Tag Archives: childcare

Parent Fees & Private Childcare

So, I wrote this post more than a week ago, published it, reread it, didn’t like it, removed it, rewrote it – twice, and I think now it might be at least a little closer to what I want to say. Writing is hard sometimes.

Childcare is an important issue for many parents in Manitoba – more specifically, the lack of access to quality, affordable childcare. I’ll admit that during the last provincial election I got more than a little excited when the PC government promised to streamline the licensing process to encourage more family childcare providers to become licensed – it is not often that the government puts any focus on home based childcare. Sadly, they then froze grant funding and encouraged newly licensed unfunded providers to charge higher parent fees.

Now I will also think parent fees could be increased to help offset all the increases in expenses faced by childcare facilities. I thought this article by Tom Brodbeck was interesting. Even in my lower income area most unfunded and/or private, unlicensed home based providers charge parent fees that are much higher than my parent fees – and parents pay it. In higher income neighbourhoods and daycare deserts unfunded/unlicensed homes often charge considerably more. Maybe it is a parent’s ‘choice’ to put their child in private, unlicensed/unfunded care with higher parent fees – or maybe it is their only available option.

Funded family childcare providers like me are not allowed to raise our parent fees if we want to keep our funding. In a funded childcare facility parent fees for a preschool child are only $2.70 per day higher today than they were 22 years ago when I first began my childcare career. Over those years I have received increases in my operating grant funding so that it is now 28% of my gross income instead of just 5% of my income 22 years ago. Still, even with that grant funding and parent fees combined my income is still less than that of most private home daycares – about $13.38 per hour for hours I spend with the children – prep, cleaning and paperwork are all unpaid hours.

So yes, I am horrified when I hear a politician say they want to create portable subsidies for low income families to use in private childcare facilities because I know that even with portable subsidies those parents will still be paying much more than what they would pay in a funded, licensed facility – which already accept subsidized families. The problem is there are not enough funded licensed spaces – so the politicians say they will increase the number of licensed childcare spaces but if they don’t fund them then the parent fees will need to be increased in order to cover the costs of operating.

Even funded childcare centres are finding it difficult to attract or retain staff with the current set parents fees. When I hear politicians promise to lower parent fees to make childcare more affordable for parents I want to scream ‘Do you have any idea how much additional grant funding it will take to compensate for lower parent fees?’ Or are you planning to lower wages too and drive more ECE’s out of licensed care.

Trained ECE’s are already leaving their jobs in childcare centres and some of them are choosing to open private, unlicensed childcare homes. I fully understand the allure of home based childcare but with no funding available for new providers there is no financial benefit to becoming licensed – in fact they will probably earn more being unlicensed/unfunded and only accessible to higher income families willing/able to pay higher parent fees. There are no numbers available as to how many unlicensed childcare homes there are because there is no way to track that because they are unregulated. There are only just over 200 licensed home based providers in the whole province – far fewer than there were when I first became licensed.

Many parents and even politicians do not understand the difference between licensed and private childcare homes. When I was talking to a politician on my doorstep and mentioned that I was a licensed family childcare provider they said they had met a couple of other providers on my street – they couldn’t tell my if they were licensed or not ‘but they had business cards’. *sigh* Not licensed – there are no other licensed providers on my street – or any of the streets around me – that is easy to check here.

It is true that licensing does not guarantee ‘quality’ but I think ‘unlicensed’ is also ‘unprofessional’ even, or maybe especially unprofessional if you are a trained ECE. Many parents may not understand the difference between training and licensing and not realize that their trained private provider is in fact not licensed. In Manitoba a private home childcare provider, trained or untrained, may not care for more than four children under 12 years of age including their own children. Yet, I know many trained ECE’s whose only experience is in centre based care and who are surprised to learn that child/caregiver ratios are different in home based childcare. I also hear from many parents who are unable to find licensed childcare and have placed their child in a private home but are unsure how many children are actually being cared for there.

Yes, training enhances the quality of childcare but it is licensing and funding that enable childcare to be accessible and affordable. Private childcare is not affordable nor accessible especially for low income families even if there was a subsidy available. I don’t believe families of any income level would choose unlicensed care if there was enough licensed care available.

Maybe what should be suggested is that childcare waitlists and enrollment forms should include information about each family’s income level so licensed funded childcare facilities could weed out all the high income earners who were using up all the childcare spaces with low parent fees when they could really afford the higher fees in the private centres. I’m sure that then we’d hear a lot more public outcry that it is not fair that licensed care is only accessible to low income families.

