titleHelen Ward, president of the parental childcare-focused charity Kids First Parents Association of Canada, has published a case study of daycare usage in Toronto. The study, entitled, “Is there really a Daycare Shortage?” was released by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC). It aims to “examine daycare demand and availability” in the city. Data shows that “rather than a shortage of spaces, there has (been) a surplus.” In Ontario, the addition of full-day kindergarten spaces to institutional daycare numbers means that “there are spaces for roughly 50 per cent of 0 to 5 year olds.”

While all children need some form of childcare, the study says that public policies focus on institutional daycare “to the disadvantage of those who prefer other forms” such as parental and family care. In fact, preferential funding granted to daycare centres “makes parental care the most expensive option.” It “results in substantial lost income due to reduced time spent at paid work…yet this form of (child care) receives no targeted government financing.” A 2003 Statistics Canada report estimated the value of wages, benefits, promotions, and pensions missed by parents who care for children at home to be at least $59 billion.

For now, Ward recommends “restructuring” the subsidy system. As a result, “some parents would have to cover more of the cost of their child’s care, but more parents could participate in the program.”

The Vanier Institute of the Family found that nine out of ten survey respondents believe parents should stay at home with preschool-aged children. Six out of ten recommend parents stay home with elementary-aged children. Even when both parents were employed outside the home, respondents still ranked parent-based care as the number-one preferred option. Institutional care was rated fifth-best.

Similarly, an IMFC poll conducted in 2006 found that 78 per cent of parents preferred parent-based home care over “a competent caregiver.” A follow-up survey in 2013 found that 76 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe that being “at home with a parent” is best for children under six years of age.