Rising Up for Child Care stories

Val's_story_.pngRising Up Story #1, Val: "I worked as an ECE teacher for 15 years. Originally I left the field with the intention of just taking a break. Through a series of events I came to be employed as a forklift operator making DOUBLE what I did as an ECE. For that reason, I stayed in my new career. I've often thought about how sad a reflection on society it is, that my two chosen careers have been so ridiculously unbalanced. To be an ECE of course, I needed a college diploma which took me 2 years. To be a forklift operator I needed to take a one week training course. 

Indeed, there have been times when I felt I wanted to go back into the field of childcare and nursery school. Sadly though, financially, I have become accustomed to my current income, and have no intention of returning.

Our society just doesn't seem to value early childhood education the way some other countries do, it's sad to me that this is the same situation we've faced since the early 90s and precious little progress has been made."

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No one should have to choose between a profession they love and being able to pay the bills. It is time for a publicly-funded, universal child care system that ensures decent work and professional pay for ECEs, early years staff and child care providers.

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup

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Rising Up Story #2 - Anonymous: “I have been working as an ECE for four years now. I have been in the same company for the past four year. There are so many times that I have wanted to leave but been afraid to. It seems to me that even if I move to another ECE job, I’ll still be facing the same bad situation I’m experiencing now.

I can't blame anyone because I know that everyone here is trying their best to create a good working environment, especially my supervisor, which I really appreciate. But enough is enough. 

Despite the four years that I have been working, I still don't have health benefits and paid vacation. Before Covid I was working 7:30am split shifts, which meant I couldn’t use my 7 sick days easily. Now, because of the pandemic, it feels impossible for me to use my paid sick days. 

I feel overwhelmed everyday as all the responsibility is on my shoulders alone. I have an ECA as a partner, our supervisors don’t expect them to have the same responsibilities as me, so I bear that alone. When there are complaints or demands from parents, I’m the only one expected to face them, and that adds more stress to my job. 

I don't want to blame anyone, but this has become my situation for the past four years. The only thing that drives me and that keeps me going are the children that I work with. I love the job but when I am in the program I want to run away. 

I want to help and be part of the advocacy for decent work. I want to be part of the voices to advocate that ECE’s should not face unreasonable and unrealistic demands. I want to help by advocating that we are educated professionals and should be treated with respect as other professionals are.”

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ECEs, early years staff and child care providers deserve respect and recognition for their work. This includes the decent work conditions that create opportunities for meaningful pedagogical and caring work. This requires a publicly-funded, universal child care system with decent work at the core. 

 Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup

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#RisingUp Story #3 - Emma- I am a Mum of 2 amazing children 5 and 1, and an RECE. After the birth of my first son I decided to move from Centre based care to licensed home child care. I knew after working in centres for 13 years before I made the switch we did not get a whole lot, but in home child care we get even less for doing triple the work.

Not only am I the teacher, I am the cleaner, cook and everything else in-between. Since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, I now spend even more time cleaning and sanitizing, leaving very little time for my children/husband to have a mum who has energy for them.

There are days that I work 15 hours a day with no breaks and no lunch time. When you break down my pay, most days I make $2.50 an hour, and that covers my wages, my bills, the food for the children, etc. I currently live in Keene Ontario where subsidies, wage enhancement, and base funding is available. That funding helps to ease the burden a little. But I will soon be moving to Port Hope Ontario, and now I worry that the same funding won’t be available to me there. How is that fair? I will be doing the same work I am doing now, but with no help from the government, simply because of my location. There needs to be a system to help all child care, no matter if it’s in a centre or in a licensed home. All RECEs should be paid the same and fairly, no matter their place of work.

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We know that during the COVID-pandemic closure many licensed home child care providers remained open, and their particular needs have been roundly ignored by the Province. Emma’s concerns with increased responsibility, unjust compensation and inadequate funding are highlights of the many inequities and gaps of our existing system. It’s time to rise up and demand more from the Province - this is not good enough. All educators, children, and families deserve better.

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup

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Rising Up Story #4, Sabrina- I'm a social worker, it's a job that's been a bit harder since I had my son, but I've known since I was a kid that it's what I wanted to do. I was temporarily laid off from my job for 3 months because of the pandemic. In May our municipality redeployed workers to long term care homes, and those who weren't able to take on that work were laid off. I had only been back from 18 months of maternity leave for a matter of weeks, and with medically fragile family members, I simply couldn't take the risk.

