Child care called key to ending child poverty

Posted on in Child & Family Policy Context

TheStar – News/GTA
Nov. 20, 2018.   By

Child care is the missing puzzle piece in Canada’s quest to end poverty, says Campaign 2000 in its annual report being released Tuesday, the United Nations’ Universal Children’s Day.

The national coalition dedicated to eradicating child poverty is joining more than 100 parents, grandparents and early childhood educators on Parliament Hill Tuesday to lobby MPs and senators on why Ottawa needs to step up its support for this “crucial service” for young families.

“If parents are to escape poverty through workforce participation or education … access to high-quality child care is essential,” says the coalition, named after Parliament’s 1989 all-party resolution to wipe out child poverty in Canada by 2000.

“While high-quality child care is beneficial for all children, it is an especially important buffer from the negative effects of poverty for low-income children,” the coalition says in its report.

Toronto mother Gabrielle Griffith, who has been scrambling to move off welfare and into full-time work, says the stress of finding affordable child care for her son Elijah, 3, has been enormous.

“It should be a public service just like health care and public education,” she says.

See Chart: Child poverty rate in Canada, children under 18, by Province/Territory:  https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/11/20/child-care-called-key-to-ending-child-poverty.html

Elijah is among more than 1.4 million Canadian children — almost one in five — living in poverty, according to the report, which uses Statistics Canada’s low-income measure and 2016 taxfiler data. A family is considered to be living in poverty if its income, after taxes, falls 50 per cent below the median family income, or $28,884 for a single parent with one child or $40,848 for a couple with two kids. In Toronto, the median cost for child care for an infant is more than $21,000 a year.

That’s 1.3 percentage points lower than in 2015, based on Statistics Canada’s updated calculations of the low-income measure in the taxfiler data, the report says.

In Ontario, 545,000 children — or 19.5 per cent — are living in poverty, a rate similar to the national average, according to a separate provincial report card.

Meantime, poverty among First Nations children in Canada is a staggering 40 per cent, while those in visible minority families experience poverty rates of 25.5 per cent.

The coalition hopes its latest report, the last before next fall’s federal election, encourages all political parties “to show bold ambitions for action against child and family poverty,” said national co-ordinator Anita Khanna.

In addition to stronger moves on child care, the coalition is calling on Ottawa to invest $6 billion in the 2019 budget and commit to cutting poverty by 50 per cent in five years instead of waiting until 2030, as set out in proposed poverty-reduction legislationintroduced earlier this month.

Griffith, 24, who co-parents Elijah, moved to the city from the Niagara Region in 2016 and has struggled to escape poverty ever since. Finding child care so she could work “was a nightmare,” she said.

“I am grateful it didn’t take too long to get a (fee) subsidy,” she said in an interview. “But it was impossible to find a spot within the three months they give you because most centres have wait lists of more than a year.”

Griffith, who suffers from anxiety and depression, had to get a doctor’s note to qualify for an extension. When she finally found space at a centre near Dufferin St. and Eglinton Ave. W., it was almost an hour away by transit from her apartment near Jarvis and Wellesley Sts. and another hour from her administration job in the city’s east end.

“I’m lucky I had family and friends help out,” said Griffith, who could manage only part-time work around the travel time and still relies on welfare to make ends meet. Griffith has recently been able to transfer Elijah to the downtown YMCA daycare and has found a better job, but it is still a challenge, she said.

Morna Ballantyne of Child Care Now, a national advocacy association, praised the federal Liberals for committing $7 billion over 11 years and signing three-year bilateral agreements with the provinces to begin building an affordable, high-quality child-care system.

But as those bilateral agreements are renewed, Ottawa needs to strengthen its influence by investing more money, Ballantyne said. “This is especially true for Ontario where Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is scrapping a previous provincial plan (to offer free child care for preschoolers,) in favour of tax credits,” she added.
Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice.

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/11/20/child-care-called-key-to-ending-child-poverty.html

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