FREDERICTON (GNB) - Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny met today with Corinne Haché and Pam Whitty, co-authors of the Child Care Task Force Report.

“We had a great meeting and agreed that affordable, accessible and quality child care is important to both families and child care operators and educators,” said Kenny. “Your government understands that investments in early learning and child care are crucial to the quality of life of our families and to the economy. Through the $71 million bilateral early learning and child care agreement we will insure investments are made in these specific areas.”

The main themes discussed were affordable, accessible and quality child care with a specific focus on increased professional learning opportunities for early childhood educators, increased wages and retention of educators, access to affordable child care services, improved quality and increased accessibility for infant spaces.

“Early childhood educators and operators have conveyed the importance of and their passion for working with young children and their families, while recognizing that early childhood education as a profession is undervalued by society, as evidenced by low wages and challenging working conditions,” said Whitty.

Whitty is a professor in early childhood education at the University of New Brunswick. She was involved in the development and implementation of the New Brunswick Early Learning and Care Curriculum Framework. She is also known nationally and internationally in the field of early childhood education.

“Early childhood education is an important issue and this meeting was an excellent opportunity to provide the minister with an update about the challenges that exist within the sector for child care operators and educators,” said Haché.

Haché is a consultant and specialist with more than 34 years of experience in child care. She has held the positions of director of pre-school intervention services, administrative officer for a daycare, and kindergarten teacher.

In August, the provincial and federal governments signed a three-year, bilateral early learning and child care agreement. Under the agreement, the federal government will invest close to $30 million to improve early learning and child care for preschool-aged children in the province. The provincial government will contribute $41 million.

The agreement is part of the Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework signed on June 12 by provincial and territorial governments. Under the framework, governments committed to increasing the quality, accessibility and affordability of early learning and child care, particularly for families most in need.

Backgrounder from the Child Care Task Force:

  • High turnover rates impact continuity for children. The turnover rate in licensed child-care facilities is about 28 per cent; a healthy organization has a turnover rate of about 10 per cent.
  • Early childhood operators and educators have expressed their passion for working with children and families, while acknowledging that early childhood education as a profession is undervalued by society, as evidenced by low wages and challenging working conditions. Educators and operators have indicated that due to rising costs there is limited funding to contribute to pay increases.
  • Salaries represent 70 to 80 per cent of the costs of child care; the required and necessary ratios do not allow flexibility in increasing parent fees as revenue. Without sufficient public funding going into a child-care system, increasing staff wages comes at the expense of raising parent fees.
  • New Brunswick parents identified the high cost of early learning and child-care services, accessibility and availability as their chief concerns.
  • Currently, 39 per cent of preschool children have access to a licensed child-care space in New Brunswick.
  • The high cost of child care has an impact on decisions by parents to leave or return to the workforce, attend post-secondary education or to have more children. Parents have compared the cost of early learning and child care as equivalent to mortgage payments.