On one hand each day I spent home with my child felt like a blessing, on the other hand, each day spent at home brought more worry and concern. Would I have a job to go back to? Would my husband and I be able to afford child care if/when I went back to work? Would we even feel safe sending our son back to child care? I felt so much confusion and uncertainty. 

Three months later I was called back to work, which by chance, happened on the same day we got a deadline from our child care to decide if we would be sending our son back.

After much deliberation, we had already said, "no, we won't be coming back" to our child care centre; but within the hour I got the call to return to work. Even though I’m working from home, my employer has a condition that I must have child care arrangements to return, and I knew that if I didn't return at that point, I would be ineligible for CERB. I had to make a decision incredibly quickly, while standing in a grocery store, and I really felt like I had no choice. An hour after telling our child care not to hold our spot, I had to call them back and say, "I need him to start next week".

However, as I was off work for so long, we could only afford to send him part time. We are really thankful to have a child care centre that is taking great precautions to ensure our child's health and development is prioritized, and it's reassuring to me that the ratio in his class is low, but I still worry.  

Because we could only afford part time care, for two days a week my busy boy is home with me as I work from home full-time. Our days are filled with lots of independent play, coloring, singing songs, and a nice long nap for baby so mama can get work done. I feel real pressure trying to do two jobs at once, and worrying about doing both well. I also feel incredibly guilty if my son is watching tv so I can take a call. I'm doing the best I can in the face of some pretty impossible choices, and we are taking things one day at a time.

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We know that throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, families have had to make incredibly difficult, and often, unfair decisions. Like Sabrina, we often aren’t given a ‘real choice’. We know it doesn’t have to be this way. A universal, publicly-funded, accessible, affordable, inclusive child care system would create the conditions where families can make real choices about the care and education of their young children. It would create opportunities for all children to experience a quality early learning environment where educators are respected, valued, and well-paid. The time is now.

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up Story #5, Sydney
 
I have been an RECE with my organization for 5 years. I have always loved working with the children and their families, and truly value the relationships I have built. I am fortunate to work for an organization that does its best to pay employees well. What I find frustrating in this line of work is a culture of disrespect and disregard for ECEs as educated professionals.
 
This frustration is amplified lately: frontline educators are not being consulted as important decisions are being made. There is no one more equipped to determine what is needed for the success of a program, than those who are working in it.
 
Our wellbeing is not being considered as we face very real health concerns in caring for young children during a pandemic. That tells us educators that we are just accessories in keeping centres open, no matter what levels of discomfort or anxiety we are experiencing. It seems like the messages from our government are that we must stay open at all costs - but have they weighed the costs? Child care centres are not human storage facilities to keep parents in the workforce - we are shaping future generations, literally!
 
ECEs are educated individuals, each with worlds of knowledge and experience to offer. When will we be valued as such? When will we be asked what WE need for our programs to succeed? When will we be asked what WE need to feel safe in the workplace again? Educators need to be valued - period!
 
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Early childhood educators, early years staff, and child care providers deserve better. We know that the caring relationships we create with children and families make learning possible. We know that the pedagogical work of ECEs deserves to be valued. Educators deserve respect, recognition, decent work and pay, and to be listened to in the process of policy change. It’s time for a national child care plan.
Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup

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Rising Up Story #6, Anonymous "I have been working as an RECE in the field for over 15 years.  I chose this field because I truly enjoy working with children. I was happy to get up and come to work everyday.  A few months before the pandemic rocked our child care world (and the rest of the world), I started questioning my place in this field.  Over the last couple of years, we as RECEs have been given more and more responsibilities, but continue to make next to nothing and go unrecognized as essential professionals.  During the pandemic, I truly missed my role in the classroom and was looking forward to getting back to work.  

Sadly, since returning I have experienced nothing but stress and anxiety in my role as centre supervisor.  I spend all of my days reporting Serious Occurrences for children who have fallen ill or updating them as test results return. I don't get to spend time in the classrooms enjoying the children anymore, instead I stress about how the centre is going to pay the bills each month - as the funding that the government is constantly bragging about STILL has NOT come through (and we have no idea when it will) and I worry about letting down my staff and families if we can't continue on financially.  I'm exhausted and some days I feel like everything I loved about this job has been taken away.  

