Social Issues Discussion: What’s the Deal with Child Care?

At the Women’s Centre, we strive to work on issues that are relevant to our community with a gender lens. After 20 years of conversations with women in our community, we know that lack of access to affordable child care is a barrier to participation in public life. Women are predominantly responsible for caring for children (and seniors). Caring is a form of unpaid labour. This extra work adds up, and prevents many women from going to school, finding full time employment, or doing what they’d like to do.

On June 7th, the Social Issues Committee took on child care affordability, accessibility and quality as our topic for discussion. Child care is a complicated system. There are levels of licensing and accreditation. There are non-profit providers and for profit internationally traded corporations. There are private day homes and before and after school programs. But there is no overarching system. Unlike Health Care or Education, which we think of as a public right and a public good, there is no one body responsible for organizing or oversight. For more statistics on child care costs and barriers, click here.

Together, we talked about what an ideal system could look like. This is what the group came up with:

  • A universal system – increase consistency in quality and leading to inequalities being recognized and addressed.
  • Child care provided by a diverse staff with appropriate background checks and qualifications or training.
  • Child care respected as a career choice with commensurate wages.
  • Subsidies, so child care workers can afford child care for their own children.
  • Child care available in all communities, at work and in homes. Someone also pointed out prioritizing low-income areas.
  • Available now! And with flexible hours.
  • 24-hour options – workshop participants recognized the need for emergency or crisis care on short notice.
  • Free for low-income families, with a sliding fee scale for families with middle or high incomes.
  • Education and awareness! Let’s talk to the public about the benefits of changing this system for the better.

 What would you like to see in Alberta’s child care system?

The next Social Issues Discussion Series is on Refugee Women’s Experiences, on July 5th from 6-8pm.

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