The OCBCC is at Queen's Park Tuesday with over 50 parents and educators to speak out against the Ford government's child care cuts. Vanessa Kelly drove from Goderich to bring her MPP, Education Minister Lisa Thompson, this letter.
A letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson about child care cuts, from a Huron-Bruce mom
May 7, 2019
The Honourable Lisa Thompson, Minister of Education:
My name is Vanessa Kelly. I am a parent of three children and former licenced home child care provider in Goderich, in your riding of Huron-Bruce. I have come all the way to Queen’s Park today to remind you of where you come from and the impact your cuts to child care will have on rural communities like ours.
There is a child care crisis in Huron-Bruce and child care needs more investment from the provincial government, not less.
Minister Thompson, your government’s cuts will cost the communities in Huron-Bruce millions. It will make child care harder to access, more expensive, and put young children and families at risk.
We work hard in Huron-Bruce. Our salt miners keep Ontario roads safe during winter months. Our farmers feed cities like Toronto, as well as children across the province through early child hood education and school nutrition programs—programs the Ford government is looking to cut. Our workers at Bruce Power keep the lights on in homes and industrial operations across the province. Workers in all of these sectors as well as local health care workers, educators, social services providers, restaurant workers and entrepreneurs in Huron Bruce need and deserve quality child care for their children. Knowing that their children will be provided with safe, nurturing child care programs allow the workers of Huron-Bruce to keep this province running.
We actually have a job surplus in Huron-Bruce. This means that there are more jobs than there are people available to work in those jobs. Lack of access to child care keeps many workers, especially mothers, out of our local workforce.
I want to tell you about the most important part of child care—safety. Lisa, your government’s decision to increase ratios in home child care programs from two children under two to three children under two is dangerous. I’m here today as someone who has done the job of a licensed home child care provider, to tell you that you are putting children at risk.
This is not “fear mongering” as your government calls it, it is a fact. A fact that you would understand if you took the time to visit licensed home child care providers and speak to them about their work and the responsibilities that come with it.
A single provider working alone in a home only has two arms. One for each infant—how on earth do we hold the third child? How do we keep them safe from the busy, inquisitive toddlers and preschoolers also entrusted in our care and who also need our attention and support? Or worse, how do we move them to safety in an emergency such as a fire or a tornado like the one that we had in Goderich in 2011?
How do we decide which two babies to take with us first and which one to come back for? How do we explain our reasoning to parents if there isn’t enough time? These are the questions home child care providers in your area and across the province are asking. These are questions we should never have to ask and I’ve come to Queen’s Park to ask you why you are putting any of us in this position?
Licensed home child care providers love their work—even though it is exhaustingly undervalued by those outside of our industry. This job is not all fun and games. Often, my work day started at 5 am, with the first child being dropped off shortly after 6 am. The last child in my program was picked up at 6:30 pm. When I didn’t have children in care, there were groceries to buy, meals and activities to plan, daily sanitizing routines and safety inspections. When I averaged my hours worked with the pay I received—even with the wage enhancement grant, I was often earning below minimum wage once I subtracted my operating expenses.
There are no scheduled 15-minute breaks, no 30-minute uninterrupted lunches and “Naptime” on the rare occasion that all children actually rest at the same time, is used for documentation, planning and cleaning.
It’s not surprising that after two and a half years of this, I burned out and made the tough choice to leave home child care—as many of us do. When a licensed home child care provider closes their doors, up to 6 licensed child care spots close as well. When an Early Childhood Educator chooses to leave the field because they feel like they can’t afford to keep working long hours for little money, centres have to scramble to fill that job to keep spaces open.
Ask any licensed child care administrator in Huron-Bruce about barriers to creating spaces. They will tell you, that staffing is always the biggest one. What are you planning to do to change this? Turnover rates in child care are astronomical.
Educators love of working with children should not be part of our compensation package, any more than your love of politics is part of yours.
While centre-based care is important in our area, home child care is very much a vital and well used service. Licensed home child care provides flexible hours needed for many our local workers to get their jobs done. We need more of these spaces, but increasing ratios to a dangerous level is not the way to create them.
Minister Thompson, any parent will tell you that raising children is expensive. So too are the costs associated with providing quality child care.
You have suggested that there is a lot of “waste” that could be trimmed when it comes to the expenses associated with child care. The child care facilities I know of, the ones which are not-for-profit, do their best to make sure that every penny counts. Why is our government choosing to use tax payer dollars to subsidize for-profit child care entities?
Lisa Thompson, you were elected by the people of Huron-Bruce to represent the hard-working nature of your constituents. It would seem you have forgotten about the values that got you here. You know that Huron-Bruce is a community with a solid work ethic and a “family first” mentality. We are asking you to put our families and the families across this province first. Our children ARE what matters most, and we believe they deserve affordable, accessible, quality child care.
Vanessa Kelly, Goderich, Ontario