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Vancouver is losing a licensed, waitlist-free child care centre. In the middle of a child care crisis...
For families still locked out of Canada's universal child care system, this is heart breaking.
“Mommy, mommy, get up! Come play with meeeee.”
I’m face down on the floor. I can’t get up. It’s only 1pm, but we’ve already done it all: consumed countless snacks, hit the park, smeared paint on everything, and consumed more snacks. Just like we did yesterday, and the day before that, and for as long as I can remember. Now, the baby is finally down for a nap, and I am done.
Except, I’m not. Our tireless three-year-old is ready for more and will not quit until I get up.
This was my every day year ago. Summer 2022. We were newcomers, less than six months into our new Canadian lives. My partner landed a full-time job, unexpectedly, just a couple of months after we landed. We had no family in the vicinity, we were still learning how the child care landscape worked and had no chance in hell at securing a licensed child care spot. But I desperately needed help.
To our relief, there was Buddings. Soon after completing the registration process, our preschooler was able to spend afternoons here and there attending field trips, making crafts, exploring different cultures and languages, enjoying storytime and so much more with the early childhood educators at Buddings on West Broadway. I finally got a chance to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” properly clean something or even prepare a decent meal in silence.
So, my eyes filled with tears when I received the news last week: Buddings will permanently close its Broadway location this fall. In the middle of an acute child care shortage, a licensed, waitlist-free child care centre is closing for good.
Pioneering Flexible Childcare
Buddings launched Vancouver’s first flexible child care centre in 2011, soon after the province instituted a specific license for occasional child care providers. Per the province’s regulations, the company allows parents to book up to 40 hours of licensed child care (by the hour) each month at each of its (two) locations.
Unlike the vast majority of child care centres in BC, access to Buddings is not guarded by a waitlist. Yes, there are barriers to entry: an application to submit, a virtual orientation to attend, a monthly membership fee to pay and, regrettably, a higher cost per hour than traditional child care centres. But languishing on a waitlist, uncertain if you’ll even get a chance to walk in the door, is not one of them.
In an email sent to families late last week, Buddings confirmed that its Broadway location will shutter permanently by mid-September “in parts due to older building infrastructure and future demolition plans, inflexible regulations, and subsidized competition.” The blog adds that Buddings will continue to offer flexible child care for toddlers and preschoolers at its Cedar Cottage location, along with its new after-school care program for elementary students.
Despite the solemn occasion, the blog post offers some hope. Child care fee reductions have reached “almost 100,000 families” across the province, it says. And, within just the past month, nine of their clients have left the program after landing full-time child care spaces elsewhere. Both are excellent news for local families.
But here’s the part that breaks my heart: The team behind Buddings has spent more than a decade lobbying the provincial government to adjust its regulations to allow licensed occasional child care programs remain a financially viable option for families who want it — to no avail.
Across North America, it’s now well established: without government subsidies, child care programs cannot survive. Despite all of its efforts to help alleviate the province’s child care shortage for parents — who work on-call, work irregular schedules, recently landed, living here temporarily or just can’t seem to score a traditional licensed child care space — Buddings still has not been able to convince the province to allow licensed occasional child care programs to offer families more than 40 hours per month or subsidize the licensed care they provide.
I’m sure the aging infrastructure and pending redevelopment plans for their Broadway headquarters played a major role in the decision to end operations there. (Broadway Subway construction has been underway right out front for some time now). And I’m excited for the program’s foray into after-school care in East Van. It is much needed.
But how long can Buddings — or any other flexible licensed child care program around the province — continue offering licensed child care services without access to the same subsidies their peers receive?
Some local child care advocates may likely applaud this closure. “Another private provider bites the dust.” But for those of us still locked out of the public system, this closure is heartbreaking.
My heart breaks for the team at Buddings that has worked so hard to prove the value of flexibility in high-quality child care. It breaks for families who are piecing together multiple child care solutions and must go back to the drawing board, yet again, to make their lives work. It breaks for newcomers who’ll find one less waitlist-free support system available to them. And it breaks for the next generation of parents who may inherit a universal child care system that’s unable — or unwilling — to allow creative solutions for families in this rapidly changing world.
How are you feeling about the province’s progress on the universal child care system? Will Budding’s closure on West Broadway affect your family? Please share your thoughts, concerns and hopes in the comments!
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