Diane Jermyn reports that on-site child care programs such as the ones run by George Brown College in Toronto are sadly rare in our province.
Celina Costa is a parent accessing these programs and she explains that, “Knowing they were going to be in a stimulating and positive environment where they could thrive made the transition much more bearable.”
Having on-site child care provides a logistical advantage, too. Describing a recent incident where her son fell, Costa says,“If I had been off site, I probably would have left work for the day in a panic because I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate,” she says. “But I was able to quickly go over there, then return to work and do my job.”
Lori Cranson, associate dean for community services and health sciences at George Brown understands that there can be barriers to employers offering on site child care, such as cost and the requirement to meet regulations set out by the Day Nurseries Act.
“It takes a bit of work and detail if you’re not familiar with the field of early childhood,” she says, “but if a company hired an organization with expertise to do it, it really wouldn’t be that difficult.”
George Brown's sites provide care for 500 children, most of whom are children from the community at large, often subsidized by Toronto Children’s Services. Some are children of George Brown employees and students.
Child care continues to be prohibitively expensive for many families.
“It’s like a second mortgage...Because both my husband and I work, we don’t receive any other funding. We’re fortunate that we could make that choice but I have colleagues who haven’t been able to afford to put their children here and have had to find alternative arrangements,” says Costa.
Moira Bell, manager of the Richmond Adelaide Child Care Centre, part of the George Brown network notes that the biggest cost for child care is staff. Also, though the college provides the space for the program, there is still the cost of running that space. “Whenever costs go up, such as hydro, you have to increase the fees. Plus, every centre has a cook that cooks for the children, or catering that provides two snacks and lunch every day.”
Bell believes that not-for-profit programs are able to provide better care, because the first concern is for the quality of care and not the bottom line. “That’s not to say the bottom line doesn’t count,” she says. “You have to manage that bottom line, but the budget supports the quality of care.”
“It may seem like a frivolous expense, to have quality subsidized daycare available for employees, but in the long run, it would pay off with happier employees – employees who don’t have to take as many sick days, and who are better able to focus on their job during the day because they know that their kids are being well cared for.”
Cranson and Bell of George Brown College offer the following advice for employers considering offering child care services on site:
•Perform a needs assessment to ensure this is a benefit that workers want.
•Find a partner, such as a daycare operator already running a quality centre, who has the money to help you build and who may be able to provide the space needed.
•Make the centre open to members of the public for diversity’s sake and to maintain a balance of age groups.
•Offer a certain number of subsidized spots for community members as a community service.