"Child care should be for sale."
"... Children aren't for profit."
"Money should not be made off the backs of ECEs (Early Childhood Educators) and families."
These were some of the posts in a very lively discussion I had in a Facebook group for Canadian child-care providers on the topic of commercial child care. As you can see, commercial or for-profit child care has its good share of detractors. Think how the Toronto Maple Leafs fans feel about Montreal Canadiens supporters.
But why the negativity? Basing it on what was said the discussions, detractors adhere to the notion that commercial child care is a threat -- and not just any threat, but a threat that must be stopped at all costs.
This is what I gathered: There is genuine fear that commercial child care will eat up the child-care industry in Canada; a fear that any child care that is not non-profit or public agency will suck up millions of dollars; a fear that that unscrupulous businesses will trample on what is entitled to child professionals.
If I believed all of these notions, I would conclude that "for-profit" is synonymous to the "Boogey Man" in child care.
But is it really a threat?
Federal and provincial governments just earmarked millions of dollars for child care to create spaces. Who do you think will get lion's share of that? It will be non-profits and public agencies. A recent bill filed by NDP MPP Catherine Fife proposed to stop any spending on commercial child-care providers. The bill was eventually struck down, but it shows what efforts are there to stymie child-care businesses.
What's even more head scratching is that there is a child-care crisis for parents across the country. Parents are on edge trying to find quality child-care spots. It takes months to secure a place because of the inefficient management of wait lists. If they do find an available spot, they get sticker shock. The median Toronto infant child-care spot in a licensed centre cost $1,649 per month in December 2016.
And some people want to limit support only to non-profit and public agency child care?!?
We should be all hands on deck here, people!
That means ensuring that parents have a good set of choices for child-care options -- from home-based independent child-care providers, to licensed centres that are run as businesses, to care provided by non-profits and public sector entities.
If you ask me, there should be a lot more support to spur enterprising child-care professionals to start their own businesses.
A recent survey from top Canadian company Shopify revealed that 68 per cent of respondents dreamed of being their own boss. Who's to say that child care is spared from this wave of desire to be entrepreneurs? I absolutely believe that this is good for the child-care industry and should be supported, not suppressed.
It's time we start thinking more beyond licensed non-profit/public child care.
What does it mean if we can get more Canadian child care professionals to start their own business?
"It would open up varied opportunities for Early Childhood Educators that go beyond the childcare centre environment, potentially enriching that provider's experience," shared Christine van der Gulik of the Coalition of Independent Childcare Providers of Ontario (CICPO).
"It provides income possibilities for stay at home mothers and single parents who could not otherwise afford child care. It will allow them to build a viable career, support their families and contribute to Ontario's tax revenue rather than further burdening our social assistance structure," she added.
Andrea Hannen of the Association of Day Care Operators of Ontario (ADCO) says that licensing and standards should be high in the minds of entrepreneurs who want to start their own child-care business.
"While having access to a wider range of child care choices is beneficial for most families, licensing and regulation are vital to ensuring that certain basic standards for safety and quality are maintained. Encouraging entrepreneurs who are willing to adhere to these standards to start their own licensed child care programs could help reduce some of the many pressures young families face, including the cost of child care," she said.
That ability to practice and maintain the quality child-care service is what Carolyn Dupont of Little Lighthouse Home Daycare liked about starting her business in Ottawa, albeit in a home child-care setting. "By starting my own child-care service I'm able to care for my toddler while using my professional skill set to offer quality child care based on the needs of my community," she said.
"I think there's great potential for Registered Early Childhood Educators to become entrepreneurs in the child-care arena, which will be impactful as it will create quality home childcare spaces run by individuals who have a vested interest in following government regulations for childcare," she added.
It's time we start thinking more beyond licensed non-profit/public child care. Enterprising child-care professionals need to be encouraged to start their businesses and supported to sustain them. The good news is that are now steps, like what Ontario is doing with home child-care providers, to make it easier for them to be seen as true peers of non-profit/public child-care providers.
Baby steps, but it is progress.
This blog post by Regnard Raquedan originally appeared in his blog RegnardRaquedan.com.
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