This week, childcare workers will be shining a light on the “crisis” facing early childhood programming across the country.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Keri Kane, Children’s Services Director for the YW Kitchener-Waterloo, who has been working at the YW in childcare for more than three decades.
The sector desperately needs more educators and the only way to retain them is with better wages, says Keri and other advocates, who are also asking governments to deal with the workforce crisis by increasing funding to create more licensed childcare spaces.
The Day of Action “Worth More!”
The National Day of Action is held on Thursday November 30th, and the virtual campaign is focused on early childhood educators getting the respect they deserve.
The only way to solve the child care workforce shortage is with decent work and pay, says the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario. In some places, programs have limited enrolment or closed programs all together, the association said.
In Waterloo Region, there are more than 8,300 children on a wait list for a licensed child-care space in the region.
YW Children services
At the YW Kitchener-Waterloo, “we are lucky to work for a great organization,” said Keri, where childcare workers are unionized and receive benefits and a pension.
The YW has four childcare centres in Kitchener, operating infant to preschool programs, as well as before and after school-age programming from kindergarten to Grade 6. The YW serves about 460 children.
In 2022, the provincial and federal government signed an agreement to fund 86,000 new licensed child-care spaces in Ontario. The agreement brought in $10-a-day child-care and many agree it has been a game-changer for families.
But to open more access to Canadian families and decrease long wait lists, governments must create more childcare spaces by hiring more educators at increased wages.
Earlier this month, the province announced wage increases for registered early childhood educators from $20 an hour to $23.86 in 2024, to $25.86 in 2026. Increases were also announced for supervisors.
But childcare advocates say the wages are inadequate and childcare centres can’t retain staff.
Many workers left the sector in “droves” during the COVID pandemic and never returned, Keri said.
How can you help end the crisis shortage of licensed child care spaces?
Child Care Now, a national group advocating for a publicly-funded child care system, has an open letter that you can sign, calling on more funding in the 2024 federal budget.
On Thursday, you can join a membership meeting of the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario and send a strong message: WE ARE WORTH MORE!