So, I love my job and I wouldn’t want to do anything else and so far I can still pay all my bills and I get to play outside and I get paid in hugs every day so I shouldn’t complain – right? There are so many other people who are worse off than me – but really, that is my point. Even though, like other licensed funded facilities, my parent fees haven’t increased and my grant funding has been frozen for the past three years and my expenses have increased – I can still provide childcare to low income subsidized families.

Yes, I could drop my funding and raise my parent fees and still be licensed but earn more money – but then I’d have to exclude low income families and I won’t do that. I will continue to pay 22% of my taxable income back to the government because I know paying taxes is important for everyone. Then I’ll use my remaining $2400 a month to pay my ever increasing bills so I can be here for the families that trust me to provide care and education for their children while they go work to pay their bills and their taxes. I also really, really hope that the government then uses all those tax dollars to help those who don’t have as much as I do instead of offering it to those who already have more than they need.

The Owl

This past spring the snow melted earlier than normal.  This was great for me because we had so much work today for our back yard renovation and we got a head start.  When you consider that the children and I play out in the yard every day there is a limit to the amount of destruction and construction that can be going on out there.  The whole project had to be broken down into smaller jobs that could be completed on evenings and weekends.

One day as my husband and I were working on one of the phases of the renovation I noticed an unusual sound from somewhere in the neighbourhood.  At first I thought it was a child playing with some type of whistle.  Over the next few weeks the more often I heard the noise the more inquisitive I became as to what it was.  The children had heard it now too and were curious too.

I decided it was not a child with a toy – the sound was very rhythmical.  The tone and the repetition were precise.  I was certain now that it was some kind of bird but my knowledge of birds is limited so I didn’t have any idea what type of bird it could be.  Then, one night as I lay in bed with the window open I heard the sound again and thought ‘an owl’?

The children and I checked out the owls calls on the Nature North website. We didn’t know there were so many different kinds of owls in Manitoba.  The sound clip for the Burrowing Owl was a perfect match to the sound we had been hearing so we did some more research on Burrowing Owls.  They are one of the few species that are active both day and night – that explains why we hear it all the time.  They like to live in cemeteries and golf courses – we are one street over from the cemetery.  And, they are endangered!  How exciting would it be if the children and I found an endangered owl in our neighbourhood!!!

Armed with binoculars and pictures of owls we headed off to the cemetery.  We hiked and listened and looked.  We found many squirrels and crows and some nest boxes strategically placed throughout the cemetery.  Funny how we never noticed these nest boxes before, we had come here many times but now we were being more observant.  “Look, I see a bird” giggled one child pointing at a grave marker with “Byrd” engraved in the stone.  Great, now we’ve got a literacy component to our adventure.

We went to the cemetery several times over the next few weeks.  We even found one owl – an Eastern Screech Owl – in one of the next boxes with just its head sticking out of the hole.  That was very fascinating but didn’t explain the noise we had heard.  Interestingly, we also never heard the owl call when we were in the cemetery – only when we were in my yard.  Why?  Then one day, as I watched the children play in the yard I glanced across the lane at my neighbour’s garden and focused on the owl statue perched on the shed.  Just then, a car drove down the lane and I heard ‘the owl call’.   Motion sensitive garden statue – really?!?!  It’s not even the correct sound for the Great Horned Owl.  Somebody didn’t do their research.

So, we didn’t find an endangered owl.  Was our owl adventure a failure?  Certainly it was not.  We got to explore our neighbourhood and make discoveries.  We learned a lot about owls that we didn’t know before.  Most importantly we practiced following our curiosity, investigating and understanding the world around us.

Schedules & Conversations

Today was one of those days — I called it ‘busy’.  Parents asked what we did that was so exciting but I couldn’t really answer that because we didn’t really do anything.

According to the dictionary ‘busy’ means ‘full of activity, eventful, demanding, tiring, and hectic’.  It is the last three of these that most accurately describe today.

Now, one of the things I like about Family Child care is the variety.  Sometimes I have more infants and toddlers enrolled so feeding, changing and cuddling take up much of my time.

On school holidays when the school-age children are here all day we often get immersed in elaborate activities that continue for hours, days or more.  I actually find these days to be the least busy as the children take the lead.  I mostly just follow along, ask questions, observe and provide supplies.  These are my favourite days.

Currently I have an older preschool group – no infants – and with the school-age children away all day and one Kindergarten child away half days I have a small group most of the time.  The problem is that we don’t have any blocks of time where the children can really engage in anything.

