Funding for Ryerson University’s emergency child-care program at the Gerrard Resource Centre is being terminated at the end of the year.
In 2017, the Gerrard Resource Centre found out that under the newly formed EarlyON Child and Families program, its emergency child-care program would be defunded. The City of Toronto no longer considered it a core service, even though the centre has offered emergency care there for over 30 years. The program’s funding cutoff date is set for Dec. 31.
“I’m extremely disappointed [for] our community in Jamestown. There are so many parents who utilize it for emergency reasons,” said Mary Thompson, a mother who has taken her daughter to the centre since she was nine months old. Her daughter will be going to junior kindergarten next year. “She’s grown up with it… I’m a very overprotective mother but I know my child is safe there.”
The decision to stop funding was made in 2017 by the government of former premier Kathleen Wynne. In an email statement, the City of Toronto’s Children’s Services said, “The Ministry of Education guidelines for EarlyON Child and Family Centres stipulate that EarlyON funding cannot be used to provide emergency child care beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The City of Toronto is implementing this change in accordance with our service agreement with the Ministry of Education.”
Since its rebranding under Wynne, EarlyON programs require parents to remain on the premises during the program in order to receive funding. Derek Luk, the spokesperson from Ontario’s Ministry of Education said “respite or emergency childcare services, where parents are able to leave the premises, operate outside the scope of EarlyON programs.”
Catherine Moher, the manager of the Gerrard Resource Centre, says this emergency child-care program meets a demand to provide relief in extenuating circumstances. “The current situation in full-time licensed child care is not set up to meet these unanticipated crises,” Moher said.
Thompson said the centre especially helped her when unanticipated surprises have come up. For example, when her 95-year-old aunt’s caregiver was unable to work, she was able to turn to the emergency child-care program so she could look after her aunt, who lives with a disability.
Moher said that parents also turn to their emergency child-care services when they have emergency medical appointments, legal court appointments, classes and job interviews.
A report released by Social Planning Toronto this month says that the lack of access to affordable child care can create barriers for parents hoping to get jobs or transition off of social programs like Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.
“Parents need flexibility. I think it’s inequitable that parents who need a day here, a day there, don’t have access to the regulated system,” Moher said.
Social Planning Toronto’s report also says that Toronto’s child-care fees are the most expensive in the country; an infant space costs more than $20,000 a year, meaning three-quarters of Torontonians can’t afford it. Over 500 children are currently waiting for a child-care fee subsidy in Ryerson’s ward (Ward 13) — the highest number in Toronto’s downtown core.
Priced at $1 an hour for non-working families and $5 an hour for working families, the centre offers an economically viable child-care option for low-income families, particularly those in crisis. “When we had the fires in Jamestown just recently, we had many families come and use it,” Thompson said.
As the cut-off date of their funding looms closer, the centre is now appealing to the Ryerson community for donations to this year’s United Way campaign to keep it running past 2018. Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi, who is sitting on the cabinet of United Way this year, encourages the community to support this program. “I’m a big believer of centres like this and we should do everything possible to support them,” Lachemi said.
Ryerson’s mandate and funding is not only supposed to serve the Ryerson community, Moher said, but also the community at large. “Ryerson is actually engaged in the community by providing this service.”
Click ‘play’ above to hear a segment of Ryersonian This Week from November 2, 2018. Produced and written by Tiffany Lam and Nicole Edwards.