Metro Morning

East end parents fed up with 'hugely stressful' hunt for child care

A group of parents in Toronto’s east end is pushing the provincial government to add more high-quality child-care options in their area.

‘Toronto East Enders for Child Care’ say they want more licensed, affordable child care spots

Group member Sara Ehrhardt started looking for a childcare spot for her son Clarence when she was just two weeks pregnant with him. (Submitted by Sara Ehrhardt)

A group of parents in Toronto's east end say they are fed up with the lack of affordable child-care spots in their neighbourhood.

They've named themselves the Toronto East Enders for Child Care and plan to lobby the provincial government to add more high-quality, low-cost options in their area.

Looking for childcare 'a full-time job'

A recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that Toronto residents pay more for child care than anyone else in the country — a median of $1,649 a month for infants.  

Along with hefty fees, daycares in Toronto often have long waiting lists.

With that in mind, Sara Ehrhardt, a member of Toronto East Enders for Childcare, started her search for child care early, beginning when she was just two weeks pregnant.

"I started looking before we shared with our families that I was pregnant," she said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "I signed up for roughly 17 daycares and homecares."

Despite making it "a full-time job" to find her son Clarence a spot starting when he was 12 months old, Ehrhardt had no luck.

"I wound up staying out of the workforce an extra four months until my son was 16 months, which was the very earliest we were able to get him into a toddler spot," she said.

Fellow group member Carrie Schoemer hasn't had a much easier time. She pays $1,000 a month for a spot in a preschool for her three-year-old. Meanwhile, she has extended her parental leave to stay at home with her one-year-old.

"I think the current situation is forcing families to make a lot of tough choices. If I were working and had both children in licensed care, it would cost about two-thirds of my salary," she said.  

'Fearful' for families without extra resources

Both Schoemer and Ehrhardt said, that for all of the difficulty they've had, they know many parents are in worse situations.

"It's been hugely stressful but I still feel grateful… we have a spot." Ehrhardt said. "We are a very well-resourced family. Not just financially, but English is my first language, I know how the system works in Canada, and I'm able to call and be an advocate."

She said that she is "fearful" for parents who don't have the time and resources to dedicate to finding child care.

Schoemer also counts her blessings. "I'm lucky I could make this choice," she said of being able to extend her leave.

She chose to volunteer for the group because she doesn't think child care shouldn't come at such an onerous cost. "We're hoping to see spots people can afford."

Their group holds monthly meetings to discuss possible solutions to the child-care crunch. 

You can find out more about them here

With files from Metro Morning