Tag Archives: daycare

The Middle of a Pandemic is not the Time to Cut Daycare Spaces.

The Region of Waterloo runs 5 wonderful, high quality daycares. The daycare in Elmira has just been expanded. They are located through out the Region. Now once again, a review by outside bean counters has suggested the daycares be closed as they are not “efficient”.

This means that these daycares cost more because their staff are unionized and paid what Early Childhood Educators should be paid. Unlike the workers in even the best non-profit daycares that must rely on parent fees. Council feels that the 6.8 million invested in these day cares would be better spread, a small amount for each, over all the other daycares in the Region.

The closing of the Regional daycares was rejected in 2015 for several reasons. Some of those reasons still stand and now there are more reasons to reject this proposal. 

The parents whose children attend the Regional daycares need good quality care, like all parents. Some of the children have disabilities. With the extreme shortage of daycare spaces, any parent who gets a good spot “wins the lottery”. Do not use that statement against them, suggesting they are privileged. How are they privileged?  Are there parents jumping the One List daycare queue to get a regional spot? If so, the public needs to know how and why. Elmira Children’s Centre is the only daycare in Elmira.  I know there are quality non-profit spaces, just that there are not enough. 

Right now daycares are running at 70 percent due to COVID. 2000 empty spaces and 50 at the regional daycares. Here is the problem with those figures. They are temporary vacancies caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Schools also have physical vacancies. Children at home are not attending before and after care. This is caused by families not sending their children to daycare and school because of the risk of COVID.  

All of these children and all of the waiting lists will return when parents return to work. Even working at home, you cannot work properly at a job and look after a child or children at the same time. The Regional spaces will be gone. 

What happens to the physical buildings and equipment? In the last go round of this idea, it was found that existing daycare providers were not interested in taking over the Regional daycares. At that time, the union with its higher wages and benefits had to be part of the sale. I expect their desire would be even less when they are dealing with the effects of COVID. What a shame to see the equipment sold off and the buildings mothballed. Staff let go into a fragile economy. 

KPMG has stated that the Regional day cares are not efficient. Why? The daycares are unionized and the staff get paid what ECEs should be paid.  

Kudos to the person who thought up the sneaky statistic that 10 percent of the childcare money goes to the 1.9 percent of the children who go to the Regional Day Cares. Region owned Sunnyside Home gets a greater percentage of Regional money than the other Homes for the Aged and Waterloo Region Social Housing gets a greater percentage of Regional funds than the other non-profit housing. Similar statistics can be made for both those important social services. With this reasoning, obviously they are next on the chopping block. 

My children and grandchildren attended the quality non-profit daycare I founded and was the first president. It is not easy for a group of working parents to build and run a daycare. My mother mortgaged her house and the executive director of the daycare bought the property at much lower prices than today, although her husband was a student at the time. Many sacrifices. Why should those lost spaces be recreated by the working parents who are now going through serious financial loses and stress due to COVID? 

Two new schools will also have daycares added in the near future. Our Region will still be growing with new families after the pandemic. Those schools and daycares are for student growth. The spaces of the Regional Daycares will be gone. 

Who thought up the idea that it was unfair for the Region to run its own daycare programs, programs that existed before the Region became the childcare service manager. Parents and children should lose their spots because somehow it is unfair for them to have a daycare spot. Am I to assume that the wonderful daycare spots will also disappear simply due to a philosophical, cannot even bring myself to say moral, reason? 

Selling the Regional Daycares is a Band-Aid solution to a continuing problem: Despite many promises, a lack of Federal and Provincial movement to create a daycare system that mirrors our public education system. 

Thousands of people in Waterloo Region marched for Black Lives Matter and moving money to social services. Saying you will help BIPOC children by what? A course on how to treat racialized preschoolers instead of a good daycare space for them? That just doesn’t cut it. An 8 percent increase in policing and the closing and letting go of 200 daycare spaces and well paid day care workers doesn’t look good on Regional Council.

Council needs to find a temporary solution for the COVID childcare problem, not a permanent one.

You might also like to read the words of Mary Parker, the Head of Child Care in 2015, the last time the Regional Day Cares were on the chopping block. https://janemitchell.blog/2015/10/29/why-it-made-sense-to-keep-the-regional-daycares/

Why It Made Sense to Keep the Regional Daycares

I could give you the reasons but part of the presentation by Mary Parker, retired head of child care for Waterloo Region, does it so much better.

“Growing the system” by ending the provision of care in one area and purchasing care from another is not as simple as it may seem.

I believe that the divestment of directly operated childcare centres and licensed home childcare program presents too many risks, barriers and disadvantages for this Region.

What are those barriers and risks?

Capital Investments

The Region, as child care operator, has already invested in a long term capital strategy to fund the replacement of the five centres, three completed to date and two more over the next few years. Closure of these facilities represents the loss of invested tax dollars and uncertainty with respect to the future of the buildings. It is unlikely that community operators could afford to purchase these buildings or afford the actual leasing costs.

