Red Deer daycare operators say a $45 million provincial funding injection to create more child care fee subsidies for families and wage top-ups for early childhood workers is a step in the right direction.
They also hope it’s a move closer towards Alberta joining the national federal child care program.
“It will definitely be helpful,” said Cameron Wiebe, co-owner of two Lotsa’ Tots Child Care centres in the city. He knows many parents will find relief in the province raising the income level for subsidy qualification to $90,000 from a previous $75,000.
Nav Singh, co-owner of the Alphabet Daycare in Red Deer, also believes the wider window for subsidies will be welcomed by families struggling with the cost of child care.
Full time daycare in Red Deer costs about $1,100 a month per child.
The operators would like to see Alberta sign on to the federal universal child care program, which has already received the support of British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said on Monday the province is currently negotiating with Ottawa to see how this could happen.
The universal $10-a-day child care program, announced by the federal Liberal government in April, was initially geared towards provinces that had mostly non-profit care providers. As Alberta’s day cares are about 70 per cent privately operated, some negotiations and flexibility will be required, said the minister.
Schulz did not give a timeline for when Alberta hopes to get on board. The federal child care program, which would be funded on a 50-50 basis with provinces and territories, is supposed to offer parents the $10-a-day cost in five year’s time.
The New Democrat opposition and Public Interest Alberta are pushing for the provincial government to hurry up and get on board with the universal child care program.
Of the Alberta government’s $45 million new funding injection, $4.25 million will be directed to support families with children attending licensed preschools. Eligible families will receive $125 per month to assist with fees while subsidized funding was previously only available for licensed daycare, family day home and out-of-school care programs.
The province is also directing over $4 million to provide wage top-ups for early childhood educators in preschools to promote high-quality child care.
Wiebe hopes more money for wages and professional development will help attract new people to early childhood fields as finding qualified staff for day cares has been “extraordinarily difficult.”
Singh also welcomes additional professional development funds as he aims to open up specialized care spaces for children with autism and other disorders as a way of being inclusive.
Schulz reaffirmed Alberta government’s commitment this week to open more inclusive child care spots, including those that are available during non-traditional hours.
Singh’s Alphabet Daycare is planning to open a second downtown location with the intend to offer more off-hour care, including overnight care. Singh said there’s already a great interest in this from police officers, nurses and others who work overnight shifts.
Alphabet Daycare is also working with the government to access speech and occupational therapists and experts in child assessments. Singh said these specialists are now only available locally through Aspire Special Needs Resource and families face waits of up to 18 months for appointments.