While I understand that these times are different, I also wonder if things will ever return to what I spent so much time learning about in school.  I'm seriously at the end of a tethered rope and I don't know how much longer I can hold on.  RECEs deserve so much more recognition than we receive and I seriously hope that the government steps up and follows through on their promise of funding and assistance before it is too late for my centre and others out there like mine that are holding on by a thread."

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This is the urgent need we are hearing across Ontario. Our child care programs need support now, and we need long-term, sustainable solutions. This means a publicly-funded, universal, accessible, affordable, inclusive child care system. The Federal government has stated their commitment, now the Ford government must work together with the federal government on this vital priority. Our collective voices highlight the urgent need for change and the value of early childhood education in Ontario. All children deserve it, all families deserve it, all educators deserve it. The time is now.

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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#RisingUp Story 7, Anonymous

I have been an ECE for the last 15 years and have yet to hold a full-time position. My career began in a supply Educator position, and for five years I struggled to obtain a full-time position as they were few and far between. Eventually I was forced to leave my job that I loved. 

After my second child it became almost impossible to pay for childcare for 2 children with the uncertainty supply work brings. Still with full-time positions limited I spent the next 5 years in contracts for before and after school programs as a Supervisor, being a contract part time staff I didn't receive any benefits. The odd hours forced my husband to switch to night shifts because again we could not afford childcare with my part time hours, I was also denied subsidy because I didn't work enough. 

Five years of night shifts began to have a negative impact on my husband's health and we made the decision to move away from the city. Now 15 years into my career I am working 2 part time jobs, 6 days a week as an RECE, I still receive no health benefits, vacation time or sick days. 

When I became an Early Childhood Educator I never imagined that I couldn't afford childcare for my own children.

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We know that the storyteller is not alone. We know others in our sector are forced to make impossible decisions everyday. This is why Ontario needs to be part of a national child care plan that delivers decent work and compensation for educators and affordable child care for families. 

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up for Child Care Story 8, Rachel: "With two months left of school in my Early Childhood Education Diploma, my future became very uncertain. The COVID pandemic completely uprooted everything I thought I knew about childcare. As I physically distanced at home and completed school online, I listened with fear to stories of outbreaks in emergency childcare and I wondered if I would ever feel safe enough to begin working in a career I love.

Now that childcare has reopened in Ontario, I am filled with fear and uncertainty. Between decreased funding, lack of jobs, and the fear of getting sick, it feels like the sector has been left behind by the provincial and federal government." - Rachel MacDougall Faussett

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Rachel is not alone in her worry for the future. We know that many are concerned about the future of the early childhood education sector. Yet, we have an opportunity - we need Ontario to be part of a national child care plan that delivers decent work and compensation for educators and affordable child care for families. 

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up for Child Care Story #9, Patricia: "My childcare centre is committed to decent work practices in ways that I haven't seen often in our sector. We are paid well, have good health benefits, 12 sick days/year, vacation... all things that I personally consider to be the bare minimum to keep staff healthy and happy. The cherry on top is that we have daily paid planning time with our room partners and we are also "over staffed", at least by ministry standards... which should also be part of standard practices in childcare, but as most RECEs and childcare workers know, the reality is very different. 

I've felt the consequences of these practices in many ways. I currently work in the preschool program and before covid, we had 16 children with 4 staff (3 RECES, 1 assistant). That meant no one needed to come cover our breaks (more consistency for the children) and we were able to divide and conquer the enormous amount of paperwork that comes with childcare.  When we first re-opened after the pandemic closure, we kept our cohort at 10 for the summer, which meant it was me, one of my colleagues and 8 children. Those 2 months were hard on us. There were all the changes to what we could/could not do with children, the worries that come with providing childcare during a pandemic, and not having extra staff or planning time was hard. 

When the new school year started, it was decided that we would still have 4 staff (now 2 RECEs and 2 assistants) but only 12 children. Our shifts and breaks were changed to ensure we had 3 staff in the room most of the time and that myself and my fellow RECE still had planning time everyday. Our covid summer was hard, yes. But it was also a learning experience. We learned how to adapt our practice to minimize cross-contamination, we shuffled our environment and our program to promote physical distancing in developmentally appropriate ways. We've had just over a month with the new children and I can say confidently we're doing amazing work.

