Public Interest Alberta released its 2018 survey of childcare operators in the province.

“In all of those areas, accessibility, affordability and quality there are some major challenges across Alberta,” said Joel French, Public Interest Alberta executive director.

The survey, completed every two years, aims to get a sense of the challenges child care operators face.

“So we ask them questions about the types of care that are accessible at their centres, what kinds of wait lists they have, what costs are like, and what kind of quality indicators there are,” said French.

The survey also looked at how centres that are part of the provincial Early Learning and Child Care Centres (ELCC) program are performing.

“The early learning and childcare centres program again has a focus on those areas of quality and as a result those centres that are part of the ELCC, the $25 a day program perform quite a bit better than other child care centres,” said French.

The ELCC pilot program was launched by the Alberta government in 2017, providing supports to operators to offer care for kids with diverse needs and to implement an early child education curriculum. 

“The results have been immediate and fantastic,” said Adine Shuchuk, Jasper Place Child and Family Resource Centre executive director.

“With our participation in this project it has brought us additional support to support children with disabilities so ongoing training and coaching and resources,” Shuchuk added.

Billie MacFarlane’s five-year-old and three-year-old triplet daughters attend the centre.

“This program allows me to go to work full-time, it’s the comfort of knowing that they have meals, they’re happy, they’re well taken care of,” MacFarlane said.

Her triplets have a speech delay and see a speech therapist while at the centre every two weeks.  She’s noticed “a very big difference since they’ve started here in September.”

The ELCC program also caps the fee for each child at $25 per day making care more affordable for parents.

“Our care fee for infants was $1,150 a month. As of May 1 those fees were reduced to $546 a month. So that was a very instant relief for families,” said Shuchuk.

Public Interest Alberta wants the ELCC program to become permanent.

“I mean the government’s going to do its own measure of it because it’s a pilot program, so we respect that there’s a process for that,” said French.

“But from what we’re seeing in the results of this child care survey is that this program needs to be made permanent and also that it needs to be expanded to many more parts of Alberta.”