Parents feel squeezed by child-care costs. Here’s where they want help
Lindsay Williams and her partner live in Toronto with their two kids, aged five and 10 months. She’s currently on maternity leave but she worries what will happen when she needs to go back to work soon.
She’s started the daycare search, but it’s tough to find somewhere that checks all of her boxes.
Williams took the spot because it was the only one she could find, but the service has been less than ideal.
“The timing of daycare for my son has always been a struggle with my work hours … I’ve had to pay people to take him to daycare or pick him up on top of paying the daycare fees,” she said.
The “ridiculously high” cost of care has also been a struggle for Williams and her husband.
“To send both our sons to daycare — if we find a spot — we calculated that we would be paying $2,600 a month. At that point, is it even worth me going back to work?” Williams said.
“We would struggle financially on my partner’s earnings as he’s a contractor … his work is up and down and his hours vary. I would lose my career — something I worked so hard for — my paycheque, my adult interaction.”
Williams is looking for affordability and accessibility, but it’s also important that her children are well taken care of. “We’re leaving our sons with strangers for the majority of the day,” she said.
About 60 per cent of Canadian children under the age of six received some form of child care from January to March 2019, a recent Statistics Canada survey found. That’s nearly 1.4 million children in just three months.
According to child-care experts, the care services available aren’t good enough to handle this many children across the country. There’s a lack of options, and when care is available, it’s typically a massive monthly expense.
To improve child care for Canadian families, experts say there needs to be more of a focus on three main principles: making child care affordable, accessible and high quality.
Affordability is most important
Unfortunately, the high cost of care is a major issue for parents, and the price tag varies widely across the country.
According to Statistics Canada, the average monthly cost of full-time care in 2011 ranged from $152 in Quebec to $677 in Ontario, and that’s not even 10 years ago.
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Sharon Gregson, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, joined the fight for more affordable child care when she became a single mom of four children in the early 1990s.
She quickly realized good quality, affordable and accessible child-care centres were few and far between.
“There are a few basic tenets that are true of all quality child-care systems: they are affordable — or even free — for families, educators have good levels of education and are well-paid, and they’re publicly funded.”
High child-care costs can impact all aspects of how a family lives, Gregson said — from how they eat to the kinds of extracurricular activities they can access and everything in between.