In the face of what some are calling a crisis, one Penticton resident is sharing the stories of families struggling to find affordable childcare.
Waitlisted Project BC is a Facebook page dedicated to giving a voice to parents who have been unable to find affordable childcare, and the struggles this has led to. Amanda Burnett, a Penticton resident and mother of two, started the page when she experienced this issue firsthand.
Burnett is currently on maternity leave and said instead of spending the time celebrating all of her daughter’s firsts, she has been exhausting all of her options trying to ensure she will have a daycare placement by the time she must return to work in November.
“It wasn’t that bad when we put our son on the waitlist of the daycare he attends now. We heard about it when it was being built so we put him on it pretty much right away, so a few months before I was scheduled to return to work they said they had a spot for him in September,” said Burnett. “I wasn’t going back to work until November, but we had to start paying for the spot then. You lose it if you don’t pay for it.”
She said because kids return to school in September, that is typically when daycare spots will open up as kids move into the next age group of care. When her daughter was born, she knew there was a shortage of daycare spots available in the area and acted quickly to try and get her into the same daycare her son already attends.
“I was told that my then four month old daughter was 75th on the waitlist out of 77 for the daycare that my son already goes to,” said Burnett. “When they said that to me, I was shocked. Just to clarify, I asked if that means her chances of getting in were low. And they told me they had already filled the eight spots they could take in the fall, and after that we were 75th on the waitlist.
“So they would need to go through 74 other people before they would get to me, and my son already goes there. So we were left feeling like ‘What are we supposed to do next?’”
This is when she decided to take her frustrations to her local city council and MLA, but found that little support was offered. In 2017, the Ministry of Children and Family Development announced 3,806 newly licensed childcare spaces would become available over the next two years. In 2018, the B.C. NDP government initiated a pilot program to introduce a universal childcare plan, which modeled the cost at $200 per month per child.
Throughout 2018, dozens of daycares moved to the $10-a-day pilot model thanks to government funding. This program, however, was not specifically addressed in the 2019 budget though the Finance Ministry announced an additional $9 million for childcare in the province, on top of the $1 billion over three years that was announced in the 2018 budget.
Burnett has added her daughter to multiple other waitlists in the area, and is still waiting to hear back, but explained that like other families, they have specific requirements when it comes to finding a daycare.
“My husband and I both work downtown, and we have just one vehicle and that’s all we can afford and that’s all we really want,” said Burnett. “So we had these daycares that could take us, but they’re on the other side of town. Then you have daycares that start at 9 a.m. but we start work at 8:30 a.m.”
She knew that she couldn’t be the only parent in the area struggling with this same issue and began reaching out to parents on Facebook, seeing if anyone would be willing to open up about their problems with finding childcare and the solutions they’ve had to turn to. She couldn’t believe the circumstances some parents had been forced into as a result.
“One woman told me that when her daughter was three months old, she started putting her on daycare waitlists in Penticton and Summerland. She went back to work when she was 12 months old, but they couldn’t get her into care until she was 15 months old,” said Burnett.
“Which means for three months, she was working nights and her husband was working days, and she was working on three hours of sleep because she had to be awake when her daughter was awake.
“So she’d work all night, come home and be up all day with her kid, goes to sleep for three hours and wakes up to do it all over again.”
After she had collected a number of stories to bring to her city council and MLA, she decided to share them, with permission, to social media to take the conversation one step further. This is when she created the Waitlisted Project BC Facebook page, which already has dozens of followers and stories in just a short while.
Burnett argues that childcare in the province is being treated as a supply and demand model, but if other systems, like education, were “left up to the market to decide, it would be complete chaos.” She said one way to alleviate the daycare shortage is to provide early childhood educators with a fair wage increase for the work they are doing.
Burnett said this system takes away a parent’s right to choose whether they want to work or if they’ll stay home with their child, as often parents will quit their jobs to care for their family if no childcare option becomes available.
For more information about Waitlisted Project BC, or to share your story, visit its Facebook page.
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