Jocelyn Thomas feels a little like her family won the child care lottery this week as the Chilliwack mother will see a huge reduction in monthly fees thanks to a provincial announcement Friday.
Elm Drive YMCA Child Care in Chilliwack is one of 53 facilities chosen across the province where families will now pay no more than $200 a month per child.
“I think it’s really good,” Thomas said. “There are a lot of families that will benefit from this, and even those naysayers without kids or with older kids, I think if it helped one family in our community, that’s a good thing.”
Three-year-old Clark Thomas attends Elm Drive YMCA Child Care, which was already one of the more affordable centres around. But at a current rate of $700 a month, the reduction means a savings to their family of $6,000 a year.
“It’s huge,” Thomas said. “For us personally, speaking with my husband, the money that we save we are going to put into a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) for our other son who has special needs, then he will have more money when we are not around.”
Other parents at Elm Drive might do something similar, and for others the savings can help with rent and food and other bills.
Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen announced the protoype project to reporters in Vancouver on Friday.
“Prototype sites give us a glimpse of what the future of universal childcare in B.C. can be, and are critical as we design and refine our program moving forward,” she said.
“The communities where these prototype sites are located cover the full range of diversity in B.C.,” Chen said in a government press release. “They are located in Indigenous communities, many provide for children with complex care needs as well as communities struggling with issues of poverty. Seeing the results of this type of comprehensive care at this cost will deliver important insights for child care going forward.”
Approximately 300 child care operators applied for funding through the child care fee reduction initiative. In Chilliwack, 36 child care providers applied but only Elm Drive was chosen.
Elm Drive YMCA Child Care serves a large percentage of vulnerable families and is located in a neighbourhood where many families face issues of poverty, food security and the many challenges those issues present, according to the ministry’s press release. The centre also offers services and supports to new immigrant and refugee families.
Programming is designed to be inclusive and accessible to all children and the staff is given many training opportunities, including internal training conferences and workshops throughout the year.
“This project is a first step toward our long-term vision of universal child care in B.C.,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “We’re committed to making life more affordable for B.C. families, and the information we gather from these quality low-cost spaces will inform the future direction of our Childcare BC plan.”
The funding locally will allow Elm Drive YMCA Child Care to offer 37 licensed child care spaces to parents in Chilliwack. In all, parents of approximately 2,500 children throughout B.C. will benefit from the prototype project.
This project is funded through a $60-million investment as part of the Early Learning and Child Care agreement with the Government of Canada.
Parents who are not accessing these low-cost spaces may still be eligible for support through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which provides up to $1,250 per child a month for families with an annual income of $111,000 or less.
The pilot project will run until the end of March 2020.
Thomas said she eventually hopes the prototype is expanded to all child care centres so all parents can benefit.
“I would like to see it universal because even in higher income neighbourhoods there are still families that are struggling,” she said.