Caring for our Future: Campbell River parents are being forced to choose between work and childcare

The first in a four-part Mirror series highlighting childcare issues in our community.

Campbell River mom Megan Reedman knows only too well the struggle of paying for childcare while at the same time trying to hold down a job in order to provide for her family, put a roof over their heads and keep food on the table.

“As a parent, it was really hard for me to be able to afford childcare for my two daughters,” Reedman says. “Even with subsidy, they only cover so much.”

Reedman says she was forced to make the difficult decision to take her two young daughters out of daycare and have her parents watch them.

“I work full time and need some kind of care for them,” she explains.

It’s a story that Cally Overton, chair of the Campbell River branch of the Early Childhood Educators of BC, says she hears all too often.

She herself can relate. When she went back to work, her family actually started losing money because she was paying so much for childcare for her two children.

It’s one of the reasons why she’s so passionate about the proposed provincial $10/day childcare plan that advocates have been presenting and promoting to government officials over the past seven years. To date, 46 municipalities across B.C. have endorsed and supported the plan, including the City of Campbell River in principle, and Overton says childcare is now on the platforms of all three parties running in the May 9 provincial election, with “the NDP specifically promising implementation.”

Overton says the plan is a comprehensive strategy that is projected to not only lower user fees for early care and learning, so that families will pay a maximum of $10 a day, down from the current fees of $30-$40 per day, but also improve the quality of care that young children receive.

“More regulated childcare spaces will open, creating additional options for parents while eliminating long wait lists,” Overton says. “Education standards for Early Childhood Educators will move to an expected Bachelor’s degree, a program that is already being offered at Capilano University in Vancouver.”

Overton says with higher education standards, Early Childhood Educators will be compensated and wages brought up to a living standard, to $20-$25 an hour, up from the current going rate of $14-$20 per hour.

“With this, children and families will have access to the quality care that is their human right,” Overton says. “Parents will have guaranteed access to quality care, meaning no more waitlists and stressful searches for care facilities that suit their unique needs. Parents will have options.”

For Reedman, the strategy seems like an obvious benefit.

“I support $10 a day childcare and feel it could do a lot for those who work so hard to be able to afford daycare,” Reedman says. “I work in childcare myself, and could really see this benefiting so many families.”

Opponents of the plan, though, worry the expense to the government in establishing the plan is a non-starter.

Overton admits the plan is estimated to cost upwards of $1.5 billion annually upon full implementation.

“A big bite to chew but scholarly studies show that it is well worth it in the end,” Overton says. “Studies show that the plan is expected to generate revenues back into the economy within three to five years and will essentially pay for itself within seven to 10 years. It is a ripple effect of sorts.”

Overton says with affordable access to childcare programs, more parents, specifically mothers coming off of maternity leave, will be able to re-enter or join the workforce.

“It is estimated that the significant increase in the number of women working will ultimately create a growth in GDP of $1.959 billion and directly reduce income inequality,” Overton says. “With more money being made by families and less being spent on childcare, money that is ‘freed up’ directly goes into the economy leading to further gains in GDP.”

Studies also show that with access to quality childcare for society’s most vulnerable citizens – our children – higher success rates are estimated for the future lives of individuals such as lower instances of mental health problems and criminal activity, equating to less funds needed by government to manage these pitfalls, Overton says.

Which means that locally, Overton believes the $10/day childcare plan will benefit Campbell Riverites regardless of their age or income status.

“With the economic benefits projected, the Campbell River economy will be boosted and poverty rates will decline significantly,” Overton says. “According to Campbell River’s State of the Child Report (2014), 22.8 per cent of children less than six years old live in poverty in our community. Lower childcare fees means lifting young children and families out of poverty, therefore reducing vulnerabilities such as food security and sub-standardized housing. Solving these issues will lead to a healthier, happier and more prosperous community for all of us.

“It is a win-win for everyone.”