Families all across BC are facing a crisis in accessing quality, affordable child care. Fees are so high they account for the second highest family expense after housing. Wait lists continue to lengthen while the province’s total regulated space is only about 20 percent of BC children. And the low wages of early childhood educators are forcing many to leave the field to earn a more adequate living wage elsewhere.
British Columbia still has no provincial plan to ensure infants and toddlers – a significant number of whom are in unregulated care – have access to quality care. As well, the province has yet to respond to United Nations recommendations calling for greater government investment in child care.
In 2011, the Coalition of Child Care Advocates and the Early Childhood Educators of BC released a Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning, informally known as the $10 a Day Child Care Plan. The Plan offers a concrete, innovative ‘made in BC’ solution to the child care crisis facing families with young children.
If and when government puts the Plan in place, child care will cost families $10 a day for a full-time program, $7 a day for part-time, and will be free for families with annual incomes under $40,000. Every young child will have the right to participate in quality early care and learning programs that meet their needs. It will be up to families to choose what services work for them.
With new investments from the province, locally elected school boards will provide early care and learning programs in their communities with the operating funds they need to deliver quality programs. Early childhood educators will receive the respect and remuneration they deserve.
The Plan complements the costing model and fees established by HELP (Human Early Learning Partnership), a collective, interdisciplinary research network based at UBC. To learn more about this costing model, check out A New Deal for Families.
First Steps – Policy Changes
Recognizing that it will take five to ten years to fully implement the plan, a series of immediate actions have been recommended to the provincial government:
- To seek commitments from elected officials to embrace and implement the plan;
- To enact into law a new Early Care and Learning Act which honours international commitments supporting children’s and families’ rights to quality early childhood programs. The Act would provide a stable legislative and regulatory framework for implementing the plan while ensuring accountability on the part of government;
- To implement a moratorium on public funding for the expansion of commercial child care centres;
- To reduce parent fees to $10 a day in all licensed infant and toddler spaces (in group and family settings) that embrace the accountability requirements. This step recognizes that the current crisis is most acute for infants and toddlers who, at their most vulnerable stage, are over-represented in unregulated care;
- To work with five or six diverse BC communities to establish demonstration Early Years Centre Networks;
- To work with boards of education to develop plans, with targets and timelines, for providing early care and learning for all families who wish to use services.
Check out also the Fact Sheet By The Numbers for recent statistics about BC Children, families and child care.