Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stand up for quality childcare at UVIC

Like many graduate students, I'm a parent with a 9 year old in childcare. My son was lucky enough to be enrolled in UVIC's childcare--he has been at UVIC childcare since he was 16 months, and I believe the program is great.

All UVIC parents have friends (or have been ourselves) on long waitlists (2-3 years even!) to get in and know UVIC childcare needs to expand.

The UVIC Childcare Action group has been working to bring this issue to the attention of the university. I’m happy to report that our campaign has succeeded in its goal of gaining the attention of the administration, and of bringing awareness to the importance of the childcare crisis faced by UVIC students, faculty and staff. I work for the Graduate Students' Society and we have been active in this groups. We know childcare is a significant issue for our members.

However, we now face a new situation. In its response to our campaign and the need for more childcare, the Board of Governors is seriously considering engaging a private childcare corporation, Kids & Company. For a very low “membership” fee, Kids & Company asserts that they will set up childcare facilities to meet UVic’s demand. However, parents and early childhood specialists alike are raising the warning bell about privatized childcare. Without wanting to demonize Kids & Co. in particular, we can say that for-profit childcare must, necessarily, cut corners to make a profit, and that this inevitably means lower-quality care despite higher fees.

Large private facilities pay lower wages than not-for-profit organizations like UVic Childcare, which results in high staff turnover (not good for children). They also meet only the minimum provincial standards in both caregiver-to-child ratios as well as staff qualifications; in both these areas, UVic Childcare exceeds the standards. Kids & Company has not yet gained a foothold in B.C., but they have established centres in Calgary, Toronto, Waterloo and Halifax.

While information regarding the company’s performance is not easy to obtain, we have heard some disturbing stories from parents, and two incidents in which Kids&Co centres had their licenses put in jeopardy – once for mould and sewer drain issues (Toronto) and once for accidentally leaving a toddler behind in the building during a fire-drill (Calgary). While Kids&Co has not been operational for long enough to gain perspective on their success, the example of an analogous big-box chain, ABC Childcare in Australia, which expanded rapidly and experienced multiple problems with staffing and quality before going bankrupt, suggests that we may want to be wary of inviting privatized childcare to solve our problems.The Board of Governors is currently gathering information from Kids&Company about the nature of the services they would provide, and they are hoping to make a decision at their meeting on November 27th. In preparation for this meeting, the UCAG has been working to substantiate concerns about privatized childcare with evidence of potential problems.
In addition, we have clarified our objective: faculty members need quality childcare in order to allow them to do their jobs properly, not just any childcare.In support of this objective, we are asking that if you have not yet written a letter in support of our campaign – and we do understand, we’re all busy! – that you do so now, and that you stress that you believe that quality childcare is essential to the success of faculty members who are parents of young children.

***Letters must be sent by November 9 to be included in the Board of Governors agenda.***

Many of us have had – or know of someone who has had – experience with less-than-ideal childcare, and we understand that it is difficult to be productive when you’re uncomfortable with the environment in which you have left your child. We’re concerned that if Kids & Company supplies childcare services to UVic, it may create problems for parents at the same time as it solves them. Thank-you for taking the time to write a letter in support of our campaign.

You’ll find a letter template below; please add your personal perspective or experience, if you wish, and email it to Ray Protti; David Turpin; and cc it to;; and

If you are a graduate student, I would appreciate it if you cc the GSS on your letter and let us know if you are willing to have us publish it on the GSS website.

You can email me at
Yours sincerely,
Stacy Chappel
University of Victoria Graduate Students' Society
University Childcare Action Group


To: Mr. Ray Protti, Chair, Board of Governors and Dr. David Turpin, President, University of Victoria
Re: Childcare expansion
Dear Mr. Protti and Dr. Turpin:

I am writing to respectfully ask that you work towards immediate expansion of the UVic childcare system. The current situation is not working for UVic parents.

Through contact and discussion with other concerned parents, I have increasingly come to realize that my situation is far from unique. The UVic childcare is rated among the best in Victoria, but its waitlist times are are extremely long (over two years for students and averaging four to five years for staff and faculty).

This has caused serious hardship for UVic students, staff, and faculty. Impacts on productivity, retention, and recruitment are significant, and growing. This is reflected in the recent departure of a promising young faculty member, Dr. Katrin Meissner, who left UVic because she could not find care for her child.

Recent UVic initiatives to develop a home-based childcare network and part-time childcare in Center 6 are welcome and encouraged. However, these initiatives will not provide sufficient care to meet the demand, and will provide few permanent, full time spaces. This problem could be solved by expanding the UVic group childcare, to provide additional spaces without compromising the quality of the care.

Additional space is particularly needed for the infant and toddler age groups, where few facilities are available in the community, and waitlist times are particularly long. Recruitment, retention, and accessibility are strategic initiatives for UVic. These goals are currently threatened by limited access to high-quality childcare on campus and in the community.

Faculty and staff who cannot find childcare they are satisfied with are forced to either quit, reduce their work to part time, or struggle with multiple demands, resulting in greatly reduced productivity. Parent students without childcare are unable to access higher education.Given that the UVic childcare system is among the best in Victoria, significant expansion of this system is the best solution to the childcare crisis. I hope you will work together with the students, staff, and faculty towards this goal.

Thank you for your kind consideration.


Anonymous said...

what percentage of grad students have children?

Stacy Chappel said...

Hi! We don't know the percentage of grad students (or anyone at UVIC) who has children, as this data is not collected by UVIC.

However, I can tell you demographically the bulk of graduate students are in the 25-25 age range and majority are also women.