The lower numbers have allowed us to get to know our children better, give them lots of 1-on-1 attention, make them feel welcome and make the transition into the new program easier and smoother. Planning time has allowed me and my partner to develop a closer relationship, work on our communication with each other, build on each other's strengths and actually divide the workload so we don't feel as burnt out. Childcare is a hard job on one's mental and emotional health, now more than ever, but I definitely feel like these measures have helped us cope better with the stress and pressure. The biggest tell is how happy our children are. Our transitions are mostly smooth (I mean, they are children... big feelings are expected) and we're focusing on uninterrupted free play, outdoor time and going with the flow. It's still weird and uncomfortable to wear PPE and it's hard to understand the children when their masks are on, but we're doing it. 

Our experience shows that investing in decent work practices for educators and childcare staff have a direct impact on children's experiences. I love being an educator and I wish all educators in our province had the opportunity to work decent jobs and feel valued by their community. Children and families need high quality childcare and educators deserve to work decent jobs. The future is still uncertain - we don't know how viable our program is going to be when CEWS ends or if we will go through another closure. We don't know much, but we do know decent work and high quality childcare are possible with the appropriate funding and support. 

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Patricia’s story is important - many ECEs experience decent work and professional pay, and feel valued and honoured in their communities. But, not all educators have access to these conditions. This is why our current system needs to change. Every educator deserves decent work. Every child and family deserves access to high quality programs. 

Instead of addressing these issues with immediate action and investment towards building a publicly-funded child care system which ensures decent work for all educators, the regulatory changes Ontario proposed on Friday (to ratio/group sizes, staff qualifications, and others) undermine our sector and our profession. We all deserve better.

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


Jenna's_story_(1).pngRising Up for Child Care Story #10, Jenna: "I drive a 2012 Volkswagen, nothing fancy. I live in a small house with my husband. I don't have name brand clothes or expensive furniture. I look at my paycheck every two weeks and want to cry. 

The pay I receive as a full time RECE, barely covers my bills every month. Plus I have to spend my own money to provide materials for my classroom because I am told, "it's not in the budget".

I am pregnant with my first child. I have to go back to work after 6 months after having my baby because my husband and I can't afford for me to be off for 1 year. I cry about this a lot. I stress every day about how we will afford a child and child care on my salary. 

I love my job so much but it is also the reason I stay up at night worrying about my future and the future of my baby. 

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Jenna is not alone. So many ECEs, child care staff and providers, and parents are forced to make impossible decisions to balance their careers and family needs. It doesn’t have to be like this. There is a more fair and just way for us to live, and it involves a national child care program with decent work for educators and affordable fees for parents. Time is up - children, families, educators and communities deserve it now. 

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up Story #11, Anonymous

My story is not a reflection on my workplace, simply on the financial conditions of this sector.

Since reopening in the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, staff at my work have been using our vacation days when we are ill. We only receive 4 paid sick days a year, which for someone working with young children does not seem like much. Now with COVID protocols and having to stay home, get a test, and wait for results at the first sign of symptoms, we have been using vacation days.

However, we no longer receive our full allotment of vacation days and instead receive them and can use them as we earn them. When we run out of vacation days we have to take unpaid days, even though this testing is required and we are putting ourselves at risk each day. If we were to come down with COVID and we have no vacation time available we will be put on EI.

This is my workplace doing their best. They want to ensure we can be paid. However, the funds just simply are not there.

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Having access to paid sick and emergency leave days was one of the biggest concerns ECEs and early years staff expressed in returning to work during COVID. We know this issue also affects families, who are staying home with children who are sick, often still paying child care fees. Everyone deserves the right to stay home when they are unwell and not worry about the financial implications. This is why we work with allies like 

Decent Work and Health Network

. This is why Ontario needs to be part of a national child care system, with decent work at the core.

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up Story # 12, Anonymous

"I have been a RECE for over 25 years and I totally and utterly love what I do. It breaks my heart when I hear of good ECEs leaving the field due to not having a decent living wage and the inability to provide for their own families.

I became a child care supervisor after 10 years of being a front line ECE, during that time, while I truly enjoyed working with the children and other staff, I had very little support. I often had to buy my own program supplies, even though I couldn’t afford to live on the wages I was getting.

I found that people didn’t value ECEs or our work.

After 10 years I took an administrative course to become a supervisor. I didn’t know how I was going to make a difference or where I was going to start, but I knew I wanted to try.  After graduating, I got a job as a supervisor at a non profit childcare. I got paid very little and worked 10-12 hours, but I was invigorated and I wanted to make sure our centre provided quality programs for young kids. I realized that a few things were missing; in-program support for staff, training for staff to upgrade their skills and fair living wages.

