B.C. testing universal child care model at 53 locations
The B.C. government has shared more details about its prototype universal child care system, which was designed to decrease parents' monthly costs to $200 or less per child.
The low-cost model is being offered at 53 child care centres across the province for a 17-month test period, during which the government will be gathering feedback from providers with an eye on expanding the program.
- A full list of approved prototype sites is available on the province's website.
The parents of about 2,500 children will be reaping the benefits in the meantime, the government said at a news conference Friday at the Frog Hollow daycare in East Vancouver.
"Families can now have confidence that their children will be well cared for in a quality licensed facility, and it will not cost more than a month's rent or a mortgage to do that," Premier John Horgan said.
As previously reported by CTV News, the province had already quietly started offering the low-cost model at dozens of daycares prior to Friday.
Forty-three of the sites started operating on Nov. 1, and the remaining 10 will be joining the program in December.
The prototype universal system is part of the province's 10-year child care plan, and being funded with a $60 million investment under the Early Learning and Child Care Agreement with the federal government.
"Ensuring that children have the best possible start in life to set them up for success is certainly a priority for the federal government," said North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson, who appeared at the news conference with Horgan.
"It is something that I think is extremely important to all of us, and to any society that values the concept of equality of opportunity."
The testing period ends on March 31, 2020. But as exciting as it might be for some parents in the province, others are feeling left out – and in some cases desperate.
Phil Bouvier Family Daycare on East Hastings Street closed its doors Friday, and dozens of parents gathered outside to mourn the loss to the community.
"It’s hard, we actually came last week to say goodbye to the teachers," said Angela Giannoulis, a parent whose son attended the daycare.
The daycare has faced financial problems for months, despite receiving tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to keep it afloat, but some families hoped the government would step in and somehow prevent the closure.
When questioned about how much money the centre needed to operate, the executive director of the Vancouver Native Health Society said he was unsure how much it would take.
“Oh gosh, I don’t have the budgetary figures in front of me,” said Lou Demarais.
The society recently turned down a $42,000 grant from the city, with Demarais saying it wasn’t enough to keep the child care centre running.
Scott Clark, executive director of the Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society, told CTV News the loss of the daycare's 49 spaces is absolutely devastating to the neighbourhood.
"We've been very concerned and trying to get government to step up and prevent this closure from happening," Clark said.
"We're beside ourselves right now (thinking of) the harm it's going to do."
The building the Phil Bouvier Family Centre operated out of is owned by the Central City Foundation, and the City of Vancouver has an agreement with the foundation to use the space for licensed child care.
In a statement, the city says it is reviewing its options.
“From what the City is currently aware of, VNHS and Central City Foundation’s (CCF) plans for the use of Phil Bouvier do not meet the City’s expectations that this space remain as regulated, full day child care (licensed child care). The City shares the concerns of parents over the loss of these valuable licensed spaces,” the statement reads.
The city says it is looking into local alternatives to provide licensed child care in the neighbourhood.
Families who used the space are calling on the government to buy the building and have the community use it.
Asked about the families impacted by the closure, Horgan lamented the situation but said the government will be doing its best to "meet their needs."
"We're going to be working with those families, and of course it was a decision by the provider to close the doors, and we very much regret that," Horgan said.
Parents who aren't able to access a prototype daycare might be eligible for the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which provides families making $111,000 a year or less to receive as much as $1,250 per month.
For parents wondering why their child's daycare wasn't among the lucky few selected as a prototype location, the provincial government said it selected the 53 sites after putting out a call for applications in June.
Priority was given to sites that had infant and toddler spaces, but other types of child care were included as well.
With files from CTV Vancouver's David Molko