Media releases | November 20, 2014

EDMONTON—Families with infants, children with special needs and low-incomes hit hardest by lack of childcare funding

In recognition of National Child Day, Public Interest Alberta released the results of a new province-wide survey of childcare centres, day homes and after school care that reveals how Alberta’s underfunded childcare system is failing too many families.

The survey reveals how challenging it is particularly for families with infants, children with special needs and/or families with low-income to be able to access quality childcare.

The survey reveals that 63% of Alberta childcare operations that responded to the survey have a waiting list.  That number grows to 71% for those operating in Calgary.

“This new survey is very consistent with what we hear from parents here in Calgary every day,” said Sharon Reib, Executive Director of Churchill Park Family Care Society in Calgary. “Waitlists are long and there are not enough spaces to serve the needs of all the children - including infants, preschoolers, school age and children with special needs.  We know that when we give parents and children support in the early years, we see a return many times over.  ”

"These results directly reflect the issues our centre deals with on a daily basis,” said Sue McLean, the Director of the Oliver Centre in Edmonton. “Oliver Centre has a waitlist of 300 + families and each day we receive calls from parents begging us to find a way to register their child into the program, only to be told that it will be a few years before that reality could happen. On National Child Day and every day, let’s put our children on the top of the list. Let’s ensure that government gets their priorities straight and truly invests in children and families."

The survey shows that 33% of childcare operations do not accept infants (42% in Calgary) and a full 62% of operations say they do not provide care for children with complex special needs.  It is even worse in Calgary at 74%.

“Parents of children with disabilities struggle to access childcare due to staffs lacking the skills and confidence to support the child’s development,” said Barb Reid, Executive Director, The GRIT Program (Getting Ready for Inclusion Today). “If we are to create an inclusive childcare system, one for all children, two things must happen:  all families must be welcomed and have access, and staff must receive the education and training needed for quality early learning to occur.”   

74% of childcare operations reported that low-income families pay more than $200/month per child above the subsidy rate (32% pay more than $300 while that number rises to 63% of Calgary operators.)

“Not only is it extremely difficult to find quality childcare, but many families struggle to pay the fees even if they are eligible for subsidies,” said Julie Hrdlicka, Outreach Coordinator for Public Interest Alberta and a mother of 2 young children in Calgary.  “At the same time that the government says we need more people in the work force, this survey shows that far too many families just cannot afford to put their children into quality childcare.”

Respondents to the survey overwhelmingly (82%) feel that the provincial government funding for childcare is insufficient.  Unfortunately half of childcare centres reported they increased fees when the government cut the quality enhancement grant in 2013 and 52% cut back on some of their quality programming.

 “This survey reveals the impact on families of years of government underfunding of childcare,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon. “The Alberta government needs to develop a comprehensive approach to providing quality early childhood education and care to support young families, instead of relying on a market based approach for our children.”

 “In recognizing the time of year that this survey was conducted, we were thrilled that close to 25% of the childcare operations we sent the survey to (212 respondents) took the time to complete it and speak out about the realities of childcare in Alberta,” said Ryan MacIntyre, long time childcare worker and advocate who coordinated this survey. “I feel it is very important that childcare professionals work with others to advocate for a high quality childcare system in this province.”

Click here to download  the survey results.- 30 -