Boost for childcare a bust?

Once again funding has been given to train early childhood assistants rather than looking at the real systemic issue of an underpaid, undervalued workforce which leads to the premature exit from the field,of qualified staff, resulting in an alarming dearth of actual early childhood educators available to staff centres.
How do we fix it? Adequately fund a “system” of childcare that remunerates early childhood educators in a manner commensurate with their education and workplace requirements? Create a system that would
lower parent childcare fees (currently at the level of a second mortgage) thereby increasing the likelihood of a stronger workforce?

No, let’s put our money toward minimal education again increasing the premature exit of early childhood educators because now they are the only fully qualified person in the centre (all other staff are assistants) and all the hard work falls on the shoulders of the person who put the work into receiving a full, comprehensive and well-rounded education. I get it. We are in a crisis and childcare centres are struggling to remain open due to a lack of qualified staff. Poor wages and challenging work environments translate to qualified staff leaving the field for more lucrative, less stressful endeavors such as becoming servers in a restaurant or bar.

What is more important? Having staffed spaces available to house children while their parents work? Or having early learning environments that promote nurturing, responsive interactions and quality programming that foster children’s growth in all developmental domains? Research shows that positive outcomes for young children are associated with high quality child care environments. The number one, most important  contributing factor to high quality child care is well-educated staff. Training more assistants is a band-aid solution that may actually be harmful. Governments seem to proudly announce their commitment to funding the creation of more childcare spaces. Those of us in the field ask who is going to staff those spaces?

We must address the childcare crisis with a comprehensive, systematic solution. The Early Childhood Educators of BC and the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC have collaborated in creating the $10 a day plan (https://www.10aday.ca/) to address the concerns of affordable child care, comprehensive education for early childhood educators, and wages that reflect the complexity and level of responsibility associated with creating quality environments for young children. Is it perfect? Probably not. Having said that, I have been part of the early childhood field for 37 years and it is the most promising, well-thought out option I have seen to date.

If you are concerned about the quality of care for young children in childcare, or about the ability of young families to balance the cost of childcare with living expenses, I encourage you to urge government to stop spending money frivolously on minimal training for childcare staff and to start spending money in a way that will improve outcomes for both children and families. It is time to adopt the $10 a day plan and move forward with quality childcare environments that employ well-educated, well-remunerated staff and offer affordable care for families.

Heather Ross

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