincial referral system for assistance with finding a licensed child care space – and emergency workers with school-age children can access free services, as schools remain open, through their local school district. Unfortunately, child care services delivered by community based providers are still required to charge parent fees. We understand both these systems will soon be available to Tier 2 workers.
While BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development has chosen not to manage child care during this pandemic to the level demonstrated in other provinces, we are very glad to know that, as we suggested, the substantial new public funding now available to child care operators cannot be used to generate profits in this crisis. Government guidelines clearly state any surplus funds are to be applied to helping families (by reducing fees, extending hours) and supporting staff wages, along with other health and safety measures.
An interesting result of the pandemic in British Columbia has been the universal recognition of child care as an essential service supporting the economy. We always knew it was! The ability of our public schools to respond quickly and consistently demonstrates yet again the importance of ensuring child care benefits from the same system-wide approach in the future. So, as we all start to think about what recovery for B.C. and Canada will look like post-COVID-19, it is clear that a quality affordable child care system is exactly the type of infrastructure investment that governments will need to make. We’ll be right there along the way advocating for effective public policy decisions.
Thank you for your ongoing support – and like you we’ll continue washing our hands and maintaining physical distance!
From Sharon and the $10aDay Team
March 25, 2020
Honourable Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development
Honourable Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care
We want to express our profound appreciation for your efforts to address the current unprecedented challenges facing our community and the child care sector in particular. Today, we are writing to ensure that you have a full understanding of our growing concerns about government’s child care actions to date and to provide our best advice on next steps forward.
As you know, we have asked for a rationale for the Provincial Health Officer’s direction to close schools yet allow child care programs to remain open, as this differs significantly from the approach taken in most provinces. We understand that Dr. Henry advised all parents who can to care for their children at home. She also recognized that while some programs may close, child care services can and must be provided in a safe manner for those families whose parents work in critical roles. We agree that child care is essential to meet this need.
Yet, there is still no provincial plan in place to ensure that open programs are meeting the needs of essential workers. The decision whether or not to stay open, work in or attend child care remains with individual child care providers, educators and families.
Building on the recent recognition that child care is indeed an essential service, we advised government to take effective measures, as other provinces have, to:
- Close all programs to regular users, while maintaining educator wages, ensuring families are not required to pay fees for services they can’t access, and compensating programs appropriately for the loss of income
- Designate essential workers
- Assess the child care needs of essential workers, and
- Open a limited number child care programs to meet those needs, with full funding to support additional health and safety measures, maintain educator wages and provide care at no charge to designated essential workers.
Dear friends and supporters:
We hope that you and your family are safe and well-supported during this critical time.
As the public health emergency unfolds, we are reminding ourselves to approach our advocacy with the ‘generosity of spirit’ that’s essential to achieving the child care system BC needs. We acknowledge that government is working hard to address the COVID-19 pandemic. And, the need for a systematic, province-wide approach to child care services and the health of children, families and early childhood educators remains our top priority.
We have repeatedly asked for a clear and consistent public health rationale for keeping child care programs open while schools are closed, as almost all other provinces have closed both schools and regular child care programs. Yet, as of March 19, child care programs in BC are still being encouraged and ‘incentivized’ to remain open so that front line essential workers from other sectors can access child care. Parents ‘who can’ are advised to care for their children at home. Families are confused by mixed messages, educators are worried to be at work, and government has not yet clarified policies on parent fees, educator wages and the financial viability of child care programs.
We fully appreciate and support the need to ensure that designated essential workers can continue to provide the critical services our communities need. However, with licensed spaces for only 20% of children and almost no licensed care for shift workers, BC does not currently have a province-wide system in place to address these needs.
We have always known that child care is essential!
The child care needs of essential workers and the health and safety of children, families and early childhood educators will NOT be achieved through a fragmented approach. Expecting already under-supported child care programs, dedicated early childhood educators and stressed parents to make individual decisions about whether to stay open, work in or attend child care is not the way forward. Therefore, we support the provincial government to immediately:
- Implement an emergency child care plan to provide free age-appropriate child care services for all children whose parents are designated as essential workers.
- Close community-based programs that are not required to care for the children of designated essential workers.
- Continue to pay all child care staff.
- Suspend all parent fees while programs are closed.
- Maintain all government funding to service providers during closures and provide additional funding to compensate for the loss of income from parent fees and/or parent subsidies.
BC’s plan should be informed by the province-wide plan Quebec has implemented to address these needs.
It is a tragic irony indeed that it has taken this public health crisis for the essential nature of child care to be recognized.
Now it’s time for the province to respond to the urgent challenges facing child care services, and the children and families they serve, with a province-wide coordinated plan and the supports required to make it a reality.