While we don’t have support from a system that values these things, I have worked very hard to bring up staff salaries to above average, to provide as much training for the teachers as possible, and to support each and every employee to be the best that they can be. In our centre we work as a team, as all staff positions in all programs should be valued so together we can achieve a program that we are collectively proud of.

We must have a system that recognizes all RECEs and all childcare staff as an integral part of our education system, that is how we can make sure that our childcare staff stay in the field."

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This supervisor’s story is so important. We know the challenging working conditions and low wages in the sector are a direct result of our market system of child care. We know that there is a way to improve these conditions. The current regulatory changes the government is proposing do not address these long standing issues - they deflect from them. What Ontario needs, what children, families, and educators really need, is a publicly-funded child care system which ensures decent work for all. 

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up Story #13, Jennifer: "The first phase of COVID was very scary. It was scary for the families and for all the children involved. I closed my home daycare in hopes that I’d see my little friends soon. 

Months passed until I felt safe to open in July. It was then that I knew the work I do is valuable for the families and the children. I was expecting tears and resistance from the children being home with mom and dad so long on the first day back. Each one came in happy and ready to start new.  In that time away the children’s language began to develop more and they were eager to learn and play. We created a new routine that allows me to spend more time with the children and everyday I notice the new concepts they are learning, revisiting materials that they hadn’t worked on in a while! And now they are mastering these materials! 

It has definitely been amazing to watch and be a part of something so great that we created together."

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We know how valuable child care programs are for children, families, and communities and that  they appreciate the work of early childhood educators and child care providers. It’s time for our government to show their appreciation by building a national child care system with decent work for all. 

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up For Child Care Story #14, Anonymous: "Before I moved out of my family home and had a family I thought the pay I made as an ECE was pretty good because I didn't have any "responsibilities' yet. Once I moved out on my own with my now fiance and we had our son it really hit me at how little of money I make as a full-time RECE.
I make just 25 cents over minimum wage and I am in my 7th year of working as a full-time RECE. My pay basically just covers the bills and no extras. I have to worry about if I miss just one day of work because that could mean I fall behind on my bills. There have been times I have contemplated leaving my job that I spent so much money, time and hard work, and work in a factory instead, because I could make $20 + an hour instead.
I love being an RECE but it's time for us to be seen as professionals and get decent pay for the hard work we do!"
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We know this storyteller is not alone. Far too many educators are working without decent wages or working conditions. No one should worry about paying their bills. The current proposed regulatory changes to qualifications in early years programs will not address recruitment and retention issues when educators continue to face such financial challenges. We need decent work and professional pay which keeps educators in the sector. Working conditions are learning conditions, and children, families, and educators deserve better. Ontario deserves a national child care plan.
Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup

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Rising Up For Child Care Story #15, Desiree: "I have worked in the child care field for 9 years now and through those 9 years I have worked for a variety of child care centres throughout Ontario, as well as Alberta. I gained experience in all rooms from infants to school age. I then took the opportunity to become a Supervisor for a Junior Child Care Centre and two School Age programs.

Through my various experiences, I found myself. This was the best way for me to really discover what I valued most in child care, and what quality child care meant to me as an RECE. I always reflected back to the organization that really helped shape me into being the RECE I am today. The reality is though, no matter how amazing an organization is or program is, if they cannot provide RECEs with a respectable decent wage, they will forever have a high turn-over for staffing. Prior to COVID, we were already short staffed and struggling to hire qualified, professional RECEs. COVID didn’t cause these issues to develop in our field, it has just heightened them. The unfortunate part is that if the government doesn't step up and make changes now, it may be too late. Child care is struggling. We don’t have the staffing we need to operate quality child care programs. 

And I understand why. I take a lot of pride in my role and I strive to keep my staff engaged and encourage them to remember why they became Early Childhood Educators; but when you’re just working and only going further into debt, then there comes a point when you are forced to step back and say, “is it time to walk away?”. I too want to have children. I want to be able to afford food on the table. I want to be able to provide extra-curricular activities for my children. I will NEED to be able to afford child care for my own children. I cannot afford any of those things making the income I make today. I go home and wonder which bill will I pay today? Will we be able to make our mortgage payment today? What will we do if I get laid off again? We can’t save money for emergency situations when we are living paycheque to paycheque. 

