Most Waterloo Region child care centers should opt for a $10 a day program, depending on the region

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Most Waterloo Region daycares are expected to join the federal program which will eventually reduce fees to $10 a day, depending on the region.

Bethany Wagler-Mantle, supervisor of learning and child care business administration for the region, said staff have been in touch with nearly every local child care provider and, on the basis of these conversations, “we expect the majority to accept by the September 1 deadline.”

She says the new program will be a “huge transformational change” for child care in Ontario and so the region has answered many questions about the impact it could have on local businesses.

“We’re really working to answer any questions they have and just to make sure this is a sustainable approach that meets their needs while making childcare affordable for families,” she said.

There are 65 agencies in the region that operate over 200 child care centres. Of those 65 agencies, so far only one has officially signed up, but Wagler-Mantle says that’s no surprise. The centers did not receive the documents until June 30 and it will take several weeks to complete the forms.

Program ‘a game changer for families’

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo contacted more than 50 local child care centers to get their thoughts on the Pan-Canadian Early Learning and Child Care System, the federal program delivered by the province and overseen locally by the regional municipality.

Most said they planned to participate in the program, but some expressed concerns about the looming September 1 deadline.

Lori Prospero, CEO of RisingOaks Early Learning in Kitchener, said the time she would normally spend supporting the accounting team and applying for a new program is currently spent “trying to figure out: how are we going to staff our program tomorrow or next week.”

“We have to go through and… re-draft our entire 2022 budget to align with how the region collects information. And at the same time we are also working on our 2023 budgets. So it is certainly a complex process” , she said.

Prospero said it would be nice if the province could extend the deadline by a month or two to give child care centers a break.

Meanwhile, impatient parents have had a lot of questions about how the program works and when they can expect to see refunds or reduced fees, she said.

“This investment is historic for our industry and a game-changer for families,” Prospero said, adding that his center has seen an increase in people seeking child care and adding their names to the RisingOaks waiting list. .

“I think we have to ask everyone to be patient because it’s going to take time,” she said.

Concerns Raised

Some private centers responded to CBC KW to say they were concerned about how their expenses might be controlled by the government and whether there would be a cap on how much an owner could take as salary.

Andrea Hannen, executive director of the Association of Day Care Operators of Ontario, says she’s heard similar concerns.

“There are questions about what the actual contracts will look like, how the funds will be administered and whether or not the funding will be sufficient to ensure that the centers can maintain the quality of the program they currently provide or even remain financially viable, Hannen said.

“No one wants to enroll and then see the terms and conditions of the program change unexpectedly and be forced to withdraw. Everyone is trying to provide stability and quality for families. So we really need a bit more information on how this is going to play out.”

If a daycare does not enroll in the program this year, parents who send their children there will not be eligible for any discounts or fee reductions for 2022. The province is expected to reopen the application process next year.

Lori Prospero, CEO of RisingOaks Early Learning in Kitchener, called the $10-a-day childcare plan a landmark investment and a “game changer for families.” (Ivanoh Demers/CBC/Radio-Canada)

Fees in 2022 will be reduced by 25% this fall, retroactive to April 1, meaning parents will receive a rebate check after their center joins.

Further fee reductions to 50% are expected by the end of the year, so a family paying $70 a day for care should now expect to pay $35 a day by the end of the year. end of the year if his center accepts.

The reduction to $10 a day isn’t expected until 2025-26, depending on the province.

Shortage of workers

Along with the fee reduction, the province has promised that more child care spaces will be opened. But Carolyn Ferns wonders how.

Ferns, public policy coordinator for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, says the child care industry is facing a staffing crisis.

“If we’re having trouble staffing programs now, how are we going to meet the demand from all kinds of parents who are going to want access to child care now that it’s going to be more affordable,” Ferns said.

“You can build the halls, but that’s nothing unless you have early childhood educators running those programs.”

She said the agreement with the federal government says workers’ pay will start at $18 an hour with a maximum of $25 an hour. Ferns says the starting rate should be $25 an hour.

“It’s a chance to do that because we’re moving to a more state-funded system,” she said. “We can’t solve this labor shortage until we have decent work and pay for it.”

Many child care providers have told CBC KW they are facing a labor shortage and would like the $10 a day program to increase the minimum and maximum amount workers can win to attract more people to the field. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Kim Decker, CEO of YWCA Cambridge, says the federal and provincial governments also need to have a very clear workforce strategy moving forward.

“We need to look at how as a community, as a society, we have undervalued care work for a very long time,” she said.

“I think it’s also a change in attitude in terms of how we value the work that educators do and compensate them fairly and equitably and looking at working conditions, making sure that everything the world has paid sick leave, ensuring that there is a pension for people to consider childcare as a long-term career option for them.”

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