Lack of subsidized child care spots leads to inequality in Revelstoke
Shandree Seymour is sitting on the back patio outside her Southside townhouse in Revelstoke in the sweltering summer heat. She’s off work because her one-year-old, Jack, is sick. At this point, Seymour had been back to work for three months, and Jack had been in three different child care situations. She and her husband paid $5000 for that care.
The supply of subsidized child care spots in Revelstoke is not keeping up with an increasing demand as more young families are having children. The situation is starting to bubble over for parents like Seymour, and for the community as parents are deciding to move, or not return to the workforce.
Seymour is not confident in the security of the care Jack is currently in, and she said she and her husband have spoken about leaving town despite the community and careers they have built over the past eight years.
“It breaks our hearts to think about it that way,” she said, “but even the thought of buying a house with some yard on it. It’s tough.”
Seymour is the operations manager at the Sutton Place Hotel, and her husband is a faller with Revelstoke Tree Care. Initially they paid $20 an hour for eight hours of care a day, which was adding up to $3000 a month.
“We could make it work but but we would have nothing left,” she said.
To make child care more affordable, Seymour’s husband took off Friday and Saturday, and she took off Sunday and Monday. That meant they only had one day together per week as a family.
Now, Seymour says they’re paying $700 – $1000 a month for care, depending on their schedules. That’s about $67 per day if he’s in care for three days a week. Compare that to stable, subsidized care where parents pay $10 a day.
The problem is, there are only about 212 subsidized daycare spots in Revelstoke.
The Revelstoke Child Care Society runs two non-profit, $10 a day daycares in the same building as Begbie View Elementary School.
Caribou Kids is the only for-profit, privately run group childcare centre in town. The owners access government subsidies to cover their operating costs, and parents end up paying around $10 a day for these spaces.
There are 13 family daycares in town. These are businesses that people run out of their homes. They have to be registered with the Revelstoke Child Care Society, and the caregivers have to be certified by the government. Owners can then access subsidies to cover their operating costs, and parents end up paying around $10 a day.
There is one multi-age daycare called the Lucky Penny Garderie that owner April Revitt runs out of her home. She also access subsidies which reduces the costs for parents.
Compare the 212 spaces to the number of children in Revelstoke. The latest census numbers from Revelstoke show that there are 445 children between zero and four-years, and 455 between five and nine-years. That’s around 900 children.
It’s hard to track what families who can’t get a subsidized spot do for care, because it’s unregulated. Some parents stay home from work to care for their kids. Some hire nannies. There are parents who don’t go back to their careers, and instead take care of their and other children for money, because they have no other options. Many families have grandmothers and grandfathers who take on child care duties, at least part time.
Through the course of doing this story, Stoke FM also heard of two daycares run out of homes that are unregistered and the caregivers aren’t certified. There are likely more than this. Stoke FM spoke to one owner who wouldn’t go on the record for obvious reasons. They are in the process of getting certified, and will access subsidies when they are able to.
The state of childcare in Revelstoke is such that registered daycares are recommending children to these daycares, and they are at capacity with waitlists.
April Revitt, who runs the Lucky Penny Garderie, says Revelstoke has a beautiful history of childcare, where families could enter a child in a daycare and their subsequent children would automatically get a spot in the same place.
Now, she says the families of six of the children she cares for are expecting another child, and she doesn’t have a spot for any of them.
Taha Attiah, the community economic development coordinator with the city of Revelstoke, says that Revelstoke’s ratio of child care spots to children lines up with the provincial average. In fact, Revelstoke is known to have more spots per capita than any community in the Columbia Basin.
But Attiah speculates that Revelstoke is feeling the effects of a new and much larger cohort of young adults moving to town over the last few years.
“So the demand is definitely showing,” he said. “People are definitely struggling to find child care, even more now than maybe several years ago.”
In 2006, right before the ski hill opened, data shows a dip in the number of 20 to 34-year olds living in Revelstoke. That age group was the lowest, and 40 to 45 years was the highest.
The 20 to 34-year old age group has grown steadily since then, now being the highest demographic, even increasing significantly between 2016 and 2021 by between 600 to 1000 people.
In the same period, between 2016 and 2021, the number of children between five and nine jumped by 60 per cent.
Justin Finn and his partner had no idea how hard it would be find care when they first got pregnant. Now they have unsubsidized, full-time care for their two-year old, which costs $1300 per month.
If they had subsidized care it would be around $200 per month.
“What you have is two classes of society in a way,” he said.
Daycare is probably something that’s only on your radar when you need it, but Joanne Gawler, the executive director of Revelstoke After School Society, says it’s a community issue that effects everyone.
Stoke FM met with her one weekend morning outside for lunch, as the smell of raw sewage wafted through Mackenzie Ave. She indicated to the smell as another sign of the town growing faster than people are keeping up.
“Our town is increasing, and where are we going to put these people? How are we going to feed these people? How are we going to take care of their children so they can actually add to the economy?” She asked.
This is the first part of a short series on the state of child care in Revelstoke. Next week we’ll look at challenges that daycare providers face, and at the B.C. government’s work to universalize child care.