Child care centre sees low numbers in face of funding freeze

by | Feb 10, 2017 | City News, Headlines, News, North

By Lucia Yglesias

Child care centres are short of funding from the City of Toronto, despite high demand for child care services from the community and even college students in particular.

Since 2004, an increase of 30 per cent of college students the United States are raising children, according to a recent report from the Institute for Women´s Policy Research.

Meanwhile, Humber’s Child Development Centre is running at only 60 per cent of its capacity due to lack of funding.

Carolyn Ferns, public policy and government relations coordinator for Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, says that in the last six years, 13 colleges and universities closed their child care centres to deal with decreased budgets or remain within them.

“We are going in the wrong direction by closing centres when what we need is their extension across the province,” said Ferns.

Humber’s Child Development Centre has a capacity of 98 children, including 20 spots for infants, 30 for toddlers, and 48 for preschool kids. Monthly fees range from $1,259 for a preschooler to $1,787 for a newborn to an 18-month-baby.

Jeff Feke, manager at the Humber facility said in previous years, June to September were the months when funds tended to dry up until the new school year began.

“We rely a lot on subsidies. There are no more funds left. We are lowering enrollment, which affects our bottom line moving forward. When the city cut off the funds, I can run with a maximum of 98 children, now I’m running with 64,” said Feke.

Feke recognizes that babies are always covered, but there is an ongoing struggle for funding spots for toddlers and preschoolers.

“Since September, funding still hasn’t come back. It’s almost nine months and nothing. The city said there is no more funding for this particular (need),” said Feke.

There are two ways to get into all Toronto Child Care Centres: applying directly with a self-paying method or through a subsidized spot from the City of Toronto. Currently there are 17,000 people on the list waiting for the funding to send kids to child care centres.

Jason Powell, Humber’s Dean of School of Health Sciences, said “childcare is not something to be looked at as a burden, but as something that is required. In Humber College, we value high-quality childcare, and we value having that on campus for our students and staff.”

Based on IWPR report, 26 per cent of all undergraduate students in the United States – 4.8 million students – are raising dependent children.

“I have a passion for seeing quicker application processes, quicker adjudications and more subsidized spots for our students who can’t afford to pay that amount of money,” said Powell. “We need to believe in child care centres. We need to get those children off the list.”

Although the centre is located on the Humber North campus, 90 per cent of the demand it receives comes from the community.

“I’ve never gotten to the point where I have 34 spots unfilled because the city is not helping with the funding,” said Feke.

“People from the community are people we rely on to make sure we are fully enrolled. They require help, and there are plenty of them. I receive calls daily, and I’d love to do more, (but) I can’t because there is no funding and they can’t afford the cost of the childcare.”