‘There are no daycares left in the village’
Most pregnant women use the 12-week milestone to tell family and friends their great news.
But Jackie Hansen was too busy in June looking for a daycare spot online to share with others that she was expecting.
Fast forward to today, and she said she still has no answers.
“It’s totally bonkers. It is so different than a decade ago,” said Hansen about the lack of daycare spots. She admitted that, while it was difficult to find daycare 10 years ago for her oldest child, it was never this bad.
“There are no daycares left in the village.”
Hansen’s now four-month-old baby Théo is on several waiting lists for daycares in the Hills that go into 2023, but Hansen has no idea if a spot will open up when she goes back to work in November. She says that, despite the federal government’s announcement to transfer $6 billion to Quebec for childcare, she isn’t seeing the money translate into local services.
“Now I’m actually starting to get quite concerned,” said Hansen. “I had been so hopeful with the federal government’s childcare commitment that that would mean that more spaces would be opening up in that area, and I’m not seeing that funding translate into anything new on the ground, at least in the Gatineau Hills.”
The feds announced in July of 2021 that it would be transferring $6 billion to Quebec over five years as part of Canada’s national childcare program, but that money came without conditions, allowing Quebec to spend it how it sees fit. Quebec Premier François Legault said at the time that not all the money would go into Quebec’s childcare program, as the province already spends $2.6 billion a year on childcare.
Since that announcement, Quebec Family Minister Mathieu Lacombe announced that nearly 14,000 spots have already been created across the province. The October 2021 announcement included 8,000 spaces in childcare centres (CPEs) and 6,000 in subsidized daycares, although it is unclear how many of those spots are in the Outaouais.
A spokesperson for the CAQ did not respond by press time.
While the numbers look good on paper, Hansen sees the opposite take place locally. With a baby boom in the Hills and more and more young families moving into the region, she fears the problem could get even worse.
“So I’m seeing increased demand for fewer spots, which is the complete opposite of what is supposed to be happening,” said Hansen. She said she’s even considering finding other parents in a similar situation to potentially hire a nanny because “not working is not an option.”
One of the places Hansen said she hoped to send her baby was at Devorah Sugarman’s subsidized daycare on Valley Drive, but the longstanding Wakefield daycare is calling it quits after 17 years. Sugarman’s own kids have all grown up, and she’s looking to start a new career, so another nine village daycare spots will soon disappear.
“I have absolutely loved the work that I have done,” said Sugarman, adding that she will miss the “magical” time she spent with so many Wakefield kids. “It’s such an important job.”
Former Wakefield resident Selena Beaven, who now runs a home daycare in Val-des-Monts, said she was in a similar situation with her kids a few years ago and decided to open her own daycare instead of waiting for a space to open up. As a teenager, Beaven was one of the most sought-after babysitters in the area, so it was a natural transition. She opened her daycare in January of this year.
“I opened because I needed an income, but I couldn’t work because I couldn’t get my kids in daycare,” Beaven told the Low Down. “My daughter has been on several daycare lists, maybe 10, for two-and-a-half years. Still no answer.”
Beaven said she was stressed as a new parent. She couldn’t take a job because she had no childcare for her daughter, but she said she also wouldn’t be able to afford daycare without an income.
“It was very financially stressful not being able to find a job because I couldn’t find a daycare, and I think a lot of people are struggling with the same thing and they are depending on family members to help out, and that’s not very reliable,” she said.
Part of that stress came from not knowing when a potential space would open up. Beaven said none of the daycares she applied for – private daycares, subsidized spots, and even the CPE did not provide a timeline for opening new spots.
“They just get back to you when there is a spot available,” she said. “You could be waiting two months or four years; there is really no way of knowing when you will get a spot.”
A spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministère de la Famille did not respond to the Low Down’s questions by publication deadline.