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Child care still posing problems for Richmond families

By Angel St. George

Published 11:15 PDT, Wed May 11, 2022

With more families moving into Richmond, the need for sufficient, good quality child care spaces is of ever-growing importance. 

Raising the standard for child care has been a complex problem due to difficulties maintaining a balance between affordability for families and fair wages for child care providers. 

The province approved a $10 a day child care program, converting licensed child care spaces—with a priority on infant and toddler care—into low-cost spaces at existing facilities. Families pay no more than $200 a month per child for full-time enrollment, regardless of the care type. For some low-income families, child care is free. 

The Society of Richmond Children’s Centres (SRCC) is a non-profit society started by a group of local women 25 years ago. Since opening its doors to the community, it has grown to serve 230 families. Two of its child care centres—Cook Road and West Cambie—have recently been converted to the $10 a day child care program. 

“The program is life changing for families,” says the society’s director Nicky Byres. “For families who have not saved for daycare, it is very challenging to afford it.” 

The cost of daycare in Richmond can be higher than the cost of an undergraduate university program. But while parents have time to plan and save for their child’s post-secondary education, bills for daycare expenses start coming in within the first few years of parenthood. 

According to a 2020 survey conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which involved more than 11,000 phone calls to child care centres, Richmond is among the five cities with the highest toddler fees. A median toddler space costs $1,300 per month. The total costs can be an unrealistic expense for families with more than one child. 

In addition, there was a 32 per cent reduction in child care enrollment between February and November 2020. This substantial reduction in enrollment had detrimental effects for service providers, who primarily depend on parent fees and still have fixed costs like rent, heat, and electricity, as well as staffing costs—even if spaces aren’t completely full. 

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ data also shows that if parents aren’t employed, they’re less likely to place their children in child care, especially if the cost is high. In contrast, the lower the fees, the less likely parents were to take their children out of child care. 

“The $10 a day child care program is part of a comprehensive plan to move to a universal child care system,” says Byres. “The universal model not only makes child care more affordable for families, but it also provides fair wages for staff.” 

Fair wages play a significant role in both the quality of child care provided and its availability. 

Parents need to start applying for child care services very early on, otherwise they could be faced with having to stay home to care for their toddlers instead of re-joining the workforce. 

“There is a one- to two-year wait to get in to child care in Richmond for toddlers,” says Byres. 

In the event that a family has not joined a waitlist in time, they may opt for an un-regulated home-based daycare. Parents should do independent research to ensure the centre is safe and that the staff are qualified and do not have criminal records. 

Child care centres offer varying styles of learning from academic to play-based approaches. 

The SRCC provides a free-play model. Educators set up a daily environment that develops a suite of skills needed for success later in Kindergarten. Children learn how to be curious, ask questions, socialize, and manage group situations. 

“We are committed to protecting childhoods and not rushing into formal academics. Kindergarten teachers are qualified to take on academic instruction, but they need kids who can manage themselves in a group and have well-developed problem-solving skills,” says Byres. 

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