It’s time to rethink child care
The August Fraser Institute report (The Cost of Raising Children) provoked an instant response on media comment pages, Facebook and Twitter. Now a barrage of new articles and media commentary are emerging to refute the report. What is at the foundation of the reaction? You can’t tell people something that flies in the face of their reality.
Too many families are struggling to find child care. Others worry about the quality of care they have. Most of us are left patching together child care we can afford. Young families are squeezed on all sides. Today’s young mothers and fathers need to work harder and longer than did their parents. Many are struggling just to survive.
Child care and other supportive family policies should allow mothers and fathers to work or get an education, without enduring years-long child care wait lists or breaking the family budget. All parents can better balance work and family if they can be confident that their children are safe, thriving and happy.
Canadian labour unions along with the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, and the Canadian Federation of Students have come together to collaborate on a new exciting campaign to make child care a pivotal issue on the next federal election.
We have been bringing people together to talk about their own experiences with finding or affording child care. We want to discover patterns in our experience that will help identify what is working well and what change is needed. We want to inspire a belief that it does not have to be this way and a sense of hope that change is possible.
Everyone has a story
We have found that whether you are a parent, grandparent, friend, aunt or uncle, everyone has a story that shows why child care services need to be a priority for governments. There were many poignant stories about long wait lists and how people cope until they find a spot they can afford and many parents never find a space. Access is especially challenging in small and rural communities, for parents working on shift, and parents for children with special needs.
Many grandparents are now juggling their work and changing their retirement plans to help their grown children with child care. “The high cost of my daughters child care means that she is relying on me (grandmother) to care for the children. At my age this is not easy. “
One grandmother spends two hours a day on the telephone with her grand-daughter who lives hundreds of kilometers away, helping her with her homework and making sure she is safe. Her daughter’s shift extension goes two hours longer than the after school care program.
A father told us about how he and his partner ‘off- shifted’ (he worked nights and she worked days) because they could not find or afford licensed child care. They had to move close to his workplace so that he could get home in time for his partner to leave to work. “We survived, but this arrangement was very wearing on us as a family. “
A young mother explains, “Not being able to qualify for a child care subsidy and not being able to afford a licensed child care space meant relying on an unlicensed home care provider – really a complete stranger. This was very scary for me.”
The financial burden on families
Parents told us about moving into rental accommodation from home ownership order to pay for child care. Others tell about renting out rooms to help pay for their child care. Child care is the second most expensive cost to a family after accommodation. Home ownership and child care are impossible to achieve at the same time for families.
People are putting off having children because of the uncertainty around being able to obtain an affordable child care spot. Others are deciding not to have a second or third child due to the challenges of having affordable quality child care.
Parents were agreed — they want child care services, the small monthly federal child care allowance does nothing to help their problems finding and affording quality child care.
The time is right
The kitchen table conversations help people realize that it’s just not an individual problem and there are models in other countries and in Canada that provide better services to children and parents. It doesn’t have to be this way! Governments have an important role to play to support parents and ensure adequate funding, good public policy and accountability.
For most of Canada, the median rate for a toddler is around $600-$850 a month but in Quebec, the rate is $154 a month. We know that economic studies in Quebec and elsewhere show that high quality child care has a huge economic benefit to the economy by reducing poverty, increasing women’s equality and better outcomes for children.
CCPA says Fraser Institute Report leaves children out in the cold
For a full rebuttal of the Fraser Institute report go the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) blog Behind the Numbers for Kate McInturff’s article, Leaving Children Out in the Cold.