The lengths some Kamloops parents must go just to secure daycare - InfoNews

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The lengths some Kamloops parents must go just to secure daycare

Emily Anderson (centre) and her two children Rory, 2, and Elise, 4, are pictured at McDonald Park on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. Anderson was recently laid off and is currently freelancing from home but still has both her children enrolled in full-time daycare because she is worried she might have to put her name on a long wait list to get them enrolled again if she finds employment.
October 10, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - Emily Anderson didn’t need day care for her son until he was a year old, but she knew she had to start early. She started looking when he was two months old and got on a waitlist.

When she first started calling daycares around Kamloops, some wouldn’t even call her back. Across the province, some wait lists are as long as two years for licensed facilities and Anderson saw it firsthand.

“We were able to secure a spot with nine months lead time,” Anderson says. “At three months old we had him signed up.”

There are only enough licensed child care facilities in British Columbia for about 20 per cent of children according to the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C.

“We were very fortunate in the fact we didn’t need to register while still pregnant,” Anderson says.

Once both her children, Elise, 4, and Rory, 2, were enrolled in full-time daycare she returned to work as a graphic designer in downtown Kamloops. For the two spots in daycare, Anderson pays roughly $1,400 a month — more than many people pay for mortgages.

Her childcare situation hasn’t improved. Earlier this spring, Anderson was laid off from her job and has been freelancing from home. But she won’t risk losing her spots, so she opted to keep them in day care until she finds employment again.

“I am looking for something secure and I don’t know if I would feel comfortable pulling them out (of daycare) to save the cost and only to get a job offer and then have to go back on waitlists, I just don’t know how I would make that work,” she says.

Cities all over the province have long waitlists for daycare facilities or very few spots available. Unless you have kids of your own, it’s a bit of a hidden crisis, says Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C.

“It is completely typical to have a two-year waiting list (for a daycare facility) or in some communities not to have licensed child care facilities at all,” she says. "It is a crisis province-wide."

Historically, British Columbia has been at the bottom of the list of provinces in affordable and accessible daycare facilities, Gregson says.

“We are doing better than the territories, but we are the worst of the provinces and we have been until recently,” she says, adding that more affordable child care initiatives are starting to pop up from the provincial government.

“Affordability is becoming less of an issue… but what is taking longer to do is get more spaces created,” Gregson says.

The child care advocate says situations like Anderson’s are part of a much bigger issue when it comes to women's equality overall.

“Until we have quality affordable child care, it’s very difficult for women to achieve equality in the workplace, its an economic issue, women who can’t work and contribute because they can’t find childcare,” Gregson says. "It's terrible all over British Columbia."

In some cases, working parents might turn to unlicensed or unregulated daycare facilities simply because they do not have any other choice.

"If a caregiver only takes two children then there's no problem with being unlicensed, the problem becomes when people violate the rules and because they can make more money or they think they're doing somebody a favour so they take in three, four, seven or 12 children and then that puts lives at risks because there's not the appropriate oversight," Gregson says. "The value of licensing is that it provides for minimal health and safety standards and oversight so parents can rest assure that there are some health and safety standards being monitored and enforced."

So, what needs to be done to change the lack of accessible licensed child care facilities across the province?

"We need to get more spaces built, we need to make child care more affordable and we need to invest in the Early Childhood Educator workforce, and those three things need to happen simultaneously," she says. "We are pushing for the provincial government to invest in modular buildings and those buildings to be put on public land across the province."

One way local governments can play a role is by making public land available and pushing for capital funding from the provincial government. 

"The provincial government doesn't actually build the childcare spaces themselves, they fund the creation of spaces but they are not the operators, so there's a really good role for the local government to play in making sure new spaces happen in the community," Gregson says. "We need to get more spaces created and that's where local governments can play a role."

The Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. has been advocating for affordable and accessible child care for more than 35 years and launched a child care plan in 2011 called the, "$10 a day child care" campaign.

"It's become the template for what the provincial government is doing to improve child care in B.C," Gregson says, adding that nearly 50 local governments are in support of the campaign as well as several thousands of people.

For more information on the campaign go here.


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