Blog | March 27, 2013

By Sarah O'Donnell, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON-Ending a grant worth thousands of dollars every year to child-care centres across Alberta will hurt providers trying to offer the best care and could lead to higher fees for families, advocates said Monday.A coalition of child-care providers, joined by Public Interest Alberta, urged the province to reinstate the Quality Enhancement Training grant, eliminated as part of the in the 2013-14 budget.The grant, introduced in 2003, meant $7,500 annually for accredited day cares and day home agencies to spend on training, enhanced programming and materials. Accredited after-school care programs were eligible for $4,000 per year.Craig Loewen, press secretary to Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, said Monday that faced with difficult choices in the budget, the minister made the call to spend the $7.1 million previously earmarked for the grant to protect child-care subsidies for families earning less than $50,000 and for programs topping up the wages of child-care workers.A professional development allowance of up to $1,000 per year and staff attraction incentive allowance of $2,500 per year also are still funded in 2013, he said.But child-care providers questioned the need to end the grant on April 1 at a time when the government has listed quality child care among its priorities.“We really need to look at why we did what we did eight years ago,” said Sue MacLean, director of the Oliver Centre. “It wasn’t just put in place for quick fix, it was put in place to ensure children were getting good care.”The Oliver Centre, a not-for-profit daycare and after-school care provider, used the grant mainly to help staff with professional development. There is always new research that people working with children should be aware of, such as brain development research, MacLean said.“We like to keep our staff very up to date on all of that research, the new assessment training coming in,” MacLean said. “Taking that away from us is having an impact on how we do our programming.”MacLean said she now has to sit down with the centre’s board of directors to see how it can continue those efforts. “We know we’re not going to lower our standards,” she said.Kristy Thomas, director of the McKernan Child Development Centre, said her south side non-profit childcare program will have to ask families to make up the difference in fees to maintain its quality of programs. "We are not willing to sacrifice quality or our vision," Thomas said in an e-mail.Loewen said the department does not believe cutting the grant will impact the quality of child care in Alberta. The staff training portion of the grant was meant to help child-care programs get accredited, he said. Most centres have completed that effort.“One very key point here is this is a grant for toys and equipment,” Loewen said. “This is not related to services or programming. I’ve heard it suggested this is going to impact those areas, but that is not the case.”Public Interest Alberta executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said he does not believe it makes any sense to end the Quality Enhancement Training grant considering that Human Services received a boost to its budget for child care in 2013.“Recently the premier put out that letter to all her MLAs saying, ‘We’re standing for working families.’”The social framework has eight priority areas and one of them is child care, he said. “And then they turn around and cut the Quality Enhancement grants,” Moore-Kilgannon said. “They’re saying one thing and doing another. That’s what drives me crazy.”sodonnell@edmontonjournal.comTwitter.com/scodonnellRead the article at The Edmonton Journal