Arts & Life
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This article was published 31/10/2014 (2180 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At six months pregnant, Cathy Binda was looking to line up daycare for her children, only to be faced with a three-year waiting list.
"It was very difficult and very, very stressful," she said. "It’s the last thing you need to worry about when you’re pregnant."
Binda applied for child care on the Government of Manitoba’s online registry, and so far she has had no luck.
"You’re on a year maternity (leave), but ... even before you get pregnant, you have to start calling around and getting your name in," she said.
Her son Carter is now 10 months old, and Binda is about to go back to work.
With no daycare secured, Binda and her husband Danny will have to rely on her mother to care for Carter. They’ve also adjusted work schedules.
"I’m very, very lucky for my mom," Binda said.
The couple was able to take advantage of an after-school program for their five-year-old daughter, Bella.
Judy Walker runs a 24-hour home group licensed daycare in the city’s downtown area. She currently has a waiting list with 150-175 names.
"I’ve had parents crying on the other end of the line because they’re going to have to give up the job they got," she said. "That’s really difficult listening to, and feeling totally helpless."
When she began her career in 1991, she was the 202nd licensee in the city. According to the province, there are now 59 licensed facilities — 27 centres and just 32 licensed homes. Walker estimates more than 100 private daycares have popped up.
While the province says private child care facilities must follow the same regulations as licensed facilities, Walker said parents are wary of sending their children to an unlicensed spot.
"Most of them — not all — but most of them have no insurance, most of them do not have First Aid and CPR, most of them do not have a criminal investigation, child abuse registry check," she said.
Binda said her backup plan would be to go to a private, unlicensed facility, but is worried.
"I don’t want to send them to somebody I don’t even know," she said. "Who do I trust?"
The daycare struggle is a common complaint at The Women’s Resource Centre. Amy Betker, community resource advocate, said there are two major barriers facing a lot of local families — lack of spaces and the cost.
"There just isn’t enough available," she said. "There aren’t spots, and they have to be on wait lists, and the wait lists are months and even sometimes years."
Many of the clients Betker sees earn a low wage or are on social assistance, and many are single mothers. They are trying to re-enter the work force, but due to low-paying or part-time jobs, Betker says many can’t afford child care.
"Then they have a tough decision whether they should get another job and pay for child care and spend less time with their children, while paying even more for more daycare," Betker said.
Or, do they return to social assistance so they have a low but steady paycheque, plus have time to spend with their child.
"It becomes a question of what’s the most practical thing to do," she said.
Betker said it’s difficult to give advice to people in these situations, and often recommends social assistance until they’re able to get back on their feet.
"It is the most practical thing to do, unfortunately," she said.
Manitoba Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said she plans to look into the issue of decreasing licensed home-based daycares in Brandon.
"We’re going to do some talking with the mayor and councillors and find out what we can do to address it," she said. "Funding child care centres is an answer, but also funding licensed home-based centres is an answer, too."
Daycare shortage is a provincial and national issue, Irvin-Ross noted, and pointed to Phase 2 of Manitoba’s Family Choices plan, which was announced last May.
"We committed to a five-year plan that we were going to have 5,000 new or newly funded spaces, that we were going to spend $25 million in a capital fund to build child care centres or expand child care centres at schools," Irvin-Ross said.
Staffing is also a key issue in child care, and Irvin-Ross said it is a priority to have a good recruitment and retention strategy, which includes improved wages.
"We provided an increase of an operating grant but also a commitment for a wage enhancement grant," she said.
ChildCare 2020, a national child care policy conference, is being held in Winnipeg in mid-November and Irvin-Ross is looking forward to launching a provincewide commission to investigate the future of child care.
"We will be using a group of stakeholders from across the province to help guide us … it really is about what’s the future? What are we going to do to support children and more importantly, support families so they can access it?"
Irvin-Ross said the province is committed to building a "better system" and believes the commission will help identify that path moving forward.
» Twitter: @jillianaustin
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