More child care space needed

With a little more than 7,000 child care spaces in Central Alberta, the demands of a growing population are putting pressure on providers and the government to do more.

With a little more than 7,000 child care spaces in Central Alberta, the demands of a growing population are putting pressure on providers and the government to do more.

“There is a need for child care spaces, there’s no doubt about that,” Rob Elliot, Red Deer Child Care executive director, said this week.

“We do have wait lists.”

Red Deer Child Care is a non-profit organization that aims to meet the child care needs of local families.

“In some programs, we have significant wait lists,” said Elliot, pointing specifically to the school-age program that provides care for children before and after school.

According to Alberta Human Services there are 133 licensed and approved child care operations in Central Alberta, which have 7,128 spaces.

Of those spaces, 1,828 were created by the Creating Childcare Choices subsidy in 2008.

In Red Deer, there are 16,000 children ages 14 years and younger, according to the 2011 Statistics Canada Census Profile.

Another factor in the availability of child care is it’s affordability, which can be a hindrance to some families.

“It is expensive, even though there is a subsidy available to some people,” said Elliot, adding the threshold for the subsidy, which was $56,808 for single parents of a child helped reach more people. The subsidy amount parents receive is based on income.

“That does help people, but it could always be better.”

The maximum subsidy for eligible children, which was a single parent income of $35,100 in 2010, or $39,600 for two parents, was $628 per month per child, for infants in child care centres, and $546 for other ages.

Public Interest Alberta, a non-profit education and advocacy group, launched a campaign on Wednesday asking the Alberta government to invest in a quality public early childhood education and care system.

The advocacy campaign said five steps should be taken to address the issue:

l Develop a provincial framework for early childhood learning and care in Alberta.

l Recognize and support children’s mentors and caregivers as professionals.

l Make early learning and care affordable for all.

l Support families with different needs.

l Keep child care public and non-profit.

According to a release from Public Interest Alberta, the per capita funding in 2010 on regulated child care spaces for each child up to 12 years old was $341, which puts Alberta in the middle of the pack among other provinces, but only half of the federal average of $732. Quebec has the highest per capita funding at $1,969.

Alberta’s funding is comparable to its neighbours with Saskatchewan ranking at $356 and B.C. providing $399.

“It is time the Alberta government invested properly in building a quality public early childhood education and care system that will actually reduce the costs of quality care and address the critical needs of our growing population,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Public Interest Alberta executive director, in a release.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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