I know I am not the only one who is feeling this struggle. It has taken a pandemic for the government to START acknowledging our value within the economy and the importance of our role in the development of children. But when quality RECEs decide to leave the field because they can’t financially live off of the wages they make, and programs can no longer operate quality programs, it will have a ripple effect that will affect us all. If the government doesn't make changes now they are in for a rude awakening when child care programs close and families no longer have somewhere to send their children so they can work. 

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Desiree understands the change our sector needs - watering down regulations will not deliver decent work, professional pay, or quality early learning and care. Ontario’s children, families and educators deserve a national child care plan that has decent work at the core. 

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up for Child Care Story #16, Vanessa: "I’ve been in the field of early childhood education for nearly 10 years. For the first eight I worked for a for-profit centre that felt it was appropriate to pay me minimum wage - and the worst thing about it is I accepted that and thought it was normal. Not only was the pay low, but the quality of care we were expected to provide was mediocre - sadly it took me having a child of my own to realize that this was not the kind of centre I wanted to be a part of if I wanted to be seen as a professional in our field. 

During my search for a new job I came across a lot of low paying offers and I knew I was better than that and so I stayed where I was comfortable until I found something suitable. Sadly it’s the reality a lot of RECEs face in our field though as we are not paid a professional wage despite the fact that we have post secondary education, are part of a professional college, and work continuously to update our knowledge through professional development. I was fortunate enough to finally land a job at an excellent non-profit organization that pays well, treats their employees as professionals, and goes above and beyond to provide high quality care, and have been here for almost two years now. 

Not everyone is as lucky as me though. We need to rise up, take a stand, and show the government and the public our worth. If there were more funding in place and money available to centres maybe more would be able to pay their educators a professional wage! Too many RECEs are choosing to leave the field at a time when we need to stand united! It’s time to take action." 

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Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


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Rising Up for Child Care Story #17, Erika "When I was in OAC (over twenty years ago!) I received offers for two university programs, one for the Fine Arts and one to the Early Childhood Education program at a community college.

When my English teacher asked where I was headed in the fall, she was aghast when I told her that I had accepted the ECE offer. “But you’re so much better than that! You have so much potential! Don’t let your talents go to waste!”. And it made me angry and made me want to do it more.

I was cognizant of the fact that this was a career that would not be a lucrative one. But my nineteen year old self rationalized it by saying I don’t need “things” and that spending my work days doing something I loved was the ultimate goal.

Oh, and love it, I do! Far more than I ever imagined really: spending every day with tiny, hilarious humans and seeing the world through their eyes. Sharing my love of the arts and music and books, and being inspired by their imagination and innovation. Co-workers have become some of my closest and dearest friends. I could go on and on.

Yet despite the fact that my chosen career is a perfect fit for me in (almost) every way, I am so broken-hearted that my English teacher was absolutely right. I AM better than this.

I work hard at my job. I go above and beyond - during my work day and also on my own unpaid time. I am among the best at arguably one of the best centres in the province.

But because I am a woman who chose a profession that has been historically branded as ‘women’s work’, I am forced to lose out in so many ways.

I am better than low pay. And poor benefits. And a miserably tiny pension match (compared to many in my field, I am doing so well, which saddens me more. And it is still not enough to support myself independently).

I am better than being left unprotected by not having a union and when I try to advocate for myself and my co-workers for fundamental things that people in other professions take for granted, I am constantly reminded of ‘how good I how good I have it here’ & am branded as problematic.

I am better than having our hiring contracts and policies rewritten with no negotiation process, increasing our responsibilities and duties with no compensation.

I am better than being placed on the frontlines during a pandemic and being seen as just a dollar amount by people who sit at desks and are many tax brackets above the employees who are rolling up their sleeves and doing the extra work (SO MUCH EXTRA WORK!) with a smile on our masked faces, while putting ourselves and families at risk.

I am better than being overlooked at budget time, where innovation, expansion and reputation is a higher priority than being a leader in staff compensation.

I am better than having my vacation reduced when the budget gets tight. And my small annual raise taken away (though it isn’t inline with inflation anyway, and the longer we stay, the further behind we fall). And our sick time stays the same during a time when we are most at risk in the line of duty and will be forced to stay home for so many things. Even under normal circumstances, there is a high instance of sickness due to the very nature of what we do. Our budgets are tight at home as well, with the difference being they always have been and are even more so now.

I am better than ‘PPE provided’ which means I wear a cloth mask to protect the children from me, but have no protection for myself and, therefore, my family (PPE provided?! The government provided for September as promised, but we still await October’s shipment, at the mid-point of the month).

