Update: It’s important to keep in mind that things are changing quickly for child care in BC. By the time you read this post, some of the questions and issues I have written about may be clearer, we may have further information or answers and circumstances may have evolved. Please keep this in mind. At the end of the post there is a link to a resource listing related to the new child care plan for BC. Regardless; this post conveys much of what many in the field have been feeling, considering and thinking about since the plan was announced. A great many people have contacted me to share their support and thanks for writing this post. It has had a significant amount of visits since it was posted on March 7, 2018 and is currently one of the top ranked blog post on this website.
A few days ago I wrote a post to Early Childhood Educators in BC about the new child care plan that the BC government recently announced. In that post I encouraged ECEs to share their voice about what the plan means to them as individuals and as professionals. I received a lot of feedback on the post and several private messages. Clearly there’s a lot on all of our minds.
This is indeed a time of massive transition in BC when it comes to child care.
Parents have questions.
ECEs have questions.
Child care programs have questions.
In short — there are more questions than answers. And while I’m certain that the good folks working in government and our professional associations are doing their absolute best to try and get information out there as quickly as they can — there are only 24 hours in the day and limited resources.
Increasingly I am feeling that things might be moving a bit too fast.
Now I do understand that during any major change — there will always be more questions than answers. Transitions are messy and even tricky. And often they are especially risky.
Yet — I keep reminding myself that this transition is happening in child care and because of that it must be done with the absolute care and respect that it deserves. After all — a significant number of people impacted by this change are the very ones who are right now working with and caring for our most important assets in BC — our youngest children.
At the very least, ECEs deserve to have as much stress as possible eliminated during this time of change.
In recent days I have been thinking a lot about child care programs — ALL types of child care programs. And I’ve also continued thinking about ECEs.
As the government begins the process of having child care programs “opt-in” for the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative there are many concerns. And while attempts are clearly being made to answer the questions that programs have there does still seem to be a lot of unknowns.
Perhaps too many.
I’m not sure there is sufficient time to resolve everything that the field is facing before April 2018.
For example there are real concerns about the timing of the payments that government will make to child care programs in order to replace the parent portion of fees.
Many programs are expressing concern that if they sign the new contracts now; they could be facing serious cashflow issues in the coming months. This is due to the fact that the government payment would likely not happen on the 1st of the month. The 1st of the month is typically, when parents pay their fees. A shortage of cashflow could impact the ability of child care programs to pay rent, lease payments or mortgages as well as staff wages on time. That is very concerning.
Child care operators are doing their best to try and support this transition but it’s difficult to do so when the risks of signing on to the initiative appear to have such significant implications.
The mere thought that ECE staff wages could be at risk of being payed late in some programs due to this transition is absolutely unacceptable. I can’t understand how this risk was not mitigated by government well in advance of the child care plan announcement. After all, we clearly know there are MANY issues that we are facing in the child care sector when it comes to attracting and retaining certified staff.
It doesn’t seem wise to put further pressure on ECEs; many of whom are already struggling on a great many levels due to low wages and challenging working conditions.
While I support many aspects of this child care plan — ANYTHING that puts the financial risk of this transition onto the shoulders of child care program operators without sufficient information and a reasonable amount of time to plan is completely unacceptable. And creating the potential for a situation that results in ECE wages possibly having to be paid late in some programs is nothing other than wrong.
Beyond the issues above there are other concerns too.
Many multi-age child care programs have expressed concern about the level of funding they will receive under the fee reduction initiative. I know that there is a lot of discussion happening related to this and the concerns raised certainly seem reasonable.
Then there is the overall issue of child care programs feeling a loss of control related to being able to raise their fees in the future. While I totally understand the need to eliminate the chance of child care programs significantly increasing their fees after signing on to the initiative; it does seem as though there are more flexible ways to address this.
Many child care programs feel they are at risk of losing control of the future of their programs under this new plan. I understand and empathize with their concerns.
While government representatives are expressing an interest in working with all types of child care my sense is that there is a bias toward certain types of child care operators — not for profit rather than private. And while this “might be the right solution” to build a long term universal program it does pose significant challenges and concerns too.
