For parents, big savings on childcare. For caregivers, “an act of faith”

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Kimberly Mitchell knows how eager parents of young children are to start enjoying the promised savings on child care costs.

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Kimberly Mitchell knows how eager parents of young children are to start enjoying the promised savings on child care costs.

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“We are absolutely thrilled and thrilled about the opportunity for our families to have access to affordable child care,” said the executive director of Western Day Care Center, one of dozens of licensed child care centers across London and the county of Middlesex on the pan-Canadian plan for early childhood education.

Child care providers are also anxious, but for different reasons. Affordable child care isn’t just about lowering fees and cutting families’ checks.

Politicians made it easy at the end of March when Ontario, the latest province to sign on to the plan, signed a $10.2 billion deal with the federal government promising an average of $10 a day for children five and under once the program is phased in.

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But the program is about to fundamentally change the way child care centers deliver their services. What worries Mitchell and other daycare operators is how they will implement the first measures by September 1, just six weeks away, when they will have to declare whether or not they will agree.

Operators, she said, are being asked to take “a leap of faith” rather than baby steps. “How many other professions are being asked to sign on without fully knowing the implications, because they haven’t been done yet?” she says.

“We are going to have to make some very important decisions in a very short time,” she said.

Next week, licensed childcare providers large and small will meet with London City Hall officials to better understand what is expected of them before deciding whether or not to register.

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“I sincerely hope there will be strong buy-in from operators,” said Trevor Fowler, director of childcare and early years at London City Hall, which manages funding for local centres.

There are 60 child care centers and 75 home-based businesses in London and Middlesex. Fowler said there are 14,000 to 15,000 child care spaces, but the total includes before and after school programs with children who are over the age of the national child care funding program.

Families are expected to see reduced fees once daycares opt in. A 25% reduction took effect April 1 when the province signed on, with the promise that families will receive discounts in September before moving forward with the reduced rate.

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Another 25% reduction is expected to come into effect by the end of 2022, with gradual decreases in store as the program moves forward in 2025 and 2026.

The expected savings are considerable. Fowler said the average cost of infant care is currently $60 a day, but will be cut in half early next year.

“We hope this will help families afford licensed child care, because we know what high-quality child care does for families, both in terms of what the child receives in terms of early education, but also the family’s ability to participate in the economy,” Fowler said.

Child care operators agree, but fear they will run out of time to evaluate the guidelines and make decisions. However, failure to enroll could force their clients to seek cheaper care from program providers.

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“Certainly, we still have a few questions. We fully intend to participate, but we have some reservations,” Mitchell said.

Top of the list for Mitchell is the early childhood educator staffing crisis and the level of pay she fears she will lose in the reshuffle.

The plan promises to raise wages for all child care workers to at least $18 an hour, and an increase of $1 an hour next year. Mitchell said she hoped the pay scale would have started at $25 and “that our educators be recognized for the important work they do.”

She wonders how federal and provincial governments can promise more child care spaces when there aren’t enough early childhood educators to meet current needs. She had to close a room in one of Western’s two centers because she couldn’t find enough qualified staff.

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Nicole Blanchette, chief executive of La Ribambelle, a French-language child care provider with nine centers in London and Sarnia, said she was also concerned about the level of pay for educators.

She added that each daycare has unique issues based on its size and the families it serves. She also has questions about how the guidelines will take into account all costs, such as staffing, administration, leases, mortgages, and all other costs associated with running a nonprofit child care center. lucrative.

“There is still information (namely) like the freedom we will have to manage ourselves as we have done for 35 years,” she said.

Also, the timing is difficult because during the summer months most organizations do not meet with their board of directors. “It’s not that it’s not doable, it’s the rush,” she said. “Can we really figure out how we are going to do all of this?

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“Believe me, we all want to see lower fees for parents. It’s more about what it entails? How long do we have to look at it all and figure things out and even figure out how we’re going to handle this? said Blanchette.

Mitchell and Blanchette said they received excellent support from City Hall staff as they navigated the complexities of the guidelines and were confident they would be advocates at the coming. “It’s the timing and the complexity of dealing with it all and what it means and what it involves that creates anxiety,” Blanchette said.

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