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  • Madeline Kerr

Region in dire need of daycare

Sue Perron did everything right, but a few months ago the mother of a one-year-old still found herself desperate to secure childcare for her daughter, Maya, before her maternity leave ended. 


Perron started her search for daycare months in advance. She maintained a detailed spreadsheet of possible providers in the region – more than 50 in total – within a wide radius of her home in Wakefield. 


She diligently phoned and emailed all of them, placed her daughter’s name on several waitlists and regularly scoured Facebook hoping to be one of the first parents to spot a post about daycare availability. 


But there seemed to be nothing available, and the clock was ticking towards her return to work. 


“The [providers] are absolutely inundated with calls from parents like me,” Perron recently told the Low Down. 


She said she was – sometimes kindly, sometimes pityingly – told ‘good luck’ by provider after provider, some who said they were fully booked until 2027. 


Perron explained that she had the advantage of being bilingual – some providers only speak either French or English – and was able to consider using a non-subsidized provider. In Quebec, subsidized daycares cost $9.10 a day, but non-subsidized childcare can cost up to $65 a day in some cases – although some of this money can be reclaimed through a tax credit. 


At long last, Perron found a home daycare in Chelsea with availability. She took her daughter there for a visit and immediately had reservations about the cleanliness and safety of the place. 


“I thought, ‘There is no way I can leave her here,’” she said about her conflicted decision. “But I just think so many of us are so desperate, we don’t have a choice.” 


With no alternatives, Perron agreed to leave Maya with the provider. It was just days later that she realized the situation was untenable, and she decided not to take her daughter back, leaving her without childcare yet again. 


A dire situation in the region

Perron’s situation is not unique. The Low Down spoke with parents and daycare providers and heard unanimously that the situation is dire: the demand for childcare vastly outstrips the supply in the region.  


Cantley-based home daycare provider Diane Brennan told the Low Down that she has had numerous calls from crying, desperate and even irate parents, who can’t find anywhere to send their children. 


“Sometimes I have parents hang up on me, they’re so frustrated. But I really don’t blame them,” Brennan told the Low Down. “It’s a very desperate situation right now.”  Although she said she hasn’t had the time to even check her waitlist for a while, Brennan estimates there are around 50 families hoping for one of the six spots at her daycare. 


Brennan has been running a subsidized daycare from her home for the past 20 years, beginning when she struggled to find adequate care for her then-infant daughter. 

“I love my job, I really do,” Brennan said. But, she added, mountains of paperwork, the rising cost of insurance and the minimal amount she’s able to earn means that being a daycare provider in Quebec can only be a labour of love. “I’m not doing it for the money, that’s for sure,” she added.  She said she believes the government could do more to make running a daycare easier and more attractive so that more people are incentivized to do so. 

 

Julie Sauvé, the general director of CPE L’Eveil de la nature, which operates childcare centres in Wakefield and Masham, also believes that the government should do more to attract and retain qualified daycare workers. 


“It’s nice to build all these new daycares, but to me, the biggest problem is there are not enough people to work in them,” Sauvé told the Low Down, referring to the Legault government’s commitment to create 37,000 daycare spots across the province by 2025. 


The CPE has a waitlist of around 300 families, according to Sauvé, but the facility is chronically understaffed and is sometimes forced to partially close due to a lack of personnel. The average salary doesn't help attract many people to the job, either. Sauvé said that a worker without formal certification can earn about $18.52 an hour, while a certified daycare worker makes just a little more at $21.62 an hour. 


The outcome is understaffed daycare centres and stressed-out families. 


“It’s so desperate that there are parents…[who] have to go with whatever is offered to them,” Sauvé said. “It’s not always [aligned] with their values, or the hours don’t work for them, or they don’t like it for other reasons, but they can’t get out of it.”

“Some mothers have called me and told me that they have had to quit their job because they can’t find a daycare,” she added. 


According to Quebec’s Ministère de la Famille, as of Oct. 2023, over 30,600 are in need of immediate daycare across the province; 2,287 children need placement in the Outaouais. 


Advice for childcare seekers

Perron, for her part, did finally find another home daycare for her daughter around the time she spoke with the Low Down. But she said the process has left her feeling shaken.  She offered some advice for parents who are under pressure to find childcare. 


“Timing is really important…The best time to call [providers] is in April or May – that’s when things are shuffled around for September [intake].” And:  “Try not to settle,” Perron said, adding a little wryly, “although in the end you might have to.”

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