Vancouver resident Rory Richards, who started looking for childcare for her twin daughters before they were born five years ago, says she has yet to find childcare for her two daughters – and told CBC that she paid more than $5,000 in waitlist fees.
“It’s been a long and winding road in our search for child care,” Richards told CBC News.
She is one of many parents and advocates who are speaking out against waitlist fees, which they describe as a barrier to seeking affordable care.
According to a 2019 survey of Metro Vancouver, the region had approximately 325,142 children under the age of 12 and 60,620 child care spaces. This covered 18.6% of children aged 12 and under and was lower than the 2016 national average of 27.2%.
The survey also noted that by 2024, the number of children under 12 in the region is expected to reach 350,068.
With child care spaces in short supply, many parents try to secure a place for their child by placing them on a waiting list, sometimes before they are born – and this often results in fees and no guarantee of a place, parents and advocates say.
Because Richards has twins, she has to pay double.
“It seems a bit predatory,” she said, adding that she hadn’t yet heard of the roughly 15 child care centers she’d made deposits with over the past five years.
A 2016 report by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives found that 47% of daycares surveyed in Vancouver charged waitlist fees.
Sharon Gregson, spokesperson for the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC, says non-profit and government-funded daycares generally don’t charge wait list fees, unlike most for-profit daycares.
She says some daycares charge around $20 to offset the administrative costs of running a wait list, while others charge higher, sometimes non-refundable fees — and in those cases, it’s not uncommon to hear about fees ranging from $100 to $500 per child.
“Some of the big, for-profit corporations are taking advantage of the desperation of parents, quite frankly,” Gregson said.
Gregson says that the legislation prohibiting this practice, as it was introduced in Ontario in 2016, would help parents enormously.
CBC contacted several child care centers that charge waitlist fees, but did not receive a response per post.
“I can’t afford them all”
Kitsilano resident Gerónimo Ratcliffe, who started looking for child care centers with his wife two years ago when their daughter was born, says most of the child care centers they looked at — about 100 — charged a list fee. waiting.
He says he opted to apply to those that didn’t charge that fee and managed to get his daughter on about 20 waiting lists.
“I used the free ones,” Ratcliffe said.
“I know I’m missing a lot of spots because I can’t afford them all…I don’t have a lot of free money to spend on that.”
Ratcliffe eventually got a spot at a daycare center in East Vancouver, but says he hasn’t heard from other daycares.
Measures to help parents
In April, the province announced in a news release that it had expanded $10-a-day child care to more than 6,500 spaces and plans to increase that number to 12,500 by the end of the year. ‘year. BC’s NDP government launched the $10-a-day child care program after being elected in 2017 and pledged during last fall’s election campaign to expand it across the board. of the province.
Families using these centers will pay no more than $200 per month per child for full-time enrollment, and the facilities will not charge waitlist fees.
Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care, says she is aware of the issue of waiting list fees and is looking into the matter.
“When my son was born I was on several waiting lists, I paid the waiting list fees myself,” she said. “I had to work three jobs to make ends meet.”
Chen also said the province is considering other measures such as the Provincial Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative, which provides eligible child care providers with funding to help reduce fees for parents.
“It’s unfortunately a bit too late for families like mine, but it’s not too late for many other parents,” Chen said.
Richards, who is now also looking for childcare for her newborn son, says not having access to childcare has put a strain on her family.
“It affected our ability to work and our income,” she said. “It can definitely make or break your career, your home stress levels, your family dynamics.”