Families at Squamish's Discovery Kids Childcare are now part of a B.C. government universal childcare pilot project. It was the only daycare selected in the Sea to Sky area.
Parents whose children attend the 53 daycares across B.C. that were selected to take part in the project will soon be saving thousands of dollars.
They are being offered $10-a-day daycare until March 2020 as the government explores the feasibility of one of its key election promises: universal affordable childcare.
Parents at the prototype daycares will pay no more than $200-a-month per child. The provincial and federal governments will spend $60 million to subsidize daycare for the parents of about 2,500 children, Premier John Horgan announced Friday, Nov. 9 at one of the prototype daycare sites in Vancouver.
"Children are the experts at Discovery Kids Childcare, with their passions and interests driving daily activities," said Katrina Chen, B.C.'s Minister of State for Child Care, in a news release. "To develop these activities, the educators work in concert with the children, guiding them, encouraging them and inspiring them."
The childcare centre will have 37 low-cost spaces.
“Parents are very happy about it. Some describe it as winning a lottery they didn’t know they had a ticket for,” said Maya Magee, owner of Discover Kids, told The Chief.
Parents have told her that the program has opened up new possibilities for them, such as getting a car so they can commute, or finding a job closer to home so it’s possible to spend more time with their family.
“We are very happy to be a part of it,” Magee said, adding that the waitlist for her childcare centre is already a few years long so, while this goes a long was to help families financially, it doesn’t mean more spaces are opening up.
Discover Kids programming is derived from the Reggio Emilia approach, which encourages children to learn through exploration and discovery. Children also learn about Indigenous culture through activities such as weaving, story time and acting. The centre provides ongoing professional development and supports for its staff, including sponsoring educators new to Canada.
"This project models what high-quality, affordable, universal child care may look like for B.C. families," added Katrine Conroy, federal Minister of Children and Family Development, in a release.
Horgan said he has heard from many parents who say their child-care costs are more than their rent or mortgage, which is not sustainable for working British Columbians.
The B.C. NDP made $10-a-day childcare a key pillar of its 2017 election campaign.
Chen said these prototypes are critical as the government designs and refines its program.
The province selected the sites after a call for applications in June 2018. While priority was given to sites that had infant and toddler spaces, the province has expanded eligibility to include other types of licensed childcare.
"We are finding new ways to make it easier for families to get by every month and to save for the future," said Horgan. "Through this kind of action, where we significantly reduce the cost of child care, we can make life more affordable.
Under the initiative, childcare providers at the new prototype sites will receive government funding to cover their operational and administration costs. In return, they will reduce parent fees to a maximum of $200 per month for full-time enrolment during regular hours and will share their feedback with the B.C. government to help inform the future implementation of universal care.
"This project takes a major step towards universal child care in British Columbia. The demand for this program was so strong that we expanded it to cover more children and more sites in every region of the province in the prototype stage," said Conroy. "We want to make life more affordable for families, and this investment will demonstrate the low-cost, high-quality care B.C. parents can look forward to as we fully implement ChildCare BC."
As well, each site will receive a one-time quality improvement grant in 2019 to help enhance the quality of the programs it delivers. The amount of the quality improvement grant for each site will be determined as part of the province's evaluations of the sites' programs and improvement plans.
"Prototype sites give us a glimpse of what the future of universal child care in B.C. can be, and are critical as we design and refine our program moving forward," said Chen. "They build on the work we've already done to bring affordability relief to thousands of families through universal fee reductions and the Affordable Child Care Benefit."
Parents who are not accessing these low-cost spaces may still be eligible for support through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which provides up to $1,250 per child a month for families with an annual income of $111,000 or less. Families using licensed child care may also see savings through the Child Care Fee Reduction, which has so far helped to reduce the cost of almost 52,000 child care spaces around the province.
- with files from Pique Newsmagazine and The Canadian Press