EDMONTON - Public Interest Alberta has released the results of its biennial Child Care Operator Survey. The survey respondents highlighted the struggles the sector is experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and shows how government cuts to sector funding is making a difficult situation even worse.
“At a time when the sector is already struggling with pandemic-related issues like full or partial closures or being forced to lay off staff, the government has not changed course on the significant cuts it made to child care sector funding,” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “Child care operators have been significantly impacted by the ending of the Benefit Contribution Grant, in particular, which resulted in fee increases to parents, cutbacks to program supplies, decreases in programming, and staff layoffs. More than half of respondents to our survey listed government cuts as one of their top concerns. To add insult to injury, over 75% of the respondents said government didn’t consult them before it made the cuts.”
Survey results also highlighted concerns related to the quality of care - a factor that is largely determined by the level of staff qualifications and training. More than one-third of respondents’ total staff mix is made up of Child Development Assistants, a level requiring only a 45-hour course.
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the essential work of early childhood educators (ECEs),” said Nicki Dublenko, Chair of the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta (AECEA). “Quality in early learning and child care is directly related to the qualifications and well-being of those working in these settings. It is time to strengthen investment in education and the working conditions of ECEs, so they can be fully supported in the essential work they do every day for Alberta’s children and families.”
French further emphasized the value of the child care sector to both children and to the province’s overall economy.
“High-quality, accessible, and affordable child care is critical to foster the healthy development of children, and it is also a valuable tool for growing our economy, largely by increasing the workforce participation of mothers,” said French. “The overall takeaway from these survey results is that government should be ambitiously investing in the child care sector for the benefit of all Albertans.”