ARCQE May 2020 Blog Post
Thoughts about child care as: “A real essential service…”
by Naida Meghji
It took a global pandemic for childcare to be deemed as an essential service by government and society. If you are an Early Childhood Educator this is a truth that you have known and have passionately advocated for within your programs and within the sector for quite some time. Some of these advocates have been bold and loud and met the ears of Ministry both locally and federally and have tirelessly and proudly advocated for the professional advancement of childcare. Some of these Educators have advocated silently over many years in support of honouring and respecting children and families in their care. All of this achieved as educators work daily in providing enriched pedagogical environments for children as they grow and learn, are loved and cared for, through guided and enhanced socializing opportunities in becoming strong and mighty citizens.
Whichever type of advocate you are, Early Childhood Educators know how broken the childcare structure is. For years, we have fought to become a high priority within governments and society. As a profession, educators are grossly underpaid and undervalued- often viewed as glorified babysitters but in an overnight turn of events, have now become critical for economic functioning. Educators have in fact now become a priority in order for other essential workers such as healthcare professionals, infrastructure, police services, fire services, food and grocery services, etc. to be able to be responsive in returning to work during the global pandemic crisis. In these unprecedented times, this world crisis is teaching us all that child care is indeed also a vital and essential service.
It is also reminding us that without child care, women are unable to go to work. This includes mothers, but also and more specifically the 240,000 female early childhood educators in Canada. A timely reminder, that it should be our social responsibility to ensure that women are deliberately supported in the labor force if we are hoping to rebuild the economy. To do this effectively, it will take strong infrastructure and funding to establish meaningful social accountability.
What society has learned through the Covid-19 pandemic is how fragile the child care system really is and how the lack of adequate resources required impacts the sector’s ability to remain responsive, viable and strong. Lack of a consistent approach and funding across the country has clearly reinforced the importance and need for a national universal child care system. Some provinces such as Quebec have strong funding already rooted in place allowing them to be better equipped to support educators, families and early learning programs even during crisis. Here, in Alberta, we have seen closure of hundreds of licensed child care centres and lack of supports for centres to pay educators and maintain operating costs at this time. Many programs were already dealing with significant budget constraints before the pandemic impacted Canada and were already reeling as a result of government cutbacks prior to Covid-19. Both the loss of the $25/day ELCC grant and more recently the abrupt cancellation of the Accreditation program only weeks before the crisis have only served to further compound challenges in maintaining quality early learning services for children and families at this time. Loss of integral support and infrastructure to the sector continue to compromise this already fragile sector. If the future of child care is not only to survive- but thrive; and quality services continue to be available it will require a strong framework of support.
What is needed most is a thoughtful, intentional and well-established national child care system substantiated with significant investment and infrastructure focused on affordability, accessibility and quality in order to ensure the economy is strong post the pandemic crisis. A universal system would recognize that child care is not just a privilege, but a right. A right with entitlement for all citizens- most of all Canada’s youngest members. That all children and families have a right to affordable, accessible and quality child care. That every Educator and program has a right to be supported for the professionals they are, and the contributions they make during the most influential period of children’s lives. Children and families deserve this. Educators deserve this. Albertans deserve this and Canada deserves and needs this!
Never has there been a more significant time in history where child care has proven to be an integral and essential service. If we are all in this together, then we need to commit to funding an effective and systematic approach together, towards a unified system for Canada that recognizes the importance of child care as the essential service it really is.
April 29, 2020
Written by Naida Meghji, ECE
Advocate for Early Learning and Care
Director of an urban Non- Profit Intergenerational ELCC centre
Board Member of ARCQE since September 2014