The new strategy: A look at child care in Coquitlam

‘What we have is greatly inadequate’

Two years after consultation began, Coquitlam unveiled and approved its new child care strategy earlier this month.

The strategy is going to “change people’s lives,” said Coun. Chris Wilson.

Coquitlam’s new direction should help make child care more available, “And hopefully through the federal and provincial government, a lot more affordable,” Wilson added.

There are approximately 19,095 children in Coquitlam, based on 2016 census data. In 2019, there were 4,694 licensed child care spaces, according to a city staff report – approximately one space for every four children.

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The Child Care Partnership Strategy outlines several strategies including providing incentives to leverage the development sector to create more child care.

“The framework is there. We can hit developers over the head,” said Coun. Brent Asmundson.

Along with height and density, future development applications will need to incorporate an estimate on the child care need generated by their proposal. Development companies could also either provide child care on site or put some extra cash into Coquitlam’s new reserve fund to assist the city in facilitating child care.

“I guess I can finally have children now. I’ve been waiting,” joked Coun. Steve Kim.

The need

For every 100 children in Coquitlam, there are about 24.6 child care spots.

“As difficult as it is for parents to access licensed child care today, without an influx of new spaces, the situation could worsen as the City’s population grow,” a city staff report noted.

The number of children 12 years old and younger in Coquitlam is expected to increase by 12.8 percent between 2016 and 2031, adding approximately 2,444 children to the city.

image supplied Coquitlam Child Care Partnership Strategy

Child care spaces by age group

  • Newborns and toddlers (under three years old): 15.5 spaces per 100 children
  • Three to five year olds: 44.5 spaces per 100 children
  • Five to 12 years olds: 11.2 spaces per 100 children

Compared to the region

Across Metro Vancouver, there are an average of 18.6 child care spaces per 100 children. That ratio in line with the provincial average of 18.4 but sharply below Canada’s national average of 27.6.