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HomeNewsWaitlists for childcare have pushed some PG parents out of work

Waitlists for childcare have pushed some PG parents out of work

This is a follow up to the article titled “How bad is the wait for childcare in Prince George?” For the full context, read that article first.

“There is a good chance I am going to have to go on welfare.”

Those are the words of one Prince George mother who has been struggling to find childcare, to the point where she is unable to take a second maternity leave because she was unable to get the required hours after her first.

Minister of Jobs, Economic Development, and Innovation, Brenda Bailey, sent the following to My PG Now in a statement:

“There are 104,000 more people working in B.C. now than prior to the pandemic, including 68,000 more women. Three-quarters of B.C.’s job growth in 2022 was driven by women’s employment.

This reflects our work to expand access to affordable, accessible, quality, and inclusive child care that is helping to get more people back in the workforce.”

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While it is true that daycares are certainly more full than every before, many parents are struggling to find licensed childcare, or childcare at all, in Prince George and around the province.

The woman who is having to consider welfare is Brittany Wardrop, and she summarized her whole experience by saying “it has been terrible.”

She said she made the mistake of not signing up for a wait list the second her son was born, or, like many other parents right now, the second she became pregnant.

On miles long waiting lists but not able to find childcare anywhere, Wardrop is once again 30 weeks pregnant and currently is not eligible for a second maternity leave because she was unable to return to work full-time after the first.

“It would be no big deal if I found childcare,” she told My PG Now, “I haven’t been able to go to work, so I can’t go on maternity leave, and I am kind of in a pickle because of that.”

“Right now, my only income is my child tax,” Wardrop explained.

With a small laugh, she said “luckily with another kid you get a little more child tax, but there is no way to survive.”

To make matters worse, her current home is too small for two kids, and she will need to look at moving soon as well.

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If there was open and available childcare, she said she would have been working and instead of looking at welfare, she would be looking at a second maternity leave.

“This has been the most difficult part of parenthood, for sure,”

another mother, Jane, told My PG Now. “People say when you become a parent, the hardest part is not sleeping or not having quiet time, but it has definitely been childcare.”

Jane’s family has been on a waitlist for “two or three years” since moving to Prince George from the Lower Mainland.

She said they found care for their first child after about a year in 2019, but when she went on maternity leave a second time the daycare she was using was not able to reserve her space, saying “when I was trying to go back to work after maternity leave, our previous daycare did not have a spot for our second child.”

Jane now has three kids, and has been back to square one searching for childcare four times, between getting in to a daycare that turned out to not be a good fit, and patchwork solutions before and after her third maternity leave.

Right now, Jane is working full time with two kids under two at home and one in Kindergarten.

“It has come to the point where I don’t even know if I can continue my career… we just wish there was more options,” she said.

“I love my job… it would be upsetting for myself to have to step away.”

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On the flip side, she said if childcare was accessible she would be “stress free, we would have no issues on that end to worry about… basically, I have had the stress of childcare since we had our first child six years ago.”

A third mother we spoke to put her name on three waiting lists the second she became pregnant – and is still struggling to find childcare.

After putting their names down, Katie Bracey said she and her husband were not overly concerned about it.

“We thought it was so far away, the thought of going back to work… I didn’t really give that much thought to childcare, I thought because I got on wait lists so early that we would not have an issue.”

Her child was born in January 2022. When her maternity leave ended in February 2023, she was still on all three wait lists.

Around September, Bracey said she started to get nervous that she had not heard anything.

She went to all the government recourses available and found them to be less than helpful, and only started finding success when reaching out to other parents in similar situations through Facebook groups.

“I got some private messages from people and we chose to go with one of them,” an unregistered option that is temporary because the childcare provider is pregnant herself.

She said this option has no government aid, “but if that is all you can find, there is really no other choice. There are no checks by Northern Health, nobody is watching what this provider is doing, we just have to trust in her that she is taking good care of our daughter.”

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And because this provider is taking her own leave soon, Bracey is once again looking for care for her daughter starting in May – functionally back to square one.

“I feel like it is on the front of my mind all the time.”

Like Jane, she is now considering the much more expensive option of hiring a nanny, which she said would functionally “zero-out” her own salary.

“If we can’t find care for our daughter I would look into taking an [unpaid] leave of absence from my job,” Bracey said, dipping into her family’s savings account to get them through.

“If we could find a daycare that we feel confident leaving her in… it would alleviate so much of my stress… I would feel like I was doing better by my daughter.”

Grace Lore, Minister of State for Child Care, told My PG Now in 2018, 811 new childcare spaces in Prince George were funded, but that only 304 of them are currently operational.

Parents understandably love $10-a-day childcare, but for many, childcare at any price still sounds like a dream come true.

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