Sharon and the $10aDay Team
Workers, operators and advocates question B.C.'s decision not to close all childcare facilities
Published Wednesday, March 18, 2020
VANCOUVER -- Struggles to maintain staff ratios and locate and buy necessary cleaning supplies are just two of the concerns being raised by childcare workers, operators and advocates regarding the B.C. government’s decision not to close daycares during the covid-19 pandemic.
Emily Gawlick, of Early Childhood Educators of BC, told CTV News Vancouver the province could still come up with a system of childcare for essential workers.
“We believe that childcare programs should actually be closed,” Gawlick said. “Early childhood educators are really concerned. They’re scared, they’re frustrated and they’re confused.”
Sharon Gregson, of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, said there’s been no policy rationale for why young children in childcare programs are being treated differently than children in elementary schools.
“It makes no sense to say that childcare has to stay open because people need to send their kids to daycare while they go to work, and yet close elementary school, where there are five-, six-, seven-, eight year-olds. Those children can’t be left at home alone while their parents go to work,” Gregson said.
She said she’s hearing some centres are having a hard time finding the cleaning products they need to follow the current increased sanitation advice, at a time when many stores have seen a rush on disinfectant supplies.
“The sector is in complete crisis, chaos, not knowing if they’re supposed to be open or closed,” Gregson said.
If centres close, she added, the government should take steps to cover any lost wages for workers and ensure parents don’t have to pay for care they’re not receiving during a shutdown.
Province invests in more than 400 more childcare spaces in Greater Victoria
DEVON BIDAL Mar. 6, 2020
‘These extra spaces will provide relief for many families,’ says Cordova Bay Elementary PAC president
The B.C. government is helping to bring more than 400 new childcare spaces to the Capital Regional District (CRD).
On Friday morning, Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development; Rob Fleming, Minister of Education and MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake; and Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South were at Cordova Bay Elementary to announce investment in 462 new childcare spaces for the region.
In an effort to make quality childcare more affordable and accessible, the province is investing in the new spaces along with seven new projects with local school districts.
B.C. child-care funding benefits centres, not families, in some cities
March 12, 2020 Nick Eagland, The Vancouver Sun
Government programs to make child care more affordable in B.C. are helping families but some for-profit centres may not be passing all of those benefits along, according to a new survey by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
For the left-leaning think tank’s sixth annual report on child-care fees, authors David Macdonald and Martha Friendly gathered data using a phone survey of licensed full-day child care centres and home or family child-care providers in 37 cities across Canada.
In B.C., they found that the median monthly cost for infant and toddler care in 2019 was $825 in Kelowna; $1,000 in Burnaby and Surrey; $1,112 in Vancouver; and $1,200 in Richmond. For preschool-aged children, care cost $810 in Kelowna; $850 in Burnaby and Surrey; $954 in Vancouver; and $955 in Richmond.
Macdonald and Friendly said B.C.’s fee-reduction initiative, launched in 2018 to cut fees at approved licensed facilities by up to $350-a-month per child, appears to have stopped increases between 2017 and 2019 but didn’t substantially reduce fees for children over three years old. Fees declined for children under three in Burnaby and Vancouver, where most centres are not-for-profit.
Improving access to quality, affordable child care in Castlegar
by Contributor on Friday Mar 13 2020
The Province is making affordable, quality child care more accessible for families in Castlegar by investing in 30 new spaces.
“Partnering with local government lets us create more new licensed child care spaces that will help strengthen the community for years to come,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “This is about making a long-term investment in the area and the young families that call Castlegar home.”
Through the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund, the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) is creating 30 new spaces: 10 spaces for children aged three to five, and 20 school-age spaces. The RDCK is partnering with the Kootenay Family Place Society for Children and Youth, which has been operating child care centres in the area for over 45 years. The district expects the new centre to open in September 2021.
Editorial: New childcare spaces a step in the right direction
It has been a banner year for parents in the Cowichan Valley looking for childcare.
It was announced last week that three new childcare centres will be opening in the Cowichan Valley in September of this year.
They will be school based — at Palsson Elementary in Lake Cowichan, Alexander Elementary in Duncan and Mill Bay Elementary in Mill Bay — and have come about through provincial funding.
These centres will provide nearly 120 new childcare spaces.
This comes on top of a previous announcement in June 2019 of three other new centres that were slated for completion early this year, one at Cowichan Valley Open Learning Co-operative, one at Chemainus Elementary, and one at Khowhemun Elementary. Those are to provide 160 new childcare spaces. These were also courtesy of the province’s Childcare BC New Spaces Fund.
Whew! When was the last time the Cowichan Valley saw this kind of investment in childcare?Read more