A woman running a child care centre out of her home says provincial funding is unfairly balanced against operations like hers.
Kathy Sager is an early childhood educator who operates Bonnington Blossoms on one floor of her home near Nelson. Blossoms is designated a multi-age centre by the province, which means one educator can care for up to eight children. One of those children can be younger than 12 months old, while the oldest can be 12 years old.
But because the centre is located in her residence, Sager receives far less funding as the same operation would if it was in a commercial space.
“If they would just give us equal funding, I think it would be one step in the right direction,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the answer to all the province’s child-care issues. There’s a lot more that needs to happen. I think that would be a step in the right direction, whereas right now it’s very discouraging for the type of operation I’m running.”
There are 14 different types of operations recognized by the province in the Community Care and Assisted Living Act. Funding is dependent on the type of operation, the age of the child and how many hours of care per day is provided.
Sager, for example, receives $3.70 per day for a child younger than 36 months who is with her more than four hours. That same rate increases to $12 if she owned or rented a space outside her home.
Sager could change her licence to a group child care centre and stay in her home, but then she couldn’t care for children younger than two-and-a-half years old and no older than school age, or children in Grade 1. Her wait list, which she showed a Star reporter, includes future parents in need of care for their infants.
“When I have three people calling and emailing me a week saying that they are in dire need of child care for their fetus or their one year old, then I want to help them…,” said Sager, who added she is considering opening a second centre just to meet demand.
“I also see that these families are valuing what I’m offering. They are saying, ‘OK, I like that there’s eight kids here. I like that you have a garden.’ They like that it’s at my house, because if it was at a commercial space, they would be at a totally different scene. And that’s not where everyone wants to send their 11 month old, one year old, two year old, three-year-old kid. People really value that, and I really value that for my community.”
Katrina Chen, the minister of state for child care, declined an interview request by the Star.
A statement provided by a ministry spokesperson attributed the funding gap to the higher cost of providing child care in a commercial space as opposed to a home.
“As we invest in the child care system after years of neglect, we are listening to input from the sector on how we can build a system that supports a diversity of providers.”
But Sager disputes that argument, and says there are plenty of costs being overlooked by the ministry. She pays for staff like other centres, and says mortgages for houses meant to include child care centres should be considered as well.
Child care has been a spotlight issue since the Premier John Horgan won last year’s provincial election.
In February, the NDP unveiled a $1 billion investment in child care meant to cut costs for up to 86,000 eligible families and open up more than 24,000 child care spaces within the next three years.
But lost in those plans, according to Sager, are the small centres struggling to operate out of homes.
“It just feels like we all get it, we get why this is valuable. But why is the government not valuing it? Why are they saying you deserve less, and these families who choose to come here deserve less? It doesn’t make sense to me.”