The Coalition of Child Care Advocates has been funded by the Government of Canada (Employment and Social Development Canada) to explore the need for and provision of “flexible child care” options in British Columbia.
The objective is to develop recommendations for integrating flexibly scheduled and non-standard hours child care into BC’s emerging $10aDay child care system, in ways that prioritize and respect the needs of children, families, educators and providers.
Building on a foundation
Several Canadian researchers have recently led the way in exploring the topic of flexible and non-standard hours child care across the country. For example, the federally-funded report "Non-standard Work and Child Care in Canada: A Challenge for Parents, Policy Makers, and Child Care Provision (Lero et. al, 2021) " comprehensively assesses the current need for and provision of different types of non-standard hours care, barriers to its creation, and potential policy solutions.
Our project seeks to build on this strong foundation, with a focus on the BC context. Through a provincial Environmental Scan, Literature Review, Key Informant and Stakeholder Interviews, Public Survey, and Operating Model Analysis, we will:
- Further explore the need for “flexible” child care
- Identify new statistics and information related to the key findings of Lero et. al (2021)
- Propose refined terminology for use
- Provide an in-depth scan of related BC policy
- Propose specific, scalable operating models
- Identify the key role played by flexible funding models
- Provide summary policy recommendations
This project’s final report will include detailed information on all of the above. However, short summaries of our preliminary findings are as follows.
The need for flexible child care
Families’ individual need for various forms of flexible child care arise for a range of reasons, including work and school schedules, commutes, and family and personal situations. We will document the range of reasons encountered during the project, and explain how meeting these needs is crucial in order for BC’s growing child care system to be equitable. We will also outline the difficulty in precisely quantifying the need at any given time, and how this difficulty might be overcome with a flexible/adaptive approach to child care operating funding.
New statistics and information
The project includes a fresh Literature Review that highlights new statistics and information pertinent to the key findings of the foundational Lero et. al (2021) report. In short, the identified literature largely supports earlier findings. For example, newly-available data highlight/reinforce the fact that non-standard and precarious work does and will continue to exist, that flexible/non-standard hours child care remains extremely rare, and that the combination of those two facts exacerbates existing structural inequities in BC’s growing child care system.
The terms “flexible” and “non-standard hours'' are broad and imprecise. To address this, Lero et al. (2021) proposes a distinction between “flexible” and “non-standard hours” where “flexible” refers to flexible scheduling (e.g. on-demand care), and where “non-standard hours” is subdivided into five categories that span time of day, week and seasonality. Building on this helpful distinction, we will be proposing further refinements for BC in the form of a terminological framework tailored to (a) the BC context and (b) specific child care operating models.
An in-depth BC policy scan
We have completed an in-depth scan of BC child care policy focusing on how it does or does not support a variety of non-standard hours and on-demand child care services. We have found that most types of non-standard hours and on-demand child care are currently allowed by legislation (with a couple of exceptions), but that public funding to support the provision of this care is largely absent – due to both explicit exclusions and administrative barriers. As a result, the care that is available is largely funded by parent fees. Regional Child Care Resource and Referral coordinators also report, perhaps relatedly, that most of the available non-standard and flexibly-schedule care is unlicensed. This means the families in need of this care not only have a harder time finding it, they end up paying more, with educators who are often less qualified and/or paid less fairly than their publicly-funded peers.
Scalable operating models
Scalable operating models for non-standard hours and flexibly-scheduled care will likely be underpinned by flexible public funding models (e.g. those that pay wage premiums for non-standard hours care, pay for “buffering” staff capacity to accommodate shifting demand, etc.). In short, you likely can’t meet the need for flexible child care without flexible public funding. We will explore the specific kinds of flexibility that must be baked into public funding models to make the operating models explored by this project work.
Flexible funding models
Scalable operating models for non-standard hours and on-demand care are not possible without flexible public funding models (e.g. those that pay wage premiums for non-standard hours care, pay for “buffering” staff capacity to accommodate shifting demand, etc.). In short, you can’t have flexible child care without flexible public funding. We will explore the specific kinds of flexibility that must be baked into public funding models to make the operating models explored by this project work.
Based on the above, we will provide potential policy recommendations for integrating flexibly-scheduled and non-standard hours child care into a publicly supported, community-based and funded $10aDay child care system that meets the needs of children, families, educators and operators. In addition to the input, advice and feedback from the sector received throughout this project, we hope that project findings and policy recommendations will stimulate further sector discussion, feedback and refinement, for example in the kinds of roundtables/planning groups and working groups recommended in the concluding section of Lero et. al (2021).
The Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC gratefully acknowledges the support of Employment and Social Development Canada.
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