While parents around the NWT are celebrating the newly announced Child Care Fee Reduction (CCFR), early childhood operators are left confused and upset. Dayhome Operators who provide about half of all childcare spaces in Yellowknife and who were praised throughout covid lockdowns for providing a necessary service are now left unsupported and villainized by that very same government.

Why? Because we want what the daycare already got; the ability to set our rates at a sustainable level before locking them in for an undetermined period of time.

We were excited by the promise from the federal government that there had been an agreement made with the NWT on Dec. 15, 2021, however questions couldn’t be answered immediately or in the coming weeks as to how that looked for licensed programs.

Two months went by without any answers and on Feb. 15 early learning programs received an email from the Director of Early Learning and Childcare thanking us for our continued dedication to children and families in the north and this email stated more info would be coming soon and for programs not to make big program changes at this time.

An excerpt of that email follows:

“ECE understands there are questions related to the newly signed Canada-wide agreement, the related funding, and how this will affect your licensed program(s) and the children and families that attend your program. The specific details on how the funding will be implemented are currently being finalized and will be shared with licensed programs in the coming weeks with the release of the GNWT’s 2030 Early Learning and Child Care Strategy and Action Plan.

“Until we are able to communicate these details, and for you to have an opportunity to plan how they will affect your program, ECE is requesting that licensed programs remain status quo in relation to significant business model changes (i.e., raising child care fees). While we understand that changes may be necessary to implement soon to support your program, specifics related to the federal funding will better inform your program planning that will aim to support areas such as staff recruitment and retention, reduced parent fees, and the sustainment of licensed programs. Again thank you for all that you do for the children and families of the NWT.”

Trusting ECE to deal with us in good faith, we waited. Then on the morning of March 3, 2022, Minister Simpson announced that child care will be reduced by 50 per cent, on average, in the NWT. Parents immediately started asking questions but we had no answers and were completely blindsided.

We received an email after 5 p.m. on March 3 outlining information for our programs and parents.

It stated that early learning programs could not raise their rates more than 2.3 per cent for the following fiscal year, 2022-2023, and any programs that had raised their rates beyond this from January to March would not be allowed to raise their fees the following fiscal year.

Needless to say, program operators were left shocked and confused once again. We were just told on Feb 15 to hold off making changes and now we were basically locked in at whatever rates we were currently at, despite the rising inflation and uncertain times. Any future fiscal year rate changes would have to be approved by ECE.

We felt misled and betrayed by ECE R.J. Simpson said on Tuesday, March 29 in the legislature that dayhomes motives were suspect and that we did not feel the greater good was our job.

We have stayed open during Covid so essential workers could work, risking the health of our own families for the greater good. We have frozen our fees during Covid for the greater good. Our motives are to do good to our dayhome families, to help and support them.

His attempt to villainize us stems from the fact that he did a poor job negotiating on behalf of the NWT with the federal government. Minister Simpson went to the bargaining table with the erroneous daily average cost of $38 a day. This is well below the actual daily average rate in the NWT and a little bit of research could have identified that fact. For comparison, Yukon received 13 million this year for less that 2500 children under four (last census) while the NWT received about 10 million a year for more that 3000 children under four (last census).

Because of this poor planning and poor negotiations, Minister Simpson appears to be pushing the cost of meeting his goals onto providers.

Brief meetings with ECE consultants have followed. They do not have the answers we are looking for, for example some policies are still being developed. They also do not have the authority to approve our applications. Many dayhomes unified and determined it was best to raise rates before opting into this program (following the rules set out by ECE). Many dayhomes have not raised rates in years (some decades), and with rising inflation and costs increasing, we had to take this step now.

Rates were reasonable (market rate) and most going to a flat monthly rate as opposed to daily to make the monthly paperwork a little easier for us to input. Many were prepared to go forward and opt in, however we then received an email from the director of Early Learning on the evening of March 24th stating that if programs raised rates beyond the 2.3 per cent, it could leave our programs ineligible to apply for the CCFR.

