Child care resource will be lost

The Abbotsford Child Care and Resource and Referral program will likely be shutting its doors come September due to government funding cuts that the organization says are not in children’s best interests.

The CCRR is organizing a town hall meeting Feb. 13 – the day chosen by child care activists for province wide protests – to inform the community about how cuts will impact children, families and service providers.

Jenne Breedon, acting supervisor for Abbotsford Community Services CCRR, says cuts mean fewer resources for parents, and fewer child-care spaces.

“It creates a snowball effect where childcare spaces decrease and fees increase, putting additional stress on families trying to get into the workforce, complete education programs or maintain employment,” she said.

If cuts go ahead, Breedon said Abbotsford’s program – along with others across the province – will have to stop providing services to child care providers and families.

What’s more, reduced operating funding is pushing child care providers to raise fees or risk closing programs, she said.

The CCRR promotes quality child care and offers services to parents and care providers including child care referrals, and help obtaining subsidies, licensing, resources, and training.

Cindy Smith – a licensed operator of the Little Twinkle and I Luv Kids child care programs – said local child care providers will be sorely impacted by the loss of the program.

She said most parents on subsidized day care in her programs connected with them through the CCRR, which helped parents fill out the lengthy government application forms.

“Now who’s going to help them with that?” she asked. “We don’t have the time to help parents with applications, though we’d like to.”

Smith said the subsidy process is complicated, and particularly challenging for parents who speak English as a second language. She’s not confident that the proposed phone line and website will meet those parents’ needs.

She also fears with no one local to help regulate and support unlicensed day care providers, the quality of care to children is at risk.

Minister of State for Child Care Linda Reid said the root of the problem was a $455 million cut in federal funding with the elimination of the Early Learning and Child Care Agreement (ELCC). The provincial government is focusing its resources on maintaining subsidies for low-income families and children with special needs, according to Reid.

As of April 1, funding for CCRR’s drops from $14 million down to $9 million, with a further drop down to $3 million by the beginning of October.

On July 1, provincial operating funds for licensed non-profit day care go back to 2005 levels, resulting in increased costs for parents of about $40 per month.

Smith said operating fund cuts leave child care providers with three choices; they can close, stay open with less income, or increase fees for parents.

“What kind of choices are those?” Smith asked, adding that many parents can’t afford the increases.

“The government expects parents fees to cover the losses (of operating funds). That’s a big expectation; childcare is already so expensive.”

Smith said with new increases she’ll be forced to charge $600 a month for child care and she’s on the lower end of the fee scale.

What’s more she’ll only break even.

“Without funding no more people will enter the childcare business and wait lists will only get longer.”

The town hall meeting on the child care cuts is Tuesday (Feb. 13) at 7 p.m. in the gallery of the Ag-Rec Building, #3-32470 Haida Drive.

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