The largest operator of licensed daycare facilities in Vancouver is ending the practice of forcing parents to pay a $50-fee for a spot on the wait list.

The Vancouver Society of Children's Centres operates 11 daycares, including Dorothy Lam and Library Square.

Spokesperson Sandra Menzer says the wait list has grown to more than 2,300 children. She says the list has become difficult to administer, and only a fraction of parents who pay the $50-fee will actually get a spot.

"This was an additional burden for families that we felt we could take off of them," she said. "Families are on five, 10, 15 childcare lists as they are waiting for spaces."

When the society introduced the $50-fee, it was aimed at keeping wait lists from ballooning out of control. But the fee hasn’t stopped parents from signing up at several licensed childcare facilities throughout the city.

"Families need childcare. There is a huge demand, there is a huge need for childcare," Menzer said.

"It's not an affordable service. Families are paying an arm and a leg for childcare in this city and in the province … and we felt … we could take this additional piece off their plate."

The society estimates it will take months to track down all the parents on its list and refund their money. Menzer says many have moved or changed contact information as some parents have been on the list for more than four years.

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  • Fight The Gimmies

    The Kassers limit their sons' screen time to 30 minutes a day and encourage alternatives that foster creativity, physical activity, and intellectual stimulation. Since it's nearly impossible to avoid all forms of commercial advertising, it's also a good strategy to instill media literacy like our friend and The World Needs Your Kid co-author Shelley Page, who taught her two daughters to "ad bust" from age four. Whenever they saw an ad together (watching TV with your kids helps), Shelley and the girls deconstructed the message - "What are they selling me? Why are they selling it to me? What are they claiming it'll do for me? Is it true?" - and now at ages nine and twelve, the girls are informed consumers on whom ads have little effect. "They think ads for make-up, brand-name clothes, medicine, cars - the list is long - are ridiculous. We have great bonding time mocking commercials," says Shelley.

  • A Booster Shot Of Self-Esteem

    Vernon, BC-based child psychologist Dr. Kevin Murphy is author of The Jendorra Boxes -- a fantasy trilogy for adolescents that promotes positive social values through fiction. Over four decades working with children, teens and their parents, he's found that the key to building sustainable self-confidence in the early teen years is to "value not just final outcomes but also their effort and learning." Regular, constructive feedback on a child's progress toward an objective are more valuable than generalizations. "Comments such as 'But I love you' may be true, but not necessarily all that useful," says Dr. Murphy, who also advocates encouraging kids to contribute to the household and community: "If a young person can do things of value for others then it becomes easier for them to value themselves and resist commercial efforts to exploit the uncertainty-based drop in self-confidence that is generally associated with the early teen years."

  • Give Time, Not Stuff

    Many parents work harder and longer to provide a 'better' life for their families. The catch is that often the more parents work to provide, the less time they spend with their kids. In lieu of presence? Presents -- an exchange that teaches kids that stuff is more important than time spent with family. Instead, let the birthday girl or boy (parents included) choose the family activity and meal plan for the day, and volunteer together on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hannukah. If you must give a gift, consider a coupon book with tokens for a movie night, a lift to a friend's house, or a week off from putting out the garbage.The Kassers make a point of collecting experiences instead of things, through family adventures such as Semester at Sea, a sailing school where Professor Kasser taught a psychology course and brought his family along to see the various countries they visited.

  • Spell It Out: You're Lucky

    Like our mom did for Marc at the Chans, make sure your kids know that having more or better stuff isn't the most important thing in the world. From a very young age, start dinners with a round of thanks: to the sun, earth and farmers for growing the food, the grocery store clerks for stocking it, and the person who prepared it. Later, bring them to volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen. Trace the journey of your kids' clothes and toys -- note the discrepancy between their lifestyle and <a href="http://www.globallabourrights.org/press?id=0183" target="_hplink">that of the workers in China</a> or elsewhere who made their stuff. Of his kids' experience with Semester at Sea, Professor Kasser said: "They have now seen poverty and know what real poverty is. They know how privileged they are. What they want isn't really what they need."

  • Model It

    Like any other habit, it's hard to expect your kid to avoid the trappings of materialism if you spend your Saturdays draped with a rainbow of boutique bags at the mall. If you want to take a preventive approach, try taking family challenges like a TV Turn-Off Week or a Buy Nothing Week. Take a chance at your local second-hand store -- there's a range of options from fashion-conscious consignment stores, to mid-range Value Village, to the 'Whatever You Can Fit in a Bag for a Buck' church basement thrift store. Our friend and co-author Shelley has adopted the '3-Way Allowance Split' -- spend, save and charity -- and has a spare change jar in the kitchen that, once filled, goes to whatever charity the family chooses.