‘Every child has the right to daycare’

Daycares becoming more accessible for many parents, but the increase in accessibility and affordability also caused waiting times for registration to spike.

Parents wait for months and sometimes years to find a spot at registered daycares. Workers report feeling burned out as they try to keep up with demand. Arlette Lazarenko/photo illustration.

Arlette Lazarenko

When Amy Katz’s daughter Noa was six months old, she put her on a waiting list for daycare in St. John’s. Today, Noa is almost two years old and still on a waiting list.

“I’ve been calling and asking if there are any available spots, but nobody does (have openings),” Katz said. “They tell me to try again in January or next year.”

Katz is one of many parents whose children are on waiting lists that stretch for months or even years.

“Honestly, I feel helpless and burnt out,” Katz said about the struggle to balance work and taking care of Noa.

Katz isn’t the only one feeling the burnout.

Sharon Earle works at Milestones Early Learning Centre in St. John’s. She says she is well aware of the wait before a child sets foot in a daycare.

“The cost of childcare now is making it affordable for many parents to send their children to daycare, but the number of spaces hasn’t changed fast enough,” Earle said.

Last year the agreement between the federal and provincial governments initiated a plan where childcare costs as low as $10 a day.

Finding and retaining staff, Earle said, is an issue in itself.

“It’s a stressful job, and we feel overworked,” she said.

“I understand their frustration, I really do, but there is nothing I can do.”

“We care for them as our own. It’s hard to see the parents that come to me daily, and I have to turn them down. It’s heartbreaking, but how can I choose? I’m only allowed to take a certain number of children.”

Earle says childcare is the heart of everything because it trickles down to other areas. For example, some parents are immigrants that need their children in daycare so they can work. Others are in the healthcare system, such as nurses who can’t go to work if there is no daycare space for their children.

While Kicker does not normally accept emailed responses, in this case the emailed response from the Department of Education contained information critical to the issue.

In the email, a spokeswoman for the education department said they plan to open 30 locations for their pre-kindergarten pilot program. The first five locations will open in November.

According to a 2020 CBC story, there are 8,100 registered spaces but there are 20,000 children under the age of four in the province.

Working alongside of the province, the Family and Childcare Connection agency approves childcare operations at homes where one person can care for up to seven children, including their own.

Valerie Collins is the agency’s executive director. She said the agency received funding last March to operate all over Newfoundland and Labrador to help regulate and support opening more registered spots. When a daycare is approved, it is posted on its website.

“When one opens, it fills immediately,” Collins said.

She agrees that the $15-a-day childcare is desperately needed. However, she says it added pressure to a system that was already in crisis.

Currently, Collins says 25 home daycares are in various stages of approval.

Amy Katz and her husband, Michael, take turns staying at home and taking care of Noa. In the morning, Katz takes care of her while Michael works. When he returns home in the evening, he takes over while Katz goes to work as a dance teacher.

MUN, where Michael works as a chemistry professor, has its own daycare. The university’s daycare is fully booked, and Noa is currently number 30 on the list.

Some of the calls from parents seeking daycare, says Earle, are desperate and even nasty at times.

“I understand their frustration, I really do, but there is nothing I can do,” said Earle. “Probably every daycare in the province will tell you the same.”

All she can do is hope that the situation improves.

“Every child has the right to daycare,” she said.


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