Vancouver parents pay child care waitlist deposits despite federal program

Parents are spending hundreds of dollars just to get on a wait list for child care. What’s driving up the fees and the advice for those looking for a spot. Crystal Laderas reports.

Parents in Metro Vancouver say they’re being asked to pay hundreds of dollars just to get on a waitlist for childcare – with no guarantee they’ll get a spot.

After hearing how much her sister spent on daycare deposits, new mom Claudia Richard says she had to hunt for space for her son while trying to avoid those fees. She contacted daycares, sent a lot of follow up emails and followed leads on Facebook groups.

“We applied to, I think, probably over 50 daycares. We had a list from a daycare resource center and we didn’t hear back from anybody. It’s incredibly stressful when you’re thinking about going back to work and  you need to be available for your employer. And you really want to be going back to work,” Richard told CityNews.

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Although Richard’s approach was risky, she managed to secure a spot just a week and a half before her return to office from parental leave in January.

Sharon Gregson, with the $10 a Day Child Care Campaign says deposits are only getting more expensive, and some providers are getting greedy.

“I would not be paying large sums of money just to go on waiting lists, that just doesn’t sit right with me,” Gregson said.

The $10 a Day Child Care campaign says parents feel like they’ve won the lottery when they find out their daycare is transitioning to the $10 a day model, through a deal between the B.C. government and Ottawa.

“We’re seeing improvements, but they’re not coming fast enough. And in the meantime, we’re seeing the growth of the for-profit commercial sector They know that parents are desperate, and so they’re taking advantage of families with high fees and nonrefundable deposits,” Gregson explained.

B.C. plans to build 30,000 new spaces for children under six by March 2026.

“As government continues to work to transform child care into a core service that families can depend on, waitlist fees are one of the many aspects of the system that will be considered as we develop a coordinated system that works for all families,” the Ministry of Education and Child Care told CityNews.

Gregson also says there will be $20 a day facilities by the end of the year. The province says 96 per cent of eligible licensed providers have enrolled.

As for Richard, she says she’s happy to be back to work after choosing to split parental leave with her husband and put her son in an unlicensed daycare that works for their family. But she says she had the privilege of time to scour for spots, and there’s still no equitable system for low cost childcare.

“I don’t know who’s getting to daycare. I’ve never met anyone who has it. And all I see from the Facebook Groups and from her conversations of having are women leaving the workforce because they’re unable to find affordable care,” Richard said.

“It’s shocking and discouraging that there are companies that are profiting off of this child care choice,” Gregson added.

B.C. Premier John Horgan made universal $10-a-day child care a key election promise in 2017 when his New Democrats formed a minority government. The B.C. government launched its child-care program in 2018, with the expectation of having about 12,500 licensed, $10-a-day child-care spaces operating by the end of the year, according to the Coalition of Child Care Advocates for British Columbia.

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