Our day looks like this; Come in, play, say good bye to the school-agers, play, clean-up, eat morning snack, bathroom break, circle/calendar time, get dressed for outdoors, play outside, clean-up, walk to the school to get the Kindergarten child, come back, undress, play (very quickly), clean-up for lunch, greet school age child, eat, clean-up, bathroom break, say goodbye to school age child, get cots ready, nap time (clean the kitchen), get children up, bathroom break, play, clean-up, greet the school-age children, eat afternoon snack, clean-up, play and the parents arrive.

Now keep in mind that some days – like today — each one of those transitions requires me to repeat instructions to each child individually and sometimes several times.  Then there are the questions and stories and games that go along with the instructions.  It is all the mundane conversations that get to me. My head hurts and I really just want this day to end.

Then at afternoon snack we have this conversation as I hand out yogurt, crackers and juice;

What kind of yogurt is this?

Strawberry.

Mmmm, my favourite.

Mali (the cat) get out of the closet or you might get locked in.

Why are you going to lock Mali in the closet?

I don’t want to.  I opened it to get a bib and she tried to sneak in.  If I didn’t notice I might have accidentally closed the door and locked her in there.

Is she being bad?

No, just curious.

Are you going to lock her up?

No.

Where is my friend?

Not back from school yet.

Are you going to put her in the closet too?

No! Why would I do that?

You locked the cat in the closet.

I didn’t lock anyone in the closet!! Eat your food!!

If I spill my juice are you going to lock me in the closet?

NO ONE IS GOING TO BE LOCKED IN THE CLOSET!!!!….

They’ve gone home for the day.  I want to go to bed.  I haven’t even had supper yet.  I’m expecting phone calls from parents who ask their child ‘what happened at daycare today?’

The Hill

We first began making plans to renovate our yard last fall.  We knew many of the elements that we wanted to include;  a bigger garden, some seating areas, and a small hill with a slide and tunnel.  We had the basic ideas but we didn’t plan any of the details and since the snow melted we’ve been slowly putting the pieces together.

There has been a circular area in the pea gravel reserved for the hill and the children have often asked when it would be built.  To be honest, I’d planned to have it done long before now but I kept running into minor roadblocks which delayed construction.  Well, as August arrived the hill began to take shape.

Like most of my projects I won’t ever consider it to be ‘completed’ because everything here is constantly changing.  This hill, however, will be a very slow process because it is a ‘living’ hill and thus we have to wait for it to grow.  I have planned to have native prairie plants  covering the hill — their amazing root system will help to make it strong.  I have to thank Shirley at http://www.prairieoriginals.com/ for all her help and suggestions for plants for this project.

So far I’ve only got a few small wildflower species started and the rest is covered with landscape fabric to prevent the soil from washing away.  I placed some pots of day lilies to temporarily add some greenery but I don’t want these here permanently.  Don’t laugh at them — they’re survivors — I had thinned them out of the front yard and for three weeks they lay in a pile beside the deck with only the soil that stuck to them when I pulled them out.  I only plopped them in pots as an afterthought when the hill looked like it needed ‘something’.  In my mind I can see the hill covered with wildflowers and surrounded by butterflies, birds, and of course, children playing.

The ‘tunnel’ is made of clear plastic panels through which I hope someday the children will be able to see roots and worms and other cool stuff.  Right now I just like the pattern the sun makes as it shines through the boards on the platform above the tunnel.

After only a week the children are just beginning to create games and stories that use the hill but already they see its potential.  As the hill evolves so will their adventures.

Literacy

The ability to understand written and spoken language is essential in today’s society.

In the playroom of my childcare home I allow the children of all ages to choose and handle books independently throughout the day.  I include a variety of books from small board books to heavy catalogues with glossy pages.  Books are used as part of play and social activities.

I do not schedule a specific time of the day for me to read stories aloud to the children – reading and listening can be done anytime throughout the day regardless of age or ability.

Children are not required to sit and listen to me read a story.   I encourage them to interact with each other and the objects in the room as I read.  Being able to connect the story to personal experience is an important part of understanding the language.  Even those children who are playing elsewhere in the room may be listening and visualizing or acting out parts of the story. I believe that children’s literacy skills can be enhanced by allowing them to move around and engage in other activities as I read.  An active young child who is required to sit and ‘pay attention’ may be learning that books and reading are boring and actually tune out the words even though they appear to be listening.

I have attached labels to various objects throughout the room and in the housekeeping area I include empty containers from familiar objects in place of toy replicas.  In this way, young children can learn to associate the text with the real objects instead of only seeing it on the pages of books.  The printed labels and words on the items the children play with allow the children to combine the text, the spoken words and the visible object as they manipulate these items.

Literacy is more than being able to read and write words — understanding the meaning of words is equally important.  Young children need to be able to physically explore in order to fully comprehend written and spoken language.