TORONTO — Affordable daycare is a constant burden for families across the Greater Toronto Area, and the heaviest weight is felt by low-income families.
According to groups like the South Asian Women’s Rights Organization, if subsidized daycare is not made readily available, low-income families will continue to live in poverty.
Megan Graham understands that burden of trying to find affordable childcare.
She used to work as a teaching assistant at a daycare centre, but after she came back from maternity leave she could not afford the fees at the centre she was working at and subsidized daycare was not available.
“When I came back from maternity leave I had to find a home daycare for Ben because I could not afford daycare at the centre,” Graham told Global News. “That was tough.”
But home daycare proved to be too expensive as well.
Graham said the costs were so high, she was left with only $100 in the bank to pay for food and other bills.
She now works from home as Doula and said running her own business allows her to keep her son at home and maintain a steady income, but added that being able to afford to put her son in daycare would be ideal.
There are thousands of other families in the city in dire need of affordable childcare.
To help ease the burden, the City of Toronto will be adding 1,400 new licensed daycare spaces over the next couple of years. Yet none of those spaces will be subsidized.
Councillor Janet Davis said daycare should be affordable for everyone and is putting forth a motion to the Budget Executive Committee for 350 new subsidized daycare spaces.
“Parents are desperate for affordable childcare, not just for fees subsidies for low income families who are eligible because they have to have a certain income level, but even middle income families, two income families paying $2000 a month for childcare spaces is the equivalent to a mortgage payment or rent,” she said.
“Childcare is the most expensive in all of the country here in Toronto and we really must address affordability and access.”
Child advocacy groups say the biggest issue is access, and they argue low-income families will not have access to childcare unless it is subsidized.
Sultana Jahangir, the president and executive director of the South Asian Women’s Rights Organization, said that according to their research there are 16,000 kids in need of subsidized daycare.
Jahangir said if families cannot get proper, safe, childcare, they will not be able to grow into a two-income household, which could result in increasing poverty levels.
“We have 80 per cent of people waiting for childcare subsidy, so right now if we don’t subsidize them and we don’t increase the low income subsidy, these people are not able to come out of the poverty”, Jahangir said.
Davis said part of the real solution lies in getting funding support from both the provincial and federal governments.
She said the concern over the last seven years is the city has consistently reduced its funding when instead the focus should be on putting together a proper national strategy to help combat the problem and make daycare affordable for everyone.