B.C. may have announced $33 million in funding for child care last week, but those working in the industry say the province is still missing the point.
Esquimalt Coun. Meagan Brame has owned and operated Saxe Point Daycare since the early ’90s. She says the recent announcement only addresses building or purchasing new facilities, not staffing them.
“We’re already in crisis” she says. “I’m worried that they’re creating all these spaces that could be open by next summer or fall and there’s not anyone to staff them.”
Brame employs three full-time staff who care for 16 children aged three to five. She feels lucky that she hired her employees when they were students at Camosun College’s Early Learning and Care program.
But this year just 22 will graduate from the course, many of whom have been “snatched up before they’re even done practicum,” Brame says.
On Dec. 4, Esquimalt council approved an rezoning application by the owners of Super Genius Academy, another daycare centre.
“We wanted to expand group daycare from eight children to 16,” explains Luz Mary Calderon, a former teacher who owns and operates Super Genius as well as Little Genius Academy, both on Dominion Road.
“It’s not easy,” she says. “Daycare is not a business you get into to make money, you do it because you love children.”
Two part-time staff provide care for children aged three to five at Super Genius, but when eight more kids come through the door, Calderon says she’ll need to hire at least one more person.
The wait list for both academies is currently 40 families long.
“It’s really frustrating for me to see the families and mothers who say I can’t go to work because I have nowhere to leave my child,” Calderon says.
Brame feels the province could have addressed these issues with the previous budget. “They could have done some really easy things like increase subsidy rates for lower-income families.”
The price for care for a subsidized child is $550 per month, a rate that hasn’t seen an increase in over a decade, she says. Typically, parents of the children who attend Saxe Point pay just over $800 per month.
“My staff need proper wages. Every year I try to give them a reasonable raise.”
Infant/toddler care is the most expensive to open and operate because of the added cost of resources like cribs and high chairs, Brame says, so many facilities combine age groups because it is the three-to-five year olds that tend to get subsidized. That also leaves fewer spots for infants and toddlers.
For the roughly 448 child-care spaces the province has said it wants to create for Greater Victoria, Brame estimates a minimum of 60 early childhood educators will be required. “Are we going to sacrifice quality for quantity? Good programs are hard to come by and I think parents need to be aware of that.”