Childcare is not a parent issue, it is a community issue.
August 18, 2014
“Approximately 46 per cent of kindergarten-aged children in Alberta are developing appropriately in all five areas of development.”, as outlined by the results from the Early Childhood Mapping Project of Alberta. Only 46%? That means more than half of our children are NOT developing appropriately!
Until last week, I, as a Champion for Children, had no idea our children were struggling so much. Last Wednesday, I had the privilege and honour to meet with a group of amazing women and PC Leadership Candidate Jim Prentice. The goal of this meeting was to bring to light the struggles of families to find AND afford quality childcare. It was also our opportunity to let Mr. Prentice, who, if elected, has the power to change the status quo, learn of these difficulties.
It was an amazing and inspiring meeting. I met one woman who, after working for years to build her own business, is now selling it, because between the cost of childcare and university tuition, she can not afford to keep the business. I met one mom who, after having two children, is considering not going back to work because after paying for childcare, her take home pay would be less that $1/hour. I also met a woman whose sister, with a Masters in Education and an amazing career as a Vice Principal in a high needs school, is being forced to leave her job because she simply cannot find childcare for her children. The wait lists in her place of residence are 2 years! I’m sure that if I gathered in any room with mothers and fathers, I would continue to hear the same heartbreaking stories. The current state of our childcare system is simply unacceptable.
As outlined in this article about the cost of childcare across Canada, our childcare costs on an annual basis are nearly double what it costs to send one child to university for a year. The statistics are from 2012, and based on what I’m hearing, the childcare costs have gone up…significantly. As one friend said to me, “I spent $22,000.00 on childcare last year. Since when do I have an “extra” $20k lying around?”. When you look at the fact that, in order to qualify for subsidy, you have to earn less that $50,000 per year, 1/2 of your income would be spend on childcare for two children!! How on earth is a family in that situation supposed to be able to make ends meet?
The flip side of the cost to families is the cost to the government, our economy and our communities. We in Alberta are booming, and as a result, have a huge labour shortage. Because of the cost of childcare and the difficulty in finding it, we have a skilled and willing labour force at home, wishing they could be working. Many parents find they are better parents when they can work, at least part time. It allows them to use their skills and brains, engage in a larger community, contribute to both the family income and the economy, and feel more connected. It also allows their children to be better socialized and more independent as they become comfortable spending time away from their parents. As social skills and communication skills are the two main developmental areas in which our children are lacking when they enter Kindergarten, they clearly need this opportunity!
In Quebec, in 2012, 70,000 parents were able to join the labour force because of the childcare support supplied by the government. In fact, “Research shows that for every dollar Quebec invests in affordable child care, it brings back $1.05 into the economy. (Source)”
By investing in childcare, we would strengthen our economy, our communities, our children and our families. After all, aren’t we supposed to have “the Alberta Advantage?”
Want to get more involved in this conversation? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have only just begun.