British Columbia

Minister vows to investigate daycare wait-list fees

B.C.'s minister of children and family development says her office will look into the practice of childcare operators charging parents to put their children on a wait-list for a daycare spot.

Parents say they've been asked to pay as much as $200, with no guarantee of a spot

Sara Banjac put her son's name on six wait-lists to get a spot at a daycare. She says some operators are charging hundreds of dollars just to get on a list, with no guarantee of a spot. (Sara Banjac)

B.C.'s minister of children and family development says her office will look into the practice of childcare operators charging parents to put their children on a wait-list for a daycare spot. 

In a statement released Friday, Stephanie Cadieux said the issue was recently brought to her attention.

"It raises valid questions and I can understand why some parents are getting frustrated by this," said Cadieux.

The move stems from complaints from parents such as Sara Banjac, a Burnaby mother of two.

Banjac has struggled to find daycare spots for her children and has added their names to six wait-lists.

She said she was stunned when some operators wanted money to join a list.

"The fee itself is no guarantee of a spot but you're in a jam and you feel like you have to pay this fee," said Banjac.

Banjac paid $15 to be on one list, but said she found some places were charging as much as $200.

"It is ridiculous, it's very extravagant. As it is we are paying a lot of money for daycare."

Justifying a fee

Some advocates argue it is reasonable for organizations to ask for a wait-list fee — particularly, not-for-profit operations.

Affordable childcare advocate Sharon Gregson believes small wait-list fees are justifiable for not-for-profit daycare operators. (CBC)

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. said there is work that goes into managing wait-lists.

"You want to make sure the waiting lists are being managed transparently, efficiently and accurately ... so some organizations have a small fee, perhaps even $20, that fits the organization in managing that list. And that seems, I think, to most people, pretty reasonable," said Gregson.

What isn't reasonable, said Gregson, is fees of up to $200, that she said are often charged by larger, for-profit daycare companies.

"That really makes one wonder what hundreds of dollars are being used for. Is it just another way to leverage profit from parents?"

Ontario bans wait-list fees

In September, Ontario became the first province to ban the practice of charging parents to be on wait-lists.

The decision followed months of public consultations that were held this past summer.

Under the new rules, operators in that province are also no longer allowed to demand a deposit from parents.

Sara Banjac says she'd like to see B.C. adopt the same practices.

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