I call January ‘The Birthday Month’. Including my family members and the current group of children in care there are five birthdays in January. This year one of the January birthdays is a significant one – an infant becomes a preschooler. This brings me to my beginning of my little rant.
In Manitoba childcare a child is moved from an infant space to a preschool space when they turn two. For me, as a licensed family childcare provider with an Early Childhood Educator II classification, that also means that the daily rate that I can charge for that child drops by nearly $10 per day. I still have the same children in care for the same number of hours per day but my income is lowered by over $200 a month.
Considering that I have five preschool spaces of which no more than three can be infants my income can vary greatly. If I have three children under 2 years old and two children aged 2-5 my monthly income will be more than $600 higher than if all five preschoolers are over 2 years old.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the parent fees for childcare – rates set by the province – are higher for infants than for preschoolers. In centre based care there is a different staff to child ratio for the various age groups. Infant groups are smaller so their staffing costs are higher per child.
However, in family childcare costs are higher for preschoolers than they are for infants. Preschoolers eat more food, they use more craft supplies, and if we go on a field trip there will generally be an admission charge for the children over two years old. As for the workload – infant care is a different type of work but it is not more work than providing a quality program for a preschooler.
Having said all that, I would also like to mention that my personal favourite age group to work with is the 2 to 3 year olds. So, I guess you could say the decrease in my financial income is balanced out by greater enthusiasm and excitement.
Some family childcare providers are not willing to accept the financial loss. I get phone calls from parents whose child is about to turn or has recently turned two. They have been told by their current childcare provider that they no longer have a space for them. I tell them to call the Manitoba Early Learning and Childcare Program and complain – this is not considered an acceptable practice. It is not a widespread problem but it does exist.
The opportunity to build a caregiver/child relationship as a child grows from infancy, through preschool years and onward is one of the greatest benefits of family childcare. A caregiver who dismisses a two-year-old child for the financial benefit of enrolling another infant is no different than the one who lets the children watch TV all day because it is cheaper than providing a quality childcare program. Fewer expenses, less work = higher income.
Then there are also the unlicensed childcare providers – who have no enforced regulations and who often charge rates that are higher than those allowed by licensed providers. How many parents whose children are in unlicensed care know that these homes can have a maximum of four children under the age of 12 years old including their own? How many of these unlicensed providers (and parents) realize that their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover liability for the children in their care? Do they have the required business insurance? Who checks?
That’s my little rant. I don’t have any solutions. I don’t know how to fix a system that sometimes provides greater financial reward for practices that are not always the best. It’s a good thing that most childcare providers don’t choose money over children. The truth is that poor quality childcare programs can still exist because the demand for childcare far exceeds the supply.