Some lucky Terrace parents have won the child care lottery.

Kelsey Wiebe

By Kelsey Wiebe

PACES Child Care Society, which operates child care centres at 4924 Straume Ave. (beside the R.E.M. Lee Theatre) and at 3750 Floyd St. (on the Coast Mountain College campus), will offer $10-a-day child care over the next year, thanks to an investment from the BC Government.

Parents will pay a maximum of $200-a-month for full-time care. Some parents who receive income-based subsidies will pay even less. Prior to this announcement, parents were paying $700-a-month for full-time care for babies to three-year-olds and $825-a-month for children aged three to five

The prototype plan is meant to collect data on the feasibility of the much-discussed $10-a-day child care plan promised by the BC NDP. Most prototype sites, up until this point, have been in the Lower Mainland. In this round of funding, both PACES and Coast Mountain Children’s Society (in the former E.T. Kenney School) in Terrace were chosen as prototype sites.

PACES is remarkable in that the 76 (or more, given shared part-time spots) children in attendance are at all times treated respectfully: the entire program is child-led and premised upon respect. Educators ask even young babies if they can change their diapers. Children choose whether or not to participate in activities, and their input helps guide weekly and daily educational plans. PACES educators follow Manager Nancy Dumais’ lead in innovative care that adheres to best practices in early childhood care and education.

For parents, having PACES chosen as a prototype site can be life-changing. “Going to $10-a-day means I can afford to consider a second baby—something that was out of the question when we were paying $800 a month!” one parent told me. Another parent of three young children told me that $10-a-day means that she will be able to go back to work.

“Before, with the prices being so high,” she explained, “it didn’t make any sense for me to go to work full time when my entire wage would be paying for child care. I am very much looking forward to being able to be a working member of society again and have my children in a happy, safe space.”

A single mother who was previously paying $500-a -month due to a provincial income-based subsidy will now be paying nothing, freeing her from significant financial stress.

PACES staff are similarly excited to work at a prototype site. “Being chosen as a prototype site means increased connections with the wider provincial child care sector,” states Dumais.

“It also showcases and highlights the outstanding programming that PACES early childhood educators pour their hearts and souls into providing for the children who attend. I think this is essential to recognise as we celebrate this win for the PACES community as a whole.” Many staff are also parents, and having their fees reduced by hundreds of dollars will be transformative.

Hurdles to accessible, quality child care of course remain. Most glaringly, the prototype is only scheduled for one year, and high fees may return at the end of the pilot. Only two centres in Terrace were chosen, leaving many other families to continue paying high child care fees.

Before being recently suspended, PACES’ waitlist of over 100 families averaged two years. Many parents can not successfully secure a child care space at a centre before their parental leave ends, leading them to make ad hoc arrangements with babysitters—who tend to be more expensive and less safe than centre-based care—and, in many cases, to have one parent stay home with the child or children. Due to the gender-based pay gap, this parent is usually a mother.

Expanding child care spaces by paying early childhood educators (ECE) better and by ensuring that early childhood care and education college programs are accessible and well-funded are two solutions. Both of these have improved over the last few years thanks to investments from the provincial government, but we still do not have enough ECEs to care for the young children in our community. The mother of three quoted above waited 2.5 years before her first child was able to secure a spot at PACES. Making child care more affordable and more accessible will allow more parents to return to work, contributing to our economy and creating a more equitable society.

Kelsey Wiebe has sent her four-year-old son George to PACES since 2018, and will soon be sending her baby there as well. She served on the board of directors for two terms.