An excerpt of that email follows:

“It has come to the attention of ECE that some licensed early learning and child care program operators have communicated planned increases to child care fees for April 1, 2022 that exceed the maximum 2.3 per cent annual increase allowed in the Child Care Fee Reduction (CCFR) Subsidy program parameters. It is important to note that implementing fee increases in excess of 2.3 per cent for April 1, 2022 will render a licensed programs ineligible to participate in the CCFR Subsidy.

Some operators have indicated plans to increase their fees above the 2.3 per cent threshold in March of 2022, however, all families in the program would be required to agree to this rate (with the program demonstrating evidence that families have been informed that the increase results in increased fees for them and have agreed to this). Families would also need to pay the additional increase prior to the end of March 2022 in order for the rate to be used to calculate subsidy entitlements for 2022-2023.

Additionally, any program who takes this step and increases fees over and above the 2.3 per cent annual increase prior to opting-in to the CCFR Subsidy will not be permitted to increase fees annually for a period of time, to be determined by ECE based on the actual increase implemented.”

Upon receipt of the above email it’s safe to say operators were once again taken back and confused. This also caused confusion for families and we weren’t able to confidently say if our program would even be approved for CCFR. We asked our Early childhood consultants to clarify and they were not able to answer our questions. We pushed on asking for help through our MLA’s and through questioning in the legislative assembly, minister RJ Simpson agreed to send us a blank contribution agreement that we’ve been asking for and we have received that (thanks to Caitlin Cleveland, Katrina Nokelby and Ryland Johnson), however we still haven’t been able to get an answer from ECE regarding our rates and who will be approved.

R.J. Simpson said in the house on March 30 that programs can discuss numbers with ECE consultants but although they’re trying their best to support us, they do not have the authority and we’ve been told only the director of early learning does.

We’ve requested a meeting with the director of early learning to discuss our rates and have only received a general information email back.

Dayhomes are also being denied after sending in applications if they’ve raised their rates over 2.3 per cent, even with proper documentation and parent sign offs.

Minister Simpson said ECE would work with programs and ensure they support us but that’s not at all what we are seeing. The clock is running out as we have until April 15 to apply or our parents will not receive credit back for Jan-Mar but we need answers before applying and want to ensure we have all the info we need to opt into this cost savings program for families. Minister Simpson has put all the onus and responsibility on childcare providers and is refusing to support our basic questions. All we want is what is fair; we want to help provide families with reduced cost of child care through the CCFR but also ensure our dayhomes and our own families can succeed through these quickly changing economic times.

We love what we do, love the children we care for and provide families unique childcare options. We all bring something different to childcare in the NWT and that’s why it’s so important we feel supported and listened to through this change. One of the goals is to create more child care spaces by 2025, however we feel this could potentially backfire and the NWT will lose qualified early learning childcare providers quickly if this issue isn’t resolved and family Dayhome operators don’t feel supported and treated with respect, fairness and transparency.

We are looking for the criteria that ECE is using to make decisions about qualifying for the CCFR so that we can make the best decisions for our dayhomes. This is information that ECE is obligated to provide in a timely manner. We want the ability to bring our rates up before locking in, just as the daycare was able to do. We are alarmed that R.J. Simpson seems to be very comfortable creating pay inequity and marginalizing women, as all dayhomes are run by women.

As Rylund Johnson said in his member statement in the House on March 30, “We know that the dayhome model is one of the most resilient and most affordable ways to implement childcare. We know we cannot afford to have dayhomes not sign on. We need all hands on deck if we are truly to accomplish this task of implementing universal childcare.”

We were told any rate changes that occurred in March would be approved as long as parents agreed and paid the difference, however ECE has gone back on that word and is now denying programs for CCFR. Our fear is that if ECE doesn’t step up to resolve this issue and approve applications, some families could potentially lose out on the January/March credit which would be very unfortunate. We care deeply for our families and want to see everyone be able to take advantage of this cost savings benefit.

Lily’s Pad Dayhome

Yvette’s Dayhome

Le coffre aux trésors

Tempie’s Dayhome

Precious Reio Dayhome

Dee’s Dayhome

Amanda’s House Dayhome

*Many other dayhomes would like to be counted in the numbers supporting the letter but have chosen to remain anonymous out of concern of reprisal from the department based on its conduct and lack of good faith in its dealings, to date, with Day Home operators and the CCRF subsidy roll*

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