Opinion: A guest post by Tracie Bourgeois about Child Care BC
The past few days have been some of the most difficult few days of my life. I have heard so many stories of operators who are legitimately scared, worried, angry, frustrated, saddened and genuinely heart broken. These people have told me about the sacrifices they have made for their chosen career of educating and caregiving for young children. These educators and caregivers have shared the joy and pride they have with the years they’ve proudly served their community and families they have tirelessly cared for, like a badge of honour. I’ve heard about how in the past few weeks they have had night after night of worry and despair, but still had the tenacity to get up and put a smile on their face and continue to serve the families that they care for.
This plan was created for these said families, has been the source of this torment. These care providers are trying to navigate a storm of upset educators, overbearing pressure from advocates supporting this plan, the ministry who have rolled it out without the contributions of the boots on the ground care providers, and parents looking at them with disbelief trying to understand what a terrible position this puts their beloved care provider in.
You see, we want our parents to have the childcare that we work tirelessly to provide for them at a lower cost to them. That has never been in question. We want every child to have the very best we can give them.
We have gone without vacations, nice cars, lattes, dinners out to provide what supplies we can for our programs. We work late into the night every night planning our week to ensure that children have the educational requirements based on their needs within the Early Learning Framework. We sacrifice countless Saturdays for workshops paid for with our money. We utilize leaser quality childcare for our own children, and we subsidize our parent fees and have done so with a spirit of generosity because to us, this isn’t a business.
This work is our life’s calling. We don’t do our life’s work to gain wealth, ask any childcare provider and you will hear, “we do this for the children”. And we do.
We lay awake worrying about little James and his muscle tone and how we can support that. We think about how little Karen won’t have a lunch or diapers and we quickly go check to make sure there’s food enough out of our families food budget to offer her a healthy choice. We wave late fees for a family that is riding the bus and missed it but will be there when they can.
We do this because we care so much. We are Caregivers by nature.
When we hear, “have a spirit of generosity”, we wonder how much more can we give? I guess I can skip my daughters much needed braces. Maybe we can drop to using generic brands and pass on the organic food for our family? Perhaps we can go camping once instead of our trip to Drumheller every single member of our family have been working and sacrificing for, for well over a year.
Why would we not have a spirit of generosity? We have subsidized our wages year after year to support the families in our care. We have been generous for so many years and for so many ways. And still we feel left out, not included in this amazing plan. Why? Because the programs we have created with our blood sweat and tears to serve our communities are not non-profit. Well, I can tell you that our programs are about as non-profit as you could get. If you look around at my childcare program you will see the walls I spent every night after my kids were in bed, painting. The wooden shelves were made with love on family day weekend by my father in law and my husband as I assisted. The flooring was installed over Easter weekend by myself, my husband and my dad. We all gave with a spirit of generosity to this program, without financial expectation, without concern for our sanctioned vacation time or paid break, or time and a half. We have given until it hurt and without expectation.
I have have the privilege to speak with hundreds Multi-Age care providers over the past few weeks. Not one has said, ” I better get more money!” Our wages need to be better. What I have heard is, “why is our education level and licensing designation not being recognized?”, “why are my parents not getting the group fee reduction, it’s group childcare?”
So, when certain advocates who are politically inclined attack me for wanting to take a few days to read over a highly contradictory and very legalese based contract, telling me when I can raise fees and what aspects of my business I can and cannot have permission to change, I wonder what they have in this game?
Why is my type of childcare so offensive to them?
Are my licensing regulations followed in accordance to the same standards as a non profit? Yes, they are.
Are my own wages equal or lesser? Yes, much lower.
Do I spend all of my time doing admin work leaving the lesser qualified lower seniority staff to deal with the children? No, I do my admin work after the program closes for the day.
Do I call in sick because I don’t really want to go to work, because I still have my 1 designated sick day that has to be used or I lose it? No, I can’t take a sick day, or my mortgage payment will bounce.
After listening to all of these women, and some men too, tell me story, after story of disappointments and feelings of heart break, I realize that this plan isn’t about the children, it’s not about the Caregivers, or the parents. It’s about the politicians and their needs. And that it the reason why our hearts are broken.
In the spirit of generosity, we ask that this contract agreement be put on hold to gain better understanding of the needs of the province.