Jobs

The Region employs approximately 65 staff in the five centres and 25 staff in the home child care program. Regional staff is unionized and receive pay equity salaries.

If the recommendations of the KPMG report were implemented, 90 Regional staff would lose employment. There are significant implications and risks for the Region’s obligations under the collective agreement and under labour law, especially if the facilities are sold or leased to other operators.

Capacity

It is unlilkely that the childcare community has the capacity to absorb 450 childcare spaces. It is not a matter of simply expanding and transferring the spaces from auspice to another. This is a significant expansion, more than any current vacancies could assume.

Grants

There are no provincial capital or equipment grants to assist the childcare community to expand. There is  no certainty that the current pay equity funding and wage grants could be transferred to new operators and it is not known if the province could provide wage grants for the 200 new fee subsidies.

Subsidy Waitlist

There is not a subsidy wait list at this time. We know that this can change; it will increase and decrease as needs change. But without demand, there is no justification for expansion at this time.

Provincial Funding

Provincial funding relies, in part, on utilization of the fee subsidies. If the additional 200 fee subsidies  are not utilized, the province will reduce its funding for the Region and re-allocate its resources. The Region risks losing provincial funding.

Tax Savings

There are no tax savings for the Region in the divestment of the Regional centres and the identified savings resulting in the transfer of the home childcare program to a community agency are not substantial or verifiable.

Increased Costs

The divestment could represent some increased costs for the Region. At the minimum, there will be expectations from the community for capital, equipment and operating grants to expand their operations. there will be compensation costs resulting from job losses and possible labour issues. There are no guarantees that care purchased from the community will continue to be less costly than care that is directly operated.

Reduced Parental Choice

Parents have chosen Regionally operated centres and the home childcare program. Many families have located close to the centres or have chosen a trusted caregiver in their neighbourhood. they have chosen these programs because of specific curriculums, accreditations and specialized services. Closing the programs will reduce parental choice.

Service Gaps

The Region’s centres have been located in neighbourhoods with demonstrated need for care with consideration for other operators. Closure of the centres will leave some neighbourhoods without access for service.

Mary had a lot more to say about childcare generally. You can find her full presentation and the excellent presentation of other citizens here, http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalGovernment/resources/AF/FM2015-0930.pdf

Childcare Breaks My Heart

I’m  proud of the Region’s involvement in childcare. We have a large home daycare organization, daycares, and a subsidy system for poor people to get childcare. When the federal government cut the funds for childcare, we put in 1 million to keep things going.

Provincially, all day Junior and Senior Kindergarten will not only help get kids  prepared for learning but also help with childcare availability. Schools must have afterschool care on a cost recovery basis if parents want it.

Then just as I’m getting smug and my eyes are closed, along come parents with their stories to jerk me awake again.

At the church potluck, a couple with the cutest baby girl ever, told me how the mother may have to quit graduate school because as the sixth category of eligibility on the region’s subsidy list, they won’t get a space and won’t be able to afford daycare when she finishes her maternity leave. The husband is at Conestoga College.

Now as councillors we have been very proud of the fact that the Region hasn’t had a waiting list for subsidy. Recently, we had to institute one because the budget was hemorrhaging 100,000 dollars a month to top up the subsidy list. The province has changed the requirements to get subsidy, which is a good thing, but it has meant more people are eligible. Now there are 300 people on the new waiting list and that’s not counting the families that all along couldn’t even get on the subsidy list as all the other more urgent parents went ahead of them.

A father just wrote to me as well. He would like to use the Region’s home daycare program for after school programming for his 7-year-old twins and 9-year-old. For two hours after school. (Remember there are 300 on the waiting list) They were told that it is a three-year wait to get into the program at the daycare at their school. They sent a note to the grade 7 and 8 classes, they have put ads in the paper, asked around. NOTHING.  His wife has had to quit her job and their house is up for sale.

The after school programs? If they aren’t already full, the cost recovery is 30 dollars per child per day. No wonder there aren’t any new after school programs.

The least I can do is pledge that I will work on getting the Region to use some of the money we are getting for uploading of Ontario Works fees to the province to cover that 100,000.  Last night at the poverty forum, Tom Galloway and Jim Wideman said they would support that too.

The only ray of sunshine? The Cedarbrae breakfast program where I volunteer will still be having the free breakfasts for kids starting in October. No fee.

But as the title says, “Childcare Breaks My Heart”.  My mother had to work and had a hard time finding childcare for me. I had a hard time with childcare, finally founding the Waterloo Infant Toddler Daycare. Now the poster child for that daycare, my daughter, is pregnant and there is  little more childcare than 26 years ago. Quebec has 5 dollar a day childcare. Come on provincial and federal, after 50 years, it’s time!