LETTER: Who is minding our most vulnerable citizens?

Letter writer says there is a crisis in childcare in Chilliwack

There is a crisis in daycare in Chilliwack. What crisis? When you find a spot in a licensed child care centre your child is being cared for by qualified staff, right? Wrong.

Isn’t the provincial government advertising its success in creating more childcare spaces and making childcare more accessible to families? Yes, but there is one glaring flaw in this plan. There are not enough qualified and trained early childhood staff to work at these centres.

There is a critical shortage of early childhood educators (ECEs) in British Columbia, and especially in the Fraser Valley. How can this be? In a lot of cases, these centres are running with unqualified staff in positions that should be filled by qualified, educated ECEs. Staff who are qualified as assistants, meaning they have completed only one ECE course sometimes as little as two weeks are filling positions under “variances” granted by Fraser Health.

Why would the health authority do this?

A lot of ECEs have left the field. Although they may have a love for children and a passion for education, love doesn’t pay the bills. ECEs have left the field in droves over the past 10 years. Underpaid, overworked, underappreciated, and filling a highly stressful role takes its toll on educators. As well, there are more undiagnosed children with social/emotional/behavioural needs that are in neighbourhood childcare centres without support. The lack of funding and support results in high staff burnout.

As well, working in the post-secondary education sector, I have noticed a huge decline in Early Childhood Education students over the past decade. Do students want to take on a student loan, study for a year or more, and be in debt when they will only make on average, $16-18/hour? This isn’t even a living wage?

Our current government wants to expand childcare, increasing spaces and opportunities for families. They began this process by having centres “opt in” to decrease parent fees. All this has resulted in is centres recognizing less revenue, as their fees are frozen.

The current mandate has not addressed the current critical shortage of ECEs. Centres have had to close their doors or cut programs. How will they expand when there is no staff to cover the spaces we have now?

Does the NDP’s current plan address the early childhood staff shortage? Have they addressed working conditions and wages for ECEs? Until they do this, there will not be qualified workers to fill the roles needed to roll out the expansion.

The government needs to wake up. How can they propose a massive expansion when the system can’t even meet the needs of centres and communities.

This is of particular concern in Chilliwack, where the demand far outweighs the supply of qualified staff. In Vancouver and other areas, there has been an increase in early childhood students attending post secondary institutions.

Cynthia Parasiliti

ECE IT/SN Chilliwack

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