Our child care programs, summer camp, and forest school are child-centered and inquiry based.
What Families Should Know By Marjorie LePoidevin, Director Communications and Marketing
The establishment of a national child care system is a momentous occasion. Child care operators, concerned educators, and financially-burdened parents have been lobbying for such an investment since the 1980s. Until now, the provincial and federal investment in child care had been a patchwork of funding. Finally, support for access to affordable child care and to address pay inequities in the industry is available and we can’t wait!
What Can Families Expect?
Before any rate reductions can be realized, all operators need to be enrolled into the CWELCCS program. Due to the complexity and size of this project, operators have recently been given an extension until November 1, 2022 to submit an application. At time of publication, Upper Canada Child Care has submitted applications to all three regions in which we operate: York, Toronto, and Simcoe County and we are starting to progress to the contract phase. Signed agreements on both sides must be in place prior to any receipt of funding. We are updating our clients regularly.
This first phase of rebates will amount to 25% of the current fees retroactive to April 1, 2022. By December 2022, the plan is that child care fees will be reduced further by another 25%. In September 2024, there should be further fee reductions. The ultimate goal should be reached by September 2025/March 2026, with the minimum full fee of $12/day (families may still qualify for childcare fee subsidies, and with their daily rates considered the provincial average will be $10/day).
Who qualifies for reduced fees? What programs are eligible?
Families of children aged 0-6 years registered in licensed child care centres (for profit and non-profit) that have enrolled in the system are eligible for CWELCCS. The cost for Kindergarten children will be subsidized until they have completed their Senior Kindergarten year. While Kindergarten aged children are considered eligible for these rebates, programs for children in Grades 1 and higher are not included in the plan.
Ultimately big changes require patience of all involved and UCCC is fully committed to the CWELCC system and its implementation.
Addressing Workforce Issues
At UCCC, where we have a Director, Quality Assurance and Licensing Support and a Founders Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education, quality matters. So, we are hopeful the province understands that in order to ensure quality, workforce issues must be addressed.
Pandemic demand for licensed child care dropped to about 45% of pre-pandemic levels, even so, operators like us found that staffing centres remained difficult throughout. Now there are valid concerns that with implementation of this program the demand for spaces will also rise resulting in added staffing demands.
Enrollment has increased in 2022 getting close to pre-pandemic levels. Staffing continues to be a concern for us and many other operators, particularly in before and after school programs and is currently contributing to longer wait lists for care at some locations.
The field of early childhood education and child care has historically had a high turnover rate. Child care is important, challenging, and rewarding work, and educators deserve to be compensated. A step in this direction, a provincial wage range for RECE’s has been established, with a base hourly rate of $18/hour. The province has stated that funding will be provided for workforce training and development, as well as for capacity expansion in ECE degree and diploma programs.
The report also recommended that the Ministry of Education invest significantly to train more Early Childhood Educators and it seems that is happening now with accelerated courses being offered at many colleges in Ontario and across Canada.
They’ve also made a commitment to seek sector input to determine workforce strategies to address working conditions, pay, and retention.
We’re trusting that feedback will be translated into effective changes and impact in the workforce. Greater workforce stability should in turn positively impact children and families.
More Spaces and More Access
A 2018 report issued by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives drew attention to the existence of “child care deserts” in Canada. According to the report, a child care desert is a postal code where there are 3 or more children per licensed space and surprisingly in Toronto, 40% of young children live in such areas. To see where your postal code measures up visit their interactive map. The report details provincial coverage rates which refer to the percentage of non-school age children who have access to licensed child care. “Ontario ranks eighth among the provinces and territories with a coverage rate of 36%, which is similar to rates in B.C. and Alberta. Ontario has the highest proportion of children who live in big cities, where the coverage rate is 39%. Smaller Ontario towns with under 100,000 inhabitants have a coverage rate of 30%. Rural Ontario’s coverage sits lower still at 24%.” For the most populous province in Canada, these rates are alarming.
Thankfully, the province plans to create approximately 86,000 new licensed child care spaces (this includes the 15,000 spaces already created since 2019), prioritizing expansion in underserved communities, and implementing planning measures to minimize overdeveloping in markets. Across Canada the report estimates that approximately 776,000 children live in areas that are underserviced so there is still work to do.
Understandably, in the past, operators have been cautious to invest in areas where long-term enrolment/demand is unproven or areas where child care centres have closed due to lack of enrollment. Such commitments require a leap of faith and provincial support.
The province also plans to expand programming to support the needs of vulnerable and diverse populations such as Indigenous, Francophone, Black and other racialized groups, newcomers, low-income families and children with special needs. The government has promised to gather data and assess barriers to access for children of diverse populations and children with varying abilities. This is great news from UCCC’s perspective as it aligns with our strong focus on inclusion.
So, what happens next?
Child Care in Canada is complex and varied; fees are a big burden for families combined with the stress of finding licensed care when there is a shortage of spaces. This federal – provincial plan aims to address affordability and access, as well as worker shortages and pay equity in the industry, beginning to remove the obstacles Canadian families, operators, and sector workers are facing. For underserved markets, this relief may take longer to arrive, but it seems help is on the way.
While we wait to receive our contracts and the funding to support a reduction in our child care fees, Upper Canada Child Care will continue to focus on recruitment and providing the quality care we are known for.