Daycare defends waitlist fees amid calls for B.C. ban
The operator of a Vancouver daycare is defending the decision to charge waitlist fees, a practice many parents complain feels like a cash-grab.
Frustrated with fees that can range from $15 to more than $100, with no guarantee of actually securing a childcare space, some Metro Vancouver parents are calling on the B.C. government to follow Ontario's lead and ban the charges altogether.
But Darcelle Cottons, director of UBC Childcare Services, argues the $15 fee her daycare charges is necessary to cover the expenses associated with maintaining their list, which contains roughly 1,000 names.
"The application fee pays the salary of the person who manages the waiting list, so there's a very direct relationship," Cottons said, adding that the situation would be more manageable if there were more daycare spaces available.
"We have such a shortage of childcare that we have people in tears all the time."
The fee also creates a paper trail for parents' application process, according to Cottons. But she questions how other daycares could justify charging in excess of $100 for a place on a waitlist.
"It's taking advantage of a very stressed parent," she said.
Stephanie Tsui, a mother of two boys, was one of those stressed parents before she returned back to work in September.
While trying to secure spots for her boys, three-year-old Oliver and one-year-old Thomas, she found most of the daycares she applied for charged fees ranging from $25 to $100.
"Paid probably close to $300-$400 in waitlists over… eight different daycares," Tsui said. "We got called back by two."
While Tsui can understand the need to charge administration fees, she argued daycares that charge upwards of $1,000 a month should be able to make ends meet. If nothing else, she would like to see more transparency, so parents can at least know how low or high they are on the waitlists.
"There's a lot of trust in these daycares to keep these daycares to keep these waitlists going and accurate, and really you have no idea where you are, or if the waitlists even exist," she said.
Childcare advocate Emily Mlieczko, executive director of Early Childhood Educators of B.C., said the fees are actually just a symptom of the larger issue, which is the lack of spaces available.
"[A ban is] an easy thing to implement and say OK, you're not going to charge fees for families to hold a waitlist," Mlieczko said. "It doesn't address the bigger system that we just don't have enough childcare spaces in B.C."
This week, the province's Minister of Children and Families, Stephanie Cadieux, said she didn't know childcares have been charging waitlist fees, but promised to look into Ontario's ban.
On top of the ban, which took effect on Sept. 1, Ontario will be forcing daycare operators to show parents their position on waitlists starting in January.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson