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Rates rise at licensed day cares

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Hamilton, Charles
Publication Date: 
4 Aug 2012



Kristine Eggertson says she "lucked out" when she found a day care spot for her twoyear-old son.

"It was luck, so much luck. All my friends who have small children are on all the wait lists they can get on. They are having a hard time getting into a place they want to get into," Eggertson said.

Long wait lists, a lack of government funding and a shortage of professionally trained early childhood educators means licensed day care in Saskatoon is getting more expensive, providers say. Most of the dozens of licensed day cares contacted by The StarPhoenix say they have or will increase rates by an average of $20 to $30 per month in the coming months.

For infants - children 18 months and younger - the average price for a licensed day care is anywhere from $800 to $1,225 per month. The cost of day care for toddlers is anywhere from $450 to $800.

Saskatoon Early Childhood Education Demonstration Centre at SIAST, where Eggertson takes her son, won't raise its fees until July 2013.

Eggertson says a potential increase of $20 or $30 is understandable, but with her second child due any day now, the cost of day care is something she thinks about.

"A year from now I will be paying for two kids in daycare and depending on if prices go up again I may have to make a decision about what to do with my kids," she said.

One of Saskatoon's most popular licensed day care and early learning centres will raise their rates in September. For preschool-age kids, the monthly rate at most Preston Early Learning Centres Inc.'s locations will go up $145, to $800 from $655 a month. The price for infants will go up $405, to $1,225 a month from $820.

The centre says raising prices was a last resort.

"Either the fees have to go up or we have to close our doors. The reality has finally come," says Lisa Leibel, executive director of Preston Early Learning.

"Even at $1,225 a month our infant program will continue to lose money - not as much money, but we will still be losing money."

Leibel and other daycare directors say a shortage of early childhood education grads means keeping professionally trained staff in their centres is the largest cost.

"We just aren't producing enough early childhood educators who want to work for $10 or $11 an hour after two years of school," said Sheryl Henrikson, director of Oak Trees and Acorns Child Care Centre.

Henrikson says her board will be increasing fees at Oak Trees and Acorns in the coming months, but she is not sure by how much.

These same costs are not incurred by unlicensed daycares, where the providers are not required to have a professional degree.

When Roz Jutras decided to open her own privately run unlicensed day care four years ago, it was partly a family decision - she wanted to spend more time with her child. But the choice to open up her home to a handful of other children was also a financial one.

"When I was thinking about going back to work part time, there was just no way I was going to be able to afford day care," Jutras said.

"When I had my second child, there was just no way that was going to work."

Of the non-licensed day care providers contacted, the average price was $35 to $40 a day or $600 to $700 per month. In Jutras's neighbourhood, the price of non-licensed private day cares has gone up since Jutras went on maternity leave a year ago.

"I was asking around my neighbourhood what people are charging for day care and it's a lot more than I used to charge. I used to charge for full-time kids $550 per month and now day cares around here are charging $700," Jutras said.

Centres such as Preston Early Learning say they are aware that increasing fees may make their service unattainable for some people. Almost all day care providers contacted said a national strategy on child care is needed to deal with the rising costs.

"You don't want to (raise prices). You want to be inclusive and offer that service to anyone. We understand that it may very well deter parents of lower incomes from accessing our services unless the government changes the services," said Leibel, of Preston Early Learning.

The federal government's child care allowance, which delivers a payment of $1,200 per year per child under the age of six, is not enough, Leibel says.

"I would encourage parents to talk to the government. It's an important service and without their help, it may unattainable for some people."

-reprinted from the Star Phoenix


Entered Date: 
7 Aug 2012
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