REID: Child care crunch in Surrey has parents getting creative

Expensive and hard-to-find child care is forcing parents to get creative and make some hard choices, this columnist included

Lyndsey Busch with kids Zoey and Maxon in their North Delta home.

Expensive and hard-to-find child care is forcing parents to get creative and make some hard choices, this columnist included.

SURREY — Two years ago, Lyndsey Busch was floor manager at Central City Brew Pub.

She earned that job after working years as a server.

But she had to give that position up, all because of child care options. Or lack thereof.

“I have had to go back as a server because I cannot commit to full-time,” explained Busch.

Why? Because to make ends meet, her husband Tyler has started working out of town, meaning Busch is often acting as a single parent.

“With two little ones now I’m finding it very hard to pay for child care. I’ve resorted to babysitters as my schedule is all over,” she said.

And it’s a less-than-perfect situation.

“What do I do when kids are sick?” she said. “I have had to give up my role at the pub just to be able to have a flexible schedule. Some days it feels like I’m paying a sitter to go to work and just break even.”

Tyler being out of town has been tough on the whole family but it’s how they make ends meet.

Busch said she has looked into full-time care for her kids and it would cost her $2,500.

“Yes you can find cheaper, but do you really trust that? These people are pretty much raising your kids. Do you cheap out on that?” she asked. “Do you trust them? And all the good ones have wait lists.”

Another layer of complexity, she noted, is the challenge she faces when her kids – or babysitter – are sick.

“A lot of employers don’t get that. ‘What do you mean your kid is sick?’ Especially if you’re a manager, there’s no one to take that shift for you. It’s stressful.”

Unfortunately, her story is a common one.

(Scroll to the end of this column for statistics.)

Busch’s sister, who has a daughter, works a full-time job for the school district, serves with her at the pub in the evenings and her husband works full-time as well. “All of that just to pay the bills, right?” she said.

Busch has heard of subsidized child care, such as the NDP’s proposed $15-a-day childcare plan, and said it would be good for parents, and also the economy.

Gone are the days where most families can afford to have one parent stay at home. It’s something this reporter is all too familiar with.

When I first had my son, I was freelancing for the Now and counted myself rather lucky to be able to work from home.

But naturally I wanted stability for our children and our financial future. We couldn’t get by on my partner’s income alone and as a freelancer, my monthly income fluctuated. With the snap of a finger, the freelancing budget could be slashed or axed entirely.

So when a full-time position came up, I fought hard for it.

I was ecstatic to get it.

But what came next hit me like a punch to the gut: I learned what child care would cost.

Even at the cheaper-than-normal rate I found after much searching, it was going to be more than $1,000 for my son.

That would take a huge chunk of my monthly take-home pay as a first-year reporter.

Gulp.

(And this provider had no “back-up” so if she was sick, it meant I’d have to take time off work to watch my son. That obviously played a part in why she was less expensive.)

So we did what many families do: Found ways to make it cheaper.

One Grandma would do one day a week, one would do another, meaning we only needed child care three days a week.

Okay, only $600. I could swallow that.

Then came baby number two. You can guess how that went.

Fast forward to today. My son is now six, my daughter now three. We have worked out a plan (using two family members and a daycare) that has us paying about $1,000 per month.

Not bad.

But we still have no back up. We still rely heavily on family to help (on days they’ve committed to and otherwise). And I still end up having to use my vacation days to care for my sick kids.

We’re still looking for a more structured solution for this coming fall and moving to South Surrey made matters worse. I’ll be lucky to even find child care there.

The rate will likely be higher, plus I won’t be able to rely on family to help given that they all live in the city’s north end.

Most providers I’ve found will only take my pre-schooler, and the older one would have to go elsewhere for before and after school care.

While I’ve located summer daycare for both my kids in South Surrey for $1,800, they won’t do school drop-off and pick-up for my son come September.  Oh – and this facility closes at 4:30, which is when I get off work.

Sigh.

Lack of child care availability. Massive child care costs (especially if you have more than one child). Rising living expenses.

I’m guessing most parents have considered working from home or working part-time – even if it means giving up a good job – at some point.

And can you blame us?

Amy Reid is a Now staff writer and columnist. Email her at amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

 

Finding child care in Surrey is still dire despite 280 new spaces

Tom Zytaruk, Now staff

The provincial government’s decision to create 280 new licensed child-care spaces in six locations in Surrey is welcome news but definitely no panacea as securing a spot in this city remains elusive to many parents.

More than $1.22 million will be invested here through the B.C. Early Years Strategy.

Stephanie Cadieux, Liberal MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale noted that more than 300 babies are born in Surrey every month.

Ninety seven spaces are being created at StrongStart Children’s Learning Centre, 75 at Progressive Intercultural Services (PICS) Child Care Centre, 44 at Smilestones Junior Kindergarten North Surrey,  28 at Smilestones Junior Kindergarten South Surrey and 24 spaces being created at Kids Zone Child Care Centre.

Shalene Wedel, program manager for Child Care Options in Newton, said the creation of these new spaces is “wonderful news” but “there is still a great need for Surrey, absolutely,” particularly in Clayton Heights, which is experiencing “huge growth.”

She said there are only 12.4 childcare spaces for every 100 children up to the age of 12 in Surrey. Of those, 93 per cent are commercial and seven per cent, community non-profit.

Parents in East Newton and Whalley are also finding it especially hard to find child care spaces, Wedel said.

She noted child care is “extremely expensive,” with child care fees in the private sector costing as much as $1,850 per month for children under age three and up to $1,550 for children over three years old.

The last “Surrey Child Care Gap Assessment” was conducted in 2011. It found there were 8,530 child care spaces for children up to age 12 in Surrey and estimated that 30,124 more were needed.

“Unfortunately this gap continues to increase,” Wedel said.

“In the past decade, the need for two incomes has become a matter of economic survival,” she noted. “Average family incomes have flatlined, but family expenses have increased.”

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