Some parents in Penticton felt like they won the lottery last week, with letters explaining that their childcare costs will be reduced to $10 per day.
The OSNS (Okanagan Similkameen Neurological Society) Child and Youth Development Centre was selected as one of 53 prototype locations as the province tests universal childcare.
At the Penticton facility, parents of children ages 1-5 will pay a maximum of $200 a month per child for fulltime care as of Dec.1.
The childcare centre will receive funding from the government to subsidize costs.
While the centre focuses on individualized rehabilitation treatment of developmental delays in children up to age 16, the childcare is open to typically developing children as well.
The initiative is part of the province’s 10-year childcare plan and is being funded with a $60 million investment under the Early Learning and Childcare Agreement with the Government of Canada.
Manisha Willms, executive director of the Child and Youth Development Centre, said subsidized childcare will save parents up to $850 per month per child.
“It’s a huge cost savings. It cuts costs to approximately a fifth or sixth of what they would be,” she said.
It came as a shock to many of the parents at the centre. Willms said she was recently approached by a mother of two in the centre’s parking lot.
“She said, ‘Is this real?” and I said, it is real!”
Willms said the cost of quality childcare is a financial burden for many families.
“I think for a lot of families, it’s a calculation around is it worth it to work? When you are looking at what you pay in childcare and what you earn during the month and the difference is not that much, you really have to give some reflection to what you want to do. So I think this is a game changer for many families,” she said.
Prospective parents eager to participate in the program are out of luck for now. All childcare spaces are full and the centre will not provide an approximate waitlist time.
The subsidized spaces are provided until March 2020 and Willms is hopeful the government will pursue a universal childcare system so all families can benefit in the future.
“We see the benefit that it’s going to be to the number of families that we have at the centre, and we certainly would want that kind of benefit for all families,” she said.
Parents who are unable to access a protype childcare facility might be eligible for the Affordable Child Care Benefit. It provides families earning $111,000 a year or less to receive up to $1,250 per month for childcare.