Childcare funding needs to focus more on giving parents choices and offering a variety of childcare option

Krystal Churcher: We need to reconsider childcare funding strategies in Canada

The rollout of the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement (CWELCC) has highlighted the need to reassess childcare funding in Canada.

Current funding strategies limit parents’ options, forcing many to choose full-time childcare in licensed facilities. This trend reduces parental control and limits choices, calling for a balanced funding approach that prioritizes parental choice and diversity in childcare options.

Childcare is crucial for early childhood development and parental support. However, the current funding model favours full-time childcare in licensed facilities, often resulting in higher fees for part-time care. This neglects families needing part-time care, preschools, day homes, or care by a nanny, family, or friends.

Funding allocation has shifted market demand, creating long waitlists for full-time spots at licensed facilities while reducing the viability of other childcare services. This diminishes childcare choices and erodes family and community-based options, which is neither desirable nor sustainable.

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The disproportionate funding towards full-time childcare restricts parental choice. Families are often forced into full-time care, even when it doesn’t align with their preferences or schedules. The lack of government support makes part-time care scarce and expensive, adding financial strain on families needing flexible care.

This preference for full-time licensed facilities undermines parental autonomy. Parents should choose the best childcare program based on their family dynamics, values, and work schedules. Day homes and other non-traditional childcare arrangements often receive limited or no government support, further reducing parental choice.

The current funding model also burdens taxpayers, including those who don’t require full-time childcare. Many families with a stay-at-home parent prefer part-time preschool and pre-kindergarten programs for socialization and early education. The uneven distribution of funding forces these families towards full-time care due to availability and affordability, limiting choice and ignoring alternative arrangements’ value.

To create a more equitable childcare system, governments should support various childcare options, including part-time care, preschools, day homes, and non-traditional arrangements. This would empower parents to make informed decisions based on their circumstances and family values.

One solution is introducing affordability grants paid directly to families through a voucher system. These grants should be universally accessible, regardless of employment status or schooling requirements, reducing financial red tape.

Empowering parents with information about childcare options and resources and ensuring financial support for all types of arrangements can help them make well-informed decisions. Parental education programs should emphasize the importance of choice and diversity in childcare.

Governments should recognize the valuable role of day homes and alternative providers, especially in rural and culturally specific communities. Providing financial incentives and regulatory support can enhance the quality and accessibility of these services.

The current funding model, favouring full-time, licensed childcare, presents challenges for parents seeking diverse options. Addressing funding disparities and promoting a balanced approach can empower parents to make informed decisions about their children’s care.

Policies must reflect families’ diverse needs and preferences. By reevaluating funding strategies, we can create a childcare system that serves the best interests of all children and their parents.

Krystal Churcher is a private childcare operator, childcare advocate and entrepreneur. Her private childcare centres have been recognized for providing exceptional quality, diverse programming and an award-winning environment for early learning. She is at the forefront of childcare advocacy in Alberta as the Chair of the Alberta Association of Childcare Entrepreneurs.

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