The local YMCA serving the Kingston region joined all of its Ontario YMCA counterparts to announce it will opt into the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) system.
The YMCA of Eastern Ontario is one of 14 YMCAs in the province opting into the system, which will “reduce the average cost of child care to $10 a day on average by 2026,” according to the announcement made on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. The statement also noted that “initial rebates of 25 per cent to April 2 for eligible parents are being processed, and eligible Y child care fees will be lowered by more than 50 per cent by January 1, 2023.”
According to YMCA Ontario, its agencies provide 1/7 of all licensed spaces for children up to six years old, making it the largest not-for-profit child care provider in the province. Opting into the CWELCC system will “deliver more affordable child care to thousands of parents at approximately 800 locations.”
Here in the Kingston region, the YMCA of Eastern Ontario’s Director of Childcare Operations, Jill MacDonald, spoke highly of the system and what it will mean for the parents and custodians of those children in their child care services in Brockville and Kingston.
“All Ys are focused on the provision of quality not-for-profit care. Ultimately, our goal is affordable, accessible, and high-quality child care for parents… We know that high-quality early learning and child care can set a powerful trajectory for lifelong learning, resiliency, and well-being,” MacDonald said in response to inquiries from Kingstonist.
“CWELCC is a transformational opportunity to build a stronger publicly-managed early years system that will benefit children and their families for years to come. While considerable work remains to address workforce shortages and to improve equity, inclusion, and accessibility, we look forward to working alongside government and community partners to support its successful implementation and future growth.”
MacDonald echoed the Ontario YMCA, explaining that changes are already under way.
“The new system will reduce the average cost of child care over time to $10 a day on average by 2026. However, we expect initial refunds of 25 per cent for the period of April 1-October 31, 2022 to be processed in November with the newly reduced fees for eligible participants, beginning November 1, 2022,” she said.
Asked about whether the local YMCA sites expect to see an influx of enrolments into its child care programming, MacDonald spoke to the aforementioned workforce shortages currently being experienced locally and across the province.
“The number of educators needed across the sector is in the thousands. Ontario Ys alone have enough licensed spaces to reduce waiting lists significantly, but we can’t fill those spaces without hundreds of educators to open them. That’s why addressing the sector’s long-standing shortage of educators is so important,” she emphasized.
“Governments are looking at budgets now, so this is the right time to look at the cost of specific actions to increase the number of educators providing care… The cost to our economy of not having care that allows parents to work and contribute to society has to be part of the equation,” MacDonald concluded. “Investing in child care educators is an investment in our economy.”
More information on the province’s role in the CWELCC system can be found at the Government of Ontario’s Canada-Ontario Early Years and Child Care Agreement web page. For more information on the local YMCA and its programming, visit the YMCA of Eastern Ontario website.