British Columbia

Lack of available childcare infringing on human rights of women and children, says legal group

The struggle to find childcare in B.C. communities has become more than just an exercise in frustration. A local legal association specializing in women's equality says it's a human rights issue.

Legal association calls on province 'to make childcare significantly more affordable for all'

A report by West Coast LEAF, a local legal association promoting women's equality, is arguing the lack of childcare services in B.C. jeopardizes the physical and mental health of women and children. (Belle Puri/CBC)

The struggle to find childcare in B.C. communities has become more than just an exercise in frustration. A local legal association specializing in women's equality says it's a human rights issue.

The West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) has released a report looking at what happens when a childcare system doesn't meet the needs of the families that rely on it, and uses the accounts of 15 women to demonstrate the challenges mothers are facing.

"They're living in cycles of poverty, often trapped on income assistance because, even with a full childcare subsidy, they can't pay the cost of care necessary for them to work," said Kendra Milne, West Coast LEAF Director of Law Reform, and the author of the report.

Anna Geeroms, one of the women who shared their stories with West Coast LEAF, is a mother of twins who were born prematurely.

She faced a whirlwind of stress trying to find care for her children so that she could return to her job at a web development company.

"Access to childcare is something that makes women have equality. No wonder there's so few women in the tech industry. Even a year out of my job was a lot to make up for," she said, explaining that if she hadn't gone back to work she wouldn't have been able to pay her mortgage.

"Going back to work and not feeling entirely secure about my children being taken care of added extra stress."

Kendra Milne and Anna Geeroms collaborated to produce a report examining the inadequacy of the childcare system and its impact on B.C. mothers. (CBC)

Once Geeroms found a provider she trusted and was able to return to work, the stress only continued as worries cropped up about, not only the well-being of her children, but of her lone nanny's mental and physical health.

"I was just a mess. Just the worry that [the kids] weren't having the support they needed, or that my childcare worker wasn't getting the support she needed, and [worried that] she would end up quitting and how would I find somebody else," said Geeroms.

Although the sampling of stories is small, the not-for-profit organization is aiming to portray a diverse range of situations faced by women from different demographics and expose how those challenges impact them on a daily basis.

"I think I probably would've been further ahead in my career because I was focusing a lot of my energy on trying to get that safe, reliable childcare," said Geeroms, saying the situation would have been significantly less stressful if affordable childcare had been available.

"I could've been focusing on my career advancement, but I kind of made it out unscathed, in a way, and I think there's a lot of people that haven't experienced that."

Milne and the organization are looking for the province to take immediate action to correct for the stress women in B.C. are experiencing.

They suggest government build on existing programs, such as the childcare subsidy, and recommend that the $10 a Day Childcare Plan, promoted by the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. and the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of B.C., be adopted.

With files from the CBC's The Early Edition

To hear the full interview listen to audio labelled Local law association is calling on the province "to make child care significantly more affordable for all"


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