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Childcare in Canada stressful, expensive, still hard to find: poll

Last Updated Mar 3, 2021 at 9:24 am PDT

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Canadian parents say they are having difficulty finding childcare options and blame a lack of availability, high costs and a lack of quality options.

The latest polling from the Angus Reid Institute takes a national pulse of Canadians’ experience with childcare options from coast to coast.

Results show divided support for two distinct solutions as the federal government works on its plan in the background.

“Availability has been a well-chronicled issue, even dating back to the creation of the modern concept of daycare during the Second World War,” says the Angus Reid report summarizing the survey results.

Long waitlists and a lack of spaces topped the list of grievances, with 67 per cent of those having issues saying that’s the biggest one, followed by cost and quality.

Some parents, like Derek Bains and his wife, have the resources, time, and flexibility at work to be able to pour themselves into finding a childcare solution. They can often afford interim solutions such as live-in caregivers or “nannies” while they seek permanent solutions.

Still, Bains says his nearly two-year-old son was on around 40 waitlists, many of which required deposits or fees, which add up quickly for those without the same privileges.

“We had heard about how difficult it is to deal with childcare. It is different when you’re doing it and you’ve got a child you’re trying to do the best thing for. No matter how much people said, like, it’s challenging, you don’t really get it until you can’t really work properly,” says Bains.

Canadians seem split on their overall stress levels finding childcare arrangements.

When asked how difficult it was to find and secure their current care arrangement, 32 per cent of survey respondents said it was “difficult” or “very difficult” while about 33 per cent said it was “not bad.” Meanwhile, 36 per cent said securing childcare was “easy” or “easy enough.”

Of those who found it stressful, 42 per cent said it was “very stressful” or “fairly stressful.”

Bains has since found a solution he hopes will work out. However, he was already forced to pull his son out of one unlicensed centre where he identified security concerns he was not comfortable with.

For those lucky enough to be accessing care, the data shows they are “vastly more satisfied than dissatisfied … by a margin of almost 19-to-1.” Those who used centre-based or full-time care were more likely to be happy than those using part-time options.

Bains just moved back to Vancouver from London, England and says the system here is a lot more stressful and difficult to rely on because of a lack of publicly funded and available spaces, in his opinion.

To stay home or to go?

The pandemic has brought more families under one roof during working hours, which is manageable for some but chaos for others, depending on work and other responsibilities.

Of those who responded to Angus Reid’s poll, 47 per cent parent at home everyday while the rest rely on some form of external arrangement.

About a third of those at home say they are still on parental leave and that’s why they haven’t necessarily moved to a daycare or other option. However, the same number of people say they are happy caring for their children themselves at home.

A whopping 84 per cent of parents who are already at home say they would prefer it to stay that way until kids are in school at five years old or so.

“Among parents of children using care however, it is a tale of two desires,” says the report, which notes for half of parents who aren’t at home, guilt for not being with their kids is heavy.

“The other half prefer a different care arrangement and no amount of financial security would change that,” the report adds.

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Bains says he was looking at hiring a live-in caregiver or nanny as an interim solution before finding his current arrangement because working and taking care of a toddler was too much for the family.

He acknowledges others don’t have it as easy, and the report shows that as well.

“Not all parents are home by choice or because it’s an arrangement that suits them though. More than a quarter (27%) say the main reason they’re at home is because care outside the house is too expensive or because they have no other alternative (12%),” says the report.

Last year the Liberal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $20 million in initial funding to go toward developing a national childcare system. This latest poll shows seven-in-10 Canadians support that initiative.

When it comes to what they want to see from the federal government as it works toward some form of national program, Canadians are split down the middle with half supporting a funding model that puts money in the hands of families, while the other half want to see care centres subsidized to lower prices instead.