Province gives boost to child care

Licensed child care centres in the Rainy River District will see an increase in funding this year after the McGuinty government announced plans earlier this month to increase the number of subsidized child care spaces in Ontario by 4,000.
“This investment is the largest boost to child care in a decade, and represents a real commitment to early childhood development,” said Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
“By improving access to high-quality child care, we are not only giving children the best possible start in life, but we are also giving parents with young children the opportunity to work outside the home. After a decade of neglect, this is good news for children and families, and it’s good for Ontario,” she added.
The government is investing $58.2 million this year in federal child care transfer funds to support existing child care spaces and to create new subsidized spaces.
The minister also announced $19.4 million of this year’s money will fund one-time capital projects, including adding or converting rooms and adding facilities such as washrooms and playgrounds.
“We’re really pleased,” said Donna Dittaro, CAO of the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board.
Locally, this means the RRDSSAB will receive an additional $116,876 per year to increase service levels. This money can be used to enhance funding for fee subsidies, wage subsidies, and/or special needs resourcing.
Dittaro said the board will likely try to share the money between all three items.
The $116,876 will be cost shared, with the province providing 80 percent, and municipalities providing 20 percent. The funding is also pro-rated to August 1, meaning the board will receive about $75,000 for 2004.
The DSSAB will also receive a $12,000 annual increase for administration costs. This funding is cost shared 50/50 between the province and municipalities.
The province has also promised one-time funding for minor capital expenses. The DSSAB will receive $19,300 “to modify or renovate child care facilities,” Dittaro said, with the goal of increasing capacity in the buildings.
A final one-time payment of $20,500 will be used to address health and safety needs.
Both one-time payments will be covered entirely by the provincial government.
Dittaro said that while the funding increase is welcome, they could always use more.
“There’s never enough money for child care,” she noted. “We have a really high demand for subsidized child care space. We can never seem to meet the demand.”
The conditions applied to funding are another source of frustration.
“They didn’t give the service managers any flexibility. We need flexibility within our budgets,” Dittaro explained. “We need to decide where to spend the money. We know where the needs are.”
It is not clear how many new spaces will be created from the funding.
“We’ll certainly notice a difference,” Dittaro said. “We’ll make really good use of it.”
Currently, there are licensed day care facilities in Atikokan, Fort Frances, and Devlin. Dittaro said the board hopes to open a facility in Rainy River.
“This may help. At least it’s a start,” she noted.
The DSSAB will now have to prepare a two-year service plan for submission to the province, outlining how they will use the additional funds.