"A room is just a room without an early childhood educator."
With Penticton breaking ground on construction of the new child care facility on Monday, an advocate for the public child care system is pushing for more to be done.
“Penticton's own childcare assessment showed that we have 29 spaces for every 100 kids. So obviously, the spaces are lacking. But there is a really big obstacle to solving the childcare crisis and that's province wide, and it's the lack of early childhood educators in the system,” said local mother Amanda Burnett.
The new centre on Edmonton Avenue will provide 116 licensed child care spaces when it opens in September of 2022.
“Every space is necessary. It's great to build the spaces. But if you have no workers to run the spaces, then you're just going to have empty spaces,” Burnett added.
“Right now, there are parents in Penticton, who are losing their childcare, not because of the lack of room, not because of the lack of physical space, but because of the lack of the qualified early childhood educators (ECE) who are really essential to making child care work.”
Burnett worked to collect stories from parents all over British Columbia who are struggling to get back to work due to a lack of available and affordable child care spaces. "The Waitlisted Project" reached the House of Commons floor through local MP Richard Cannings back in 2019.
Now, Burnett is focusing on seeing a public system of affordable, accessible, quality child care come to fruition. Her efforts have been focused to build I Care About Child Care and using social media to raise awareness on why she feels public child care is necessary, including why decent pay and working conditions for every early childhood educator is needed.
“The early childhood education system is facing a severe workforce shortage because of the low pay and the really demanding nature of the work. You want qualified staff, because qualified, educated staff leads to quality childcare," she said.
“What we really need is for the province to be implementing that wage grid that the early childhood educators of B.C. and the coalition of childcare advocates of B.C. have been calling for. So we need childcare to move out of the Ministry of Children Family Development and into the Ministry of Education so that we can make sure that early childhood educators are getting paid properly.”
While the plans for $10-a-day child care move forward throughout the provincial and federal government, Burnette hopes to see action taken to properly ensure workers needs are met too.
“We want the field to be attractive for people who are really passionate about looking after and caring for children.”
The provincial wage grid plan on the $10-a-day website states that inadequate wages have led to the challenge that BC is now facing in recruiting and retaining qualified ECEs.
“The wage grid was created in partnership with the early childhood educators of BC and the coalition of child care advocates of BC. They came up with this provincial wage grid that should be implemented within the next few years in order to help attract and retain early childhood educators.”
In January, Penticton city council endorsed the Child Care Action Plan, which identified a need for at least 722 net new child care spaces in the city.
“Parents have a right to access childcare and it's not just a luxury because childcare isn't a luxury for parents. It is a necessity for us to work, pay our bills, and contribute to our local economy.”
Burnett encourages parents to write a letter to their MLA to share their support of the wage grid and building a public system of child care.