It didn’t take long after I moved to Vancouver to start hearing about all of the issues parents have with childcare here. There isn’t enough of it, it is too expensive, and there is little diversity of options.
With childcare in such crisis, families who have special considerations have often given up any hope of finding care that will work for them. These special considerations include: “Divorced parents with partial custody, parents who work part-time, or parents who work late,” says Talia Erickson, co-founder of Budding Children’s Garden & Daycare.
Vancouver’s Childcare Crisis, The issue made simple:
1. Childcare fees are staggeringly expensive. In Vancouver, they can account for 20% of a family’s total expenses and these prices are rising.
2. There are not enough childcare spaces for the kids who need them. “Only 14% or B.C. children under the age of 12 have access to a licensed child-care space,” according to a 2009 article by Rita Chudnovsky in the Straight.
3. Funding changes on both the federal and provincial level have resulted in significantly less funding for childcare.
4. The childcare problem doesn’t go away once children are school-age. After school and before school programs are also expensive and have long waiting lists in Vancouver and “all-day” Kindergarten now means even more kids needing care for those hours after the school-day ends but before parents are home.
Talia, along with her husband, Lawrence Erickson, are introducing Flexible Daycare to Vancouver this fall with the opening of Buddings. It works like a car co-op: you register before hand and then just pay for the hours you use. “It is aligned with what people are used to already: car-sharing, ordering groceries on-line. We aren’t introducing this technology we are bringing childcare to it,” says Talia who is well-versed in all aspects of office administration from setting up computer networks, to designing websites, and doing PR. “This is about the kids and providing them great developmental opportunities, but it is also about being convenient for the parents.”
Right idea at the right time
Talia and Lawrence decided to start Buddings based on their own futile search for a childcare that would meet their family’s needs. They share custody of Lawrence’s three-year old son. They both had flexible work schedules and only partial custody, so they didn’t need full time childcare, but they couldn’t find anything that offered what they did need: safe, attractive, developmentally-appropriate care with some flexibility.
“We aren’t alone,” says Talia. “Small business and self-employment in Vancouver has been increasing at a rate four times that of larger companies.” There are many parents who now work from home and need occasional care for meetings, to go to doctor appointments, or to meet a deadline. “These parents want to spend more time with their kids, but there is nothing for them when they do need care.”
Along with the rise in entrepreneurs in Vancouver, there are many parents of Kindergartener’s scrambling to find after-school care and help for covering the many scheduled Pro-D (professional development days) when schools are closed. The Flexible Childcare model seems like the right thing at the right time for Vancouver.
The car co-op model comes to kid care
This is how it works: First, a parent will register their child on-line and schedule an initial meeting with the Buddings staff. (“You wouldn’t believe how many daycares don’t offer this basic service,” says Talia). Then, if you love what you see (and they know you will), you can sign up for a 10, 20, 30, or 40 hour a month package. That can all happen on-line. You can reserve the actual hours and days you need on-line at anytime.
If you are the parent of a Kindergartener you might sign up for two hours everyday. Or, if you just need help on Pro-D days you might sign up for just two Fridays a month. Or, if you are self-employed but have a couple of meetings and a long day of deadlines each week, you can just do that. There is no requirement to stick to a regular schedule. If you don’t u
se the days, you don’t pay for it. They can only accommodate children for up to 40 hours a month due to their license and they can only take 3 to 5 year-olds. The centre offers something unique in the ind
try as well: late hours. Their operating hours will be 10 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
All the bells and whistles
The flexibility is great, but what will really sell parents are all the bells and whistles. There is the easy-to-use website and the great perks like being able to order a snack right on-line, and getting a reminder email about when your child is booked and what bonus perks you ordered.
As the name Buddings implies, the childcare will also in
clude many green aspects: including garden space, recycled furniture and toys, and organic, locally-sourced food featuring many gluten-free recipes. The kitchen will open onto the childcare room so that kids can participate in cooking projects: “With picky kids, if you let them stir they will be more likely to eat what you make.” Talia laughs, “I did a lot of the reading along with Lawrence while he was
in school [to become an early childhood educator.”
Maybe the coolest attraction of Buddings is their bike equipment lending library: with bikes, kid trailers, and bike seats available to borrow: “So that families can try-out biking to daycare.” There will also be a parking area for strollers and bikes so families can le
ave their tell-tale kid stuff there when they go off to work. Talia used to work with the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition: “I love promoting biking to families,” she explains.
To learn more about Buddings and the flexible childcare model visit buddings.ca or join them for an open house on Friday, Oct. 21, from 4pm to 7pm and Saturday Oct. 22, from 10am to 4pm at their facility at 950 West Broadway in Vancouver. />
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Written by Manda Aufochs Gillespie, aka The Green Mama.