I am better than a government who doesn’t fund child care centres as needed because child care isn’t a part of the publicly funded education system, where some employees are more appropriately compensated and protected.

Men are teachers, you see, so education is seen as worthy and important past the age of five

I am better than simply being a babysitter to reopen the economy at the risk of the health of myself, the children in my care, my coworkers and our families.

Although she still does not need ‘things’, that optimistic girl starting out in the world was wrong.

As my own late teens are beginning their path to adulthood, my advice has changed from ‘find a job that you love’, to ‘find something that you enjoy, but most importantly, be sure you are adequately compensated for your work’. I push benefits and pension packages; abstract concepts not fully understood by the teenage mind. Because although money can’t buy happiness, it CAN stave off a whole world of hurt and trouble.

I can find happiness just about anywhere, but when an emergency dental surgery or car/home repair unexpectedly appears, it can absolutely derail the whole train. And retirement? There are meagre savings, always getting eaten up by the aforementioned ‘unexpecteds’.

Having just reached middle age, I can feel the areas in my body that are beginning to ache from years at this incredibly demanding and physical job. But like my ECE mother before me, I will continue to do it well into my senior years and while fighting through chronic pain, because there is no other choice if I hope to have a roof over my head and food on the table.

Because I am a woman. And society tells me that this is what I am worth.

And so I will leave this place. This place that I love and have loved since I was small and sat in the laps of women who would eventually become my co-workers. This place of dreams and freedom and family and love and laughter. But not of opportunity.

And so, in time, (if I can make it through the pandemic unscathed and with my savings still intact, to weather supplying until I get full time), I will hopefully work for the school board, where my skills and talent may very well go neglected. But where I will be more adequately compensated and protected.

Because men work there.

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Erika’s story is not uncommon. We know that many in government and outside our sector do not recognize and appreciate the value of the work we do. Yet, we know that may do - and together, we are rising up for child care. The status-quo is not good enough. We will push back against current proposed regulation changes. We will raise our voices to call for a national child care system with decent work at the core. Children deserve it, families deserve it, educators deserve it. 

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup

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Rising Up for Child Care Story #18, Anonymous: "I had my daughter at a young age, and quickly after having her I realized all I wanted was to work with small children. Nothing gave me more joy than watching her grow, and to see how the experiences and opportunities I brought to her shaped and moulded her into the wonderful child she is today.
I started school when she was only 9 months old. For two years I soaked in all the information from my lectures and placements, achieving good grades and a “most likely to make a difference in the field of Early Childhood Education” award at the end of college.
Fast forward 5 years. I now have two more children. Two more mouths to feed. Two more daycare fees. Two more tiny bodies to clothe. And unfortunately, because I made the choice to bring 3 children into the world, I am conflicted between working a job I love, and quitting... continuing my education, and pursuing a job that will allow for me to afford to make my bills, clothe myself as well as my children, and maybe think about saving money to take my kids to Disneyland one day...
Maybe...
Today’s children are tomorrow's future. We need them to succeed, to strive to be their best. Quality Early Childhood Educators who are passionate and driven are the ones who are shaping these small minds with big potential. If these hard working Early Childhood Educators are pushed aside and taken advantage of then our children could fall into under-qualified hands. Parents and educators alike need a system that is working for them... not us working for the system.
Value educators and the children of tomorrow WILL succeed.
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We know children, families, and educators deserve better than the status-quo. The federal government has announced their commitment to a national child care care plan, while our provincial government is proposing regulation changes that threaten to undermine the early childhood profession and quality of our programs. This is why we are rising up together - for children, families, and educators.
Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup


Rising Up For Child Care Story #19, Lori: "I joined the early childhood education and care sector mid-way through my career in non-profit leadership. I don’t have an ECE credential myself, but deeply appreciate the important work that ECEs do with children and families. I am in awe, each and every day, at the determination, passion, dedication and drive of early childhood educators and others working in this sector. They truly go above and beyond to create a sense of belonging for children and families and to help each child thrive. Running a child care centre is complex and sadly pits child care fees paid by parents against educator wages. In doing so, educators end up subsidizing the true cost of child care with their low wages. Despite this, we aim to continually invest in our team. In 2014 we celebrated that we had finally met our pay equity targets – but wait, those targets were set in 1994, so was it really something to celebrate?