I understand that universal child care is something that we want to establish in BC and that it’s important for children, families, educators and for the good of our economy. However, we must go through this process in a way that doesn’t put well established and respected quality child care programs and services at serious risk.
We need many types of child care in BC. Owner-operator programs, multi-age child care and family child care providers offer truly valuable services in our communities across BC. If we lose many of these programs as result of this new child care plan that is not what is best for child care in BC. And if that is what is coming — well — I will no longer have any level of support for how this child care plan has been put together.
Yes we do need a child care plan for BC. And we need universal child care.
But we need the right plan — one that properly incorporates a range of quality child care options, pays ECEs well, that is universally accessible & affordable and that reduces risk. That is essential. Anything less simply won’t work.
Just today I have heard of multiple areas where programs are considering not “opting-in” at this time. I have also heard of programs that are considering closing due to the uncertainly and risk related to this time of change. And I know of ECEs who are worried about their jobs, their pay cheques in April and their future in the field.
All of this tells us how child care programs and ECEs are feeling right now. And it worries me.
Additionally, while I will write more about this in future posts — I simply must make further mention of the issue of ECE wages.
The following is an excerpt from the child care plan:
“Early Childhood Educators are critical to the quality of care and learning in licensed facilities. Budget 2018 provides $136 million over three years to enhance quality of care, including important new supports for training and development, as well as a workforce development strategy. Working with our partners in child care, we will establish the human resource strategies needed to attract and retain skilled and experienced early learning and child care workers, including consideration of appropriate remuneration.”
Of course I understand why it’s important to complete a workforce development strategy — more information is certainly needed and having a long term strategy is indeed smart thinking.
But — we have a significant issue RIGHT NOW when it comes to attracting and retaining staff to work in child care programs. Releasing this plan without directly mentioning ECE wages has a lot of ECEs feeling very let down and more than a little uneasy.
Let’s face it — many ECEs in the field are tired, on the verge of burnout or are ready to leave the field entirely. Lots have been just hanging on in the hopes that something good was coming. Plus there is also the reality that many gave up and left the field ages ago.
We are a profession and a field this is facing more than chaos. Programs are actively trying to survive a critical crisis daily when it comes to staffing and staff wages. And it’s more than a little hard. It’s on the verge of impossible.
While I understand that there will be efforts made to address the issues of staffing and renumeration in the future — quite frankly “consideration of appropriate remuneration” doesn’t actually give me tremendous confidence that solid solutions are coming quickly.
I know I’m not alone in my concerns related to ECE wages. Many ECEs have told me the same thing.
If ECEs are indeed the backbone of child care — then we deserve to be provided with clear information about what the government is going to do to address ECE wages. Wage enhancements are essential. Sooner rather than later.
Yes – the $136 million that government has mentioned is a lot of money — BUT — what does that really mean when it comes to actual ECE staff wages? How does it translate across the province? We need to know much more about this as soon as possible.
So — as you can tell, I continue to feel mixed emotions about what’s unfolding for child care in BC.
Today I am on the higher side of caution than optimism.
My hope is that the benefits of this new child care plan will eventually far exceed the risks, concerns and fears that so many of us are currently facing and feeling.
These are just a few of the things going through my mind right now. I’m sure you have thoughts on your mind too. I’d love to know what your thinking related to all of this. Please click here to go to a form where you can share your thoughts with me. I may use some of what you share with me in future posts that I write — but I won’t identify any names or programs who share their thoughts with me.
The child care plan for BC has the potential to be positive. Quality child care that is affordable and accessible matters, however the road to universal child care is already more than a little bumpy and still feels very, very long. That’s pretty hard when our collective fuel gauge has been flashing “empty” for decades and we can barely afford to stop for coffee let alone a new tank of gas.
I want the best for ECEs, child care programs, children, families and communities. I’m sure you do to.
Please keep on speaking up and out about the new child care plan for BC.
Together we will get through all of this – one way or the other.
Edit: Since writing this post I have also written an additional post which contains a list of resources related to the new BC child care plan. You can find it here.