Children’s Services Minister holds meeting in Falher regarding childcare service improvement

Danielle Larivee, left, and Margaret McCuaig-Boyd

Mac Olsen
Express Staff

The Ministry of Children’s Services is seeking public feedback on how to improve childcare access and affordability in the province.

To that end, Danielle Larivee, the Minister of Children’s Services, attended a meeting with NDP MLA Margaret McCuaig-Boyd at the Centre Chevaliers in Falher on Nov. 6. Approximately 20 people attended the meeting to offer their thoughts, including the need for a new childcare service in the Smoky River region.

Quality, affordable childcare is in short supply across Alberta,” said the minister. “We want to create affordable, universal childcare.”

Families struggle to find childcare and spouses often have difficulty to have time together, due to shiftwork, Larivee says. Professionals make a difference in the lives of children; they are not just babysitters, she adds. Moreover, good wages for the workers is one of the issues she’s heard about in conversations she’s had across the province.

Larivee also noted the government has implemented 22 pilot projects across Alberta to improve childcare service, which includes focusing on staff qualification and compensation.

Three questions put forth to the attendees at this meeting were:

1. For you personally, what is the most important priority for child care in Alberta? For example your answer might be: affordability, accessibility, quality of care, aspects of curriculum or learning, physical space, or anything that is important to you!

2. The Canadian Multi-lateral Early Learning and Childcare Framework was announced this spring. The agreement sets the foundation for governments across Canada to work toward a shared vision, where all children can experience the enriching environment of quality early learning and child care. Over the coming months, Alberta will be working with the federal government to sign a bi-lateral agreement, which will include an action plan detailing how federal funding will support quality affordable child care in Alberta. How would you like to see those federal dollars invested across Alberta?

3. We know that affordable, accessible, quality child care is important to Albertans, and it is something they’re happy to see the government take action on. It can truly make a difference in the lives of everyday people. However, I wouldn’t say that it is a hot-button political topic, or something that Albertans contact their MLAs about very often. What are your ideas about getting the word out in our communities to keep the issue in peoples’ minds as a top priority for our government?

Common answers to these questions included the need to make childcare affordable for low-income families; the long distances required to travel to drop off and pick up children from childcare services; the need to provide service to Francophones in the region; implement developmentally-appropriate practices; early childhood development for preschoolers; the difficulty of hiring and retaining staff for childcare service.

It was also commented that schools are the hubs of communities and strong partnerships have to be formed with them as part of the childcare conversation. Ministerial-level talks across government are also required to work on childcare and child development issues.

McCuaig-Boyd commented that it was heartening to hear from the attendees and added that this will be the first of many conversations.

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