With support of our board of directors, we’ve worked hard to improve compensation and to provide decent working conditions for our team. Despite the many gains, there is still much to do and that’s why we are Rising Up for Child Care – to build on the recognition of child care as an essential service and to demand action from provincial and federal governments. It’s only when we have a publicly-funded system that we can truly make strides towards ensuring that child care is affordable for families AND provides professional pay and decent work for educators.
On this Child Care Worker/ECE Appreciation Day, let’s reflect on the critical role of educators in supporting children’s learning, development, health and well-being. After all, everyone depends on someone who depends on child care. It’s a family issue, an economic issue, an equity issue, a children’s rights issue and a workforce issue…it’s time to #ReconstructChildCare.
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Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup

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Rising Up for Child Care #20: Emily

**Content Warning - Pregnancy Loss**

** This powerful and emotional story shows us why it’s so important that we rise up. Together we can take action to support and protect the women in our sector who face loss and heartbreak.** 

“2016 was a very hard year. It started off with being hospitalized for weeks due to an outbreak in the childcare centre I worked in, without pay due to a new policy of earning your sick days throughout the year. During this time, I had to continue to pay for my youngest child care costs. It was so stressful, I didn’t know how we would get through it, but we did.

I was so happy and grateful when we had some good news - I was pregnant with my second child! We were so excited to welcome a new member of our family into this world, something we wanted with our whole hearts. At my three month ultrasound, I found out that my child was not going to make the appearance we had already started planning for. I lost my baby. The floor fell out from under me. What could ever be worse than this moment.

I quickly found out, according to centre policy, this was not a medical issue and they told me (with sympathy) that I needed to buck up and continue to work as normal. I was encouraged to be back to work as soon as possible, meaning, the next day. Foggy minded I went about my work day only being able to think about what was happening inside me. The heavy bleeding a constant reminder.

There was a reason my administrator expected me to be at work, there was not enough staff or supply to be able to keep the centre open without me coming to work. To add to this, no policy acknowledged a miscarriage as a loss until 16 weeks gestational. In those moments, I was stuck between my feelings of responsibility to the children and the program, and my responsibility to myself. I know my administrator cared, I know she didn’t know better – but that doesn’t make this okay.

The following week I was booked for a post-miscarriage surgery. There was no one able to cover my shift so I was asked to come into work the morning of the surgery and leave on my lunch to make it in time, the assistant supervisor would cover the afternoon. I was so shocked I didn’t even push back – I had used all my strength to get through the past week, my tank was empty. I was back to work 48-hours post-surgery and life went on. That’s how I remember my lost child, with stress, unacknowledged sadness, and feeling like just another cog in the wheel.

In a sector that is so full of women, I know I’m not alone. I know other women are out there in silence, going to work through the tears, the bleeding, the sadness. It’s not easy to share this story, it still feels as if it was yesterday. But it’s past time we acknowledged women’s health in child care, ensured access to paid leave, and build a system so that this story doesn’t happen to another woman. Enough is enough, this needs to stop.” 

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Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup

To help us advocate for paid sick days for all, visit the Decent Work & Health Network: https://www.decentworkandhealth.org/paidsickdays


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#RisingUpForChildCare Story #21, Sydney

We all know that childcare is a field that you go into because you love it, and not because you're looking to make a lot of money. I feel like that's an inside joke in the childcare field. To make the ends meet while I was working as a classroom assistant, I got a second job. I worked with a beer company to earn extra money and make ends meet, something that was fun and easy and took very little training to do. So I had two jobs, both wildly different.

But my work in the childcare centre definitely required much more of me. The really ridiculous thing was that I made $5 more per hour (before tips) to serve beer then I did when I was entrusted with 10 toddlers' wellbeing. There's something very wrong with that picture. If you look at our current government though, I guess it makes sense. This government is so busy spending millions on breaking contracts with The Beer Store so they can put beer into corner stores and making it "more accessible", they conveniently have no money left to fund our hospitals, our educators and especially no money to put into our childcare. It's more than just frustrating. It's insulting.

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What Sydney has experienced is far too common. We know the work of early childhood educators is valuable, and we know that our current market system does not always provide decent work and pay for educators. This is not good enough. We need to do better for children, families and educators. The Federal government announced plans to build a national child care system, and we need to raise our voices to ensure decent work is at the core. Ontario needs this. Children, families, and educators deserve this. 

Share your story. Sign the petition. Rise up for child care. https://www.childcareontario.org/risingup 




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