By Dave Flaherty/ The Oshawa Express
A recent study suggests that Oshawa is behind other area municipalities in available child care spaces for infants and toddlers.
The study, compiled by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), documents the number of licensed child care spaces by postal code in Canada in comparison to the number of children living in the area.
The survey contains all publicly listed centres, homes and home agencies in Canada.
13,798 centres, 2,622 individual homes and 368 home care agencies , representing a total of 716,850 licensed spaces, were included.
The CCPA states the purpose of the study is to identify “child care deserts.”
These “child care deserts” are defined as any postal code where there are more than 50 non-school-aged children, but less than one space for every three children.
According to the study, 44 per cent of Canadians children between the ages of zero and three years old live in these “child care deserts.”
David MacDonald, a senior economist for CCPA and author of the report, concludes there are many reasons why a community may have lower child care availability.
These include wealthier parents who can afford a nanny or other in-home care provider, parents who have family members to care for a child, or a lack of spaces in an area due to low-income.
In Oshawa, the CCPA report notes there are 6,895 children under the age of three, with 1,609 child care spaces, a coverage rate of 23 per cent.
There are five postal codes areas included in the report
– The L1G area (Oshawa Central) has a 35 per cent coverage rate, with 1,480 children and 520 spaces.
– The L1H area (Oshawa Southeast) has a 29 per cent coverage rates, with 1,250 children and 360 spaces.
– The L1J area (Oshawa Southwest) has a 24 per cent coverage rate, with 1,670 children and 398 spaces.
– The L1K area (Oshawa East) has a 15 per cent coverage rate, with 2,100 children and 308 spaces.
– The L1L area (Oshawa North) has a six per cent coverage rate, with 395 children and 23 spaces. This area is quite small and is mostly land currently under development.
Oshawa trails behind its urban municipality counterparts.
Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering have more child care spaces for infants and toddlers than Oshawa despite having more than 1,000 fewer children of the age.
Pickering’s coverage rate is twice that of Oshawa’s at 55 per cent. The second-largest municipality in Durham has 2,010 spaces available for 3,675 children according to the CCPA study.
Oshawa is not alone in its situation, as cities of comparable size like Kitchener, Guelph, and Brampton have similar coverage rates.
Waiting lists for licensed child care in Durham have been decreasing significantly over the past few years.
During deliberations for the 2018 budget, the commissioner of social services Dr. Hugh Drouin advised regional council the waiting list had dropped from 12 months to about two months.
Roxanne Lambert, director of children’s services for Durham Region, says this is a result of some of the most considerable investments in child care by the former Liberal government over the preceding decade.
In 2016 and 2017 alone, Durham received more than $10 million in unanticipated funding for child care services.
Between 2007 and 2017, the number of child care spaces in Durham almost tripled.
As of last December, there was 24,000 spaces in the region.
This can primarily be attributed to the emergence of full-day kindergarten.
“There has been ongoing growth and expansion of the system,” Lambert says.
But Lambert acknowledges the growth of child care spaces for younger ages hasn’t been on the same level as school-aged children.
“We know that those are the areas we are trying to develop,” she says. “Most of the expansion has been in kindergarten or school-aged spaces.”
As with many regional departments that count on provincial funding, Lambert says children’s services will have to wait to see what kind of investments the new Ford government will make.
For her, she hopes to sustain the momentum from the past few years.
“I would love to see more quality, licensed child care available to families,” she says.