Last week, I hosted a Child care roundtable to learn about the huge challenges parents and child care centers are facing right now. Thank you for participating.
In the roundtable, child care operators expressed concern about the lack of adequate consultation and communication by the province with the child care sector. This has left many operators scrambling to meet unrealistic timelines for reopening, confused about what school reopening will mean for centres, and feeling alone and overwhelmed as they navigate daunting municipal and provincial guidelines.
The lack of adequate communication and consultation with the child care industry has led to inaccurate reporting by the Premier, who on July 17th, 2020 insisted that 91% of child care centres were operational. During our roundtable we were told from several industry stakeholders that only 37% of licensed centres were operating as of July 14, and most of these centers were operating at a limited capacity.
It was also stressed that child care must be included alongside the plans for reopening schools in September. Not only is it unclear how child care centres sharing space with schools will be impacted, many operators stressed that should schools return using a hybrid model, operators will be unable to provide care on the days children are not in school.
This lack of consistent care will severely impact many working parents, particularly women, who will find it difficult or impossible to return to work without affordable child care options. Whether students return to the classroom full-time, part-time or online, it is imperative parents have access to high-quality affordable child care.
Additionally and understandably, child care centres are eating in reserve funds and are in desperate need of additional funding. Many centres cannot afford the necessary renovations to accommodate multiple cohorts, nor can they afford to reopen and just rely on fees from a smaller number of parents. The costs of rehiring staff, implementing new cleaning protocols and purchasing Personal Protective Equipment have been high.
In the absence of provincial funding, many child care centres face enormous barriers to welcoming kids back under the new rules for re-opening. Many centres are only open because they remain on the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy Program. When that program ends, many centres will not be able to make ends meet.
Child care centres are caught between child caps, growing waitlists of families in need of child care, and a commitment to hold spots for families not ready to send their children back. It is critical the government step up with support for the child care sector before centres are forced to close permanently or hike fees, and before more parents have to quit their jobs to stay home.
This government must guarantee access to affordable, quality, public child care for all. It is critical for children and the safe reopening of the economy. That’s why we are calling on you to:
- Create a plan to maintain access to child care by boosting capacity safely.
- Provide immediate base funding to stabilize the child care sector to prevent fee increases and layoffs.
- Find ways to use available public infrastructure so that schools and child care centres can resume in-person for as many children as possible in a safe and healthy way.
- Engage child care advocates, RECEs and child care operators in reopening planning.
- Guarantee that no essential workers currently receiving emergency child care will lose child care provision when the emergency child care program ends.
- Guarantee that parents will be able to access paid, job-protected leave until school and child care fully resumes.
- Ensure the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy remains available to child care operators by working with the Federal government.
After this roundtable, I wrote a letter to Minister Lecce, school board trustees at the Toronto District School Board, and the Ontario Principal's Council, and I also shared your concerns with the mainstream media.
Parents and educators, want to take a turn sharing your thoughts with Minister Lecce? It takes one minute here to contact Minister Lecce and ask him to take the necessary steps now to ensure there is safe, affordable, and high-quality childcare available to all: https://www.jessicabellmpp.ca/safechildcare