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B.C. mom says daycares should not charge non-refundable deposits for wait-lists

Click to play video: 'Childcare waitlist deposits questioned by parents'
Childcare waitlist deposits questioned by parents
If you've been looking for childcare in B.C. you know the drill: pay a deposit, get on a waitlist and hope for the best. But some parents are criticizing those deposits, not just because it can be hundreds of dollars but sometimes that money is lost - even when a child doesn't get into a facility. Kylie Stanton reports.

A B.C. mother is speaking out about one of the most common problems facing parents of young children in the province: finding affordable and safe daycare.

Britanny Mclaughlin lives in Victoria and is looking for daycare for her son.

She said she started the search for daycare when she was still pregnant and so far she has been sending lots of emails and filling out online forms but has yet to hear back.

“People did give me a fair warning that it was going to be hard, but I didn’t think it was going to be impossible,” Mclaughlin said.

She said she has even come across daycares charging a fee to be placed on a wait-list.

“I would say a majority of places don’t have the fees for the wait-list, but a lot of them do,” she added. “And surprisingly, it’s a lot of the larger for-profit centres that have multiple locations in multiple cities. And they seem to be the ones charging the biggest non-refundable fees, which just seems wild to me.”

For example, CEFA Victoria – Westshore charges $100 for an application fee.

“I would say smaller centres are charging what they would call admin fees as anywhere from $25 to $50,” she said. “And then the larger centres, you’re seeing $100, $200 and sometimes upwards of $500.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. daycares struggle with severe staffing shortages'
B.C. daycares struggle with severe staffing shortages

Emily Gawlick, executive director for the Early Childhood Educators of BC (ECEBC), told Global News that charging parents to be placed on a wait-list is a common practice.

“Some people have it as non-refundable. Other times it will be added towards your first payment for child care. Some facilities do it and others don’t,” she said.

Gawlick explained that there are likely two reasons why daycares charge parents to be added to wait-lists.

“First, it does help with operations to maintain that wait-list,” she said. “It does take some time.

“I think in other instances it is making a profit for some of those programs.”

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Gawlick would like to see a child-care system developed like the school system, where families can register and there would not be the need for a fee.

“It is a real crisis,” she said. “So for families that are putting their children on 20, 30, 40 different wait-lists just to hopefully get a spot in their community. That can be a huge financial barrier for them. And if you don’t have that extra resource, it really makes a difference on what kind of child care they’re able to access or the wait-list they’re able to get on.”

Mclaughlin would also like to see more regulation around wait-lists and charging application fees.

“To me, it’s just one more barrier preventing parents from re-entering the workforce when you’re already on parental leave or maternity leave where you’re getting a really small amount of money and then to budget in sometimes upwards of thousands of dollars just to get on a wait-list that might not ever happen.”

The B.C. government and the federal government are investing almost $300 million to fund the creation of new licensed child-care spaces in high-need areas throughout the province.

According to the government, B.C. has invested $2.7 billion in the 10-year ChildCareBC plan since 2018. The goal is to create more affordable and inclusive child-care spaces.

In a statement to Global News, the Minister of State for Child Care, Grace Lore said paying a wait-list fee is why the government needs to continue to fund the creation of more child care spaces.

“As we continue to develop child care into a core service for all families, wait-list fees are one of the many aspects of that will be considered, assessed and evaluated,” she said.

“As part of our agreement with a Day ChildCareBC facilities, accounting for almost 12,500 spaces throughout the province, wait-list fees for these spaces are prohibited.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. child-care providers struggle to hire, retain workers'
B.C. child-care providers struggle to hire, retain workers

The B.C. government said while 79 per cent of daycares in the province maintained a wait-list in 2022-23, only eight per cent of those providers charged a fee to add a child’s name to the list.

“I think B.C. should take the same approach that Ontario did many years ago and ban charging for wait-lists or if you are going to charge for a wait-list, it should be refundable if you decide to take your name off of the list,” Mclaughlin said. “And there should be some sort of regulation on these wait-lists.”

She said for now, she’s going to continue adding her name to wait-lists and asking friends with children in daycare if their provider can offer her a spot.

And hoping the call comes through soon.

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