Meghan Croft found herself struggling just a month before school started this year when the daycare her six-year-old daughter attended before and after school told her they no longer had space.
Croft, a single mother and early childhood educator (ECE), had no luck finding a new daycare on such short notice.
The center where she works only accommodates children up to four years old, so she made the difficult decision to transfer her daughter to a school closer to her workplace so she could leave her with a babysitter upon arrival.
But that means she’s shelling out $800 a month for a private nanny instead of the $50 a month she paid for her previous subsidized place.
“Anyone right now, with the way the economy is, would struggle to have to pay an extra $800 a month, let alone a single mom,” Croft said.
Fortunately, her daughter was recently accepted into her new school’s after-school program, which will cost about $350 a month, plus $100 a month for a babysitter some mornings, almost 10 times what she paid last year.
While the province is working to increase publicly funded child care following a 2021 funding agreement with Ottawa, most workers in the system cannot afford to use it. The goal of $605 million in federal funding over five years is a cost of $10 a day for child care across the board, but it’s unclear when that will be achieved.
Croft said he doesn’t make much as an ECE, and for the past few months, he only had about $20 left over after paying his bills.
Naomi Stewart, a Child Care Now steering committee member and child care coordinator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Nova Scotia, said the province’s ECEs are not paid a living wage.
A report from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives in Nova Scotia says living wage rates for 2023 range between $22.85 and $26.50 per hour across the province.
After a three per cent pay increase in April 2023, ECEs earn between $19.67 and $25.12 per hour, according to the Nova Scotia government website.
“[ECEs] “I want to be in the country, but it’s no longer sustainable to stay there for long periods of time,” Stewart said. “Until [the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development] fund the program adequately, they won’t get people to stay.
Miranda Dearman worked at a private daycare in Windsor, N.S., where two of her three children attended for free during her work hours.
This was ideal for his young family, until the center came into the hands of a new owner. The new owner told Dearman that his children could stay, but for a daily fee.
Dearman worked at the daycare four days a week and estimated her wages were around $600 every two weeks.
Although he enjoyed his job, he said he didn’t feel like he earned enough to make it worthwhile, so he opened his own day house in July.
She cares for five young children, including her two-year-old son, at home full-time. Dearman says he now earns more than double what he did before.
“Obviously I have to sacrifice my house and all my personal belongings, and all my children’s personal belongings that I have bought them over the years,” Dearman said, explaining that operating a day house is not a walk in the park . But for her, it was the only option that made financial sense.
Last week, before the provincial legislature ended its fall session, the Nova Scotia Liberals introduced a bill that would provide free childcare for childcare workers.
NDP MLA Suzy Hansen said she agreed with the Liberals that ECEs deserve access to child care, but noted the lack of available spaces in the province.
“In order to take advantage of something like free child care, there would have to be child care spaces for them to use,” Hansen said.
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Becky Druhan would not commit to offering free childcare for ECE.
“We know our ECEs need access to child care, but if the skilled worker who is building the center down the road doesn’t have access to child care, that won’t help that ECE. If the doctor that the ECE needs to see when they are sick doesn’t have access to childcare, that won’t help our childcare system either,” Druhan said.
Druhan said the current government is leveraging Ottawa’s funding to “build a child care system that doesn’t have wait lists, that has spaces available across the province where all Nova Scotians need them.”
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