Canada’s Most Populous Province Offers Free Child Care Starting in 2020

By Marva Hinton — April 05, 2018 2 min read
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Canada’s most populated province is taking a big step to help parents afford child care.

Starting in 2020 all children in Ontario from two-and-a-half to kindergarten age will be able to attend year-round, full-day licensed child care for free.

“I know how stressful it can be for parents with young children,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in a press release. “When my three kids were little, I worried about whether they were getting the right start. This investment will make life more affordable for families and allow more parents to make the choice to go back to work, knowing their child is safe and cared for.”

Wynne made the announcement about the program last week. It’s expected to save families an estimated $17,000 per child, which is the average amount an Ontario parent will spend on care between a child turning two-and-a-half and entering full-day kindergarten.

The province is investing $2.2 billion dollars into the program over the next three years.

Before implementing it, the government consulted with thousands of parents and child-care providers as well other educators. The decision was also informed by the research of economist Gordon Cleveland, who recently published a report on making child care affordable in the province. Cleveland’s report called for free child care for all children in the province from 30 months to kindergarten age.

Helen Blank is the director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. She finds Ontario’s program impressive.

“It’s a pretty significant recognition of the importance of the early years and the importance of child care in helping mothers work,” said Blank.

Feasibility in U.S.

So is this something we might one day see in this country?

Blank says right now she’s excited by the nearly $3 billion commitment made to child care in the budget agreement President Donald Trump signed in February. It calls for additional funding to help pay for subsidized child care for low-income families and increased funding for initiatives that support home-visits for vulnerable families as well as additional funding for community health centers and other programs that support families and young children.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Blank. “At the federal government, one day we may get there.”

She also cited the Child Care for Working Families Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.

It would create a federal-state partnership that would allow families making less than 150 percent of their state’s median income to not have to pay more than 7 percent of their income on child care.

“We can point to some states that have taken some strides on pre-K, but even that is full of gaps,” said Blank. “We’re not close to the Ontario plan.”

Stock photo by Getty

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.