Forty years ago, after a divorce, I was raising my young daughter alone in Toronto. Although I was lucky to have a good education and a steady job, I struggled to make ends meet on my modest salary. And increasingly, I struggled to pay for unsatisfactory home daycare that provided very little stimulation for my toddler. Despite the fact that I knew a quality daycare centre with qualified staff would be expensive, I was worried about her development and safety in the situation she was in; so I decided I'd just have to manage my budget somehow, and I set out to find a better solution.
I found the perfect daycare and indeed it was going to be prohibitively expensive, but I was shocked to be told that they had a subsidized space available and that they thought I should apply. In spite of the fact that finances were a huge source of stress for me, I had never thought of myself as someone who would need, or be eligible for, public assistance. But I couldn't afford the fees, so I went through the application and the interview process, and was shocked to be told that based on my income and expenses, I would receive a full subsidy which, at that time, meant that I would only pay $1.10 per day (the full daily rate then was probably $15-20)!! Receiving that news was absolutely the best gift I have ever received - I could hardly believe my ears! I still had to watch my budget but, suddenly, I didn't have to panic if my child lost her jacket or my car needed repairs.
I was, and still am, so grateful for this help; and as the years passed and my salary increased, my daycare fees also increased until I was gladly paying full fees for my five year old. I went on to remarry and had another child. My daughter grew up and obtained a PhD, and both of my children are successful, contributing members of society. My career grew over the years, and my family's income tax and other contributions to society have, many many times over, made up for the financial assistance I received for those few years with my first child. Being able to put my child into a high quality daycare centre, and receiving financial help to do so, allowed both of us to get through those difficult early years, and ensured that my family would flourish. I implore our governments to make affordable, accessible, high-quality child care a priority. It is just as important for today's children as it was for mine 40 years ago, and I know first hand that it is the best possible investment we can make in our children, our families and our communities.
Mary H. Toronto, ON