All our kids are worth it!

Please join us welcoming guest blogger, Julie Hrdlicka. Julie represents Public Interest Alberta (PIA) on the Women’s Centre’s Social Issues Committee. PIA is a provincial advocacy organization working to protect public spaces and a strong public sector. PIA recently launched a childcare campaign and is calling for affordable, quality, publicly-funded childcare, accessible to all families in Alberta.

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In August of last year, I was scrambling to find affordable childcare for my two kids Hendrix, 3 and Scarlett, 1. I had been juggling working from home part-time, without childcare for six months, and I had hit my limit. My partner and I decided we had to make childcare a priority for our family and more importantly, for my sanity. We were already financially stretched, but we managed to scrape the money together to make it happen.

After looking around for a few weeks we could find no available licensed, accredited spaces anywhere near us. So we felt we were lucky when we finally came across space in a private unlicensed day home, which was recommended by a friend.

The kids were going part-time and they loved it. I loved that I had time to work. It also gave me the much needed freedom from wiping tears and bottoms for a few hours a week.

At the end of the first month, the childcare provider sent me an email saying she could no longer take my children. One of her long time families wanted more time, therefore we were being bumped. Just like that. We were scrambling…again.

Thousands of Albertan families, especially low-income families are finding it more and more difficult to find affordable, quality, childcare.

There IS a link between lack of access to childcare and child poverty.

In the last election, Premier Redford committed to end child poverty in Alberta in five years. The result of the 2012 Social Policy Framework, a six-month public consultation process, found that Albertans believe child poverty is our number one issue.

This is all important information, but we must also recognize a child living in poverty is coming from a family living in poverty. There are many obstacles for families to get out of poverty and one of them is access to childcare.

Through our recent research at PIA, we have found:

  • For children 0-12 years old, Alberta’s per capita funding is the sixth lowest of all provinces.
  • The increase in the number of childcare spaces over the past six years has not kept pace with the increase in the number of children under the age of six. The number of preschool children with a mother in the work force who did not have access to licensed childcare went from 69,368 in 2004 to 87,281 in 2010 (62% of all preschool children with working mothers).
  • The subsidy rate for low-income families is not keeping pace with the increased costs of childcare so many low-income families cannot afford to put their children in licensed care.
  • 50% of all childcare spaces in Alberta are for-profit as there is no government support for expanding not-for-profit and public childcare.

PIA’s 5 Recommendations:

  1. Develop a provincial framework for Early Childhood Education Learning and Care.
  2. Recognize and support our children’s mentors and caregivers as professionals.
  3. Make early learning and care available for all.
  4. Support families with different needs.
  5. Keep childcare public/non-profit.

If we are truly committed to ending child poverty, then it is time to make the decisions and take the action to get us there. Creating affordable, quality publicly-funded childcare, accessible for all Albertans will move us in the right direction…because ALL our kids are worth it!

Julie Hrdlicka

Calgary Outreach Coordinator

Public Interest Alberta

To learn more about this campaign, please contact Public Interest Alberta.

For more information on the Women’s Centre’s Social Issues Committee, please contact Leah at 403-264-1155 or leah@womenscentrecalgary.org.

2 Responses to All our kids are worth it!

  1. Cari Gulbrandsen says:

    The issue of not for profit vs. profit childcare is so central to quality childcare advocacy, yet is often overlooked or under-emphasized. The purpose of writing this is blog post to raise awareness of the distinction between profit and not for profit childcare and to encourage discussion about the implications. Although considering the implications of for profit vs. not for profit childcare introduces complexity to looking at the “big picture” of childcare in our Calgary community, it is a discussion worth having. The name of a childcare centre or even its websites or brochures will not necessarily explicitly state whether a provider is a profit or not for profit. It is critical what not for profit or profit care means for families and communities.

    Although research on childcare in Canada remains scant, advocacy and policy related research on the topic is emerging. As an example, The Childcare Resource and Research Unit is an independent early childhood education and child care (ECEC) policy research institute with a mandate to further ECEC policy and programs in Canada. According to the Canadian Childcare Research and Resource Unit (2011) “It is noteworthy that virtually all the available research shows that for-profit operation is a key factor linked to poorer quality.” Investigating issues of quality in childcare has involved closely examining who is providing care and assessing the quality of aspects of care such as physical characteristics of the space, structure and variation of activities, interaction between children and educators and interaction between parents and educators.

    With convincing evidence to demonstrate that for profit centres provide lower quality care, I continue to wonder why, not for profit centres continue to be prevalent. One point of concern is that for profit centres are able to obtain public funding. From my perspective, the fundamental issue with profit centres is that revenue is being diverted to support a profit margin. Conversely, in not for profit centres, all revenue goes back in to creating high quality programs for children.

    On a personal level, I feel that quality is necessarily compromised when funds are diverted to profit. Having childcare companies represented on the stock exchange simply seems wrong and unethical. Clearly, someone is benefiting from the childcare business in these instances, and it isn’t the children who are enrolled in the for profit programs, their parents or their educators. While all childcare programs are required to meet licensing and for accredited centres, to meet accreditation requirements, not for profit centres are much more likely to exceed standards, and to achieve higher quality ratings. I agree wholeheartedly with childcare researcher Susan Prentice (2005) who remarked

    If Canada conceived of child care as a public good and a public investment, child care would be seen as a right, much like healthcare and education. Where child care is a market commodity, parents and children are simply consumers and care giving by staff is merely a labour cost. If, by contrast, child care were conceived of as a public good and a public investment, the relationships would be ones of community-building, citizenship and entitlement.

    Profit centres continue to exist because there is a demand for the services they offer and because they exist in what has become an increasingly corporatized “marketplace” or “industry”. Indeed, childcare spaces, which should be considered a vital public service, are a scarce commodity in our Canadian communities. Parents are forced to choose from what is available and accessible.

    I have an adult child, but I continue to be concerned about childcare issues. I searched intensively for a childcare centre when my son was a toddler, and finally managed to obtain a child care space when he was 3. I visited several centres. The question I always asked myself was, “Would I want to spend my day here?” If the answer was no, we continued the search. I didn’t realize at the time that some of the differences could be attributed to whether the centres were profit or non-profit. I ultimately found a not for profit centre that my son and I were very happy with. I realize now that the program the centre offered, the qualified educators, and the inviting space had much to do with it being a not for profit centre. The issues are complex, and considering not for profit vs. profit is just the beginning. Achieving an adequate understanding of the current state of affairs, and then initiating social change will require the united efforts of concerned citizens. Let’s get the conversation started and share our experiences with childcare.

  2. heather walker says:

    twenty five years ago I needed child care for my 4(!) kids: the youngest being infant twins. Not only was it immediately available, it was provided by a non- profit community agency in the inner n.w. neighbourhood where we lived: within walking distance of our home for the days the car wouldn’t work (!)
    to top it off, i was earning about 1100 a month(if I remember correctly) and the day care cost me…. $45!!!! the family portion maximum. This is a true story. in Calgary. and at the time we converged on McDougall Bldg because we thought we should do better!!!
    So, ya! It is possible! it was possible and it still is! It is an everyone issue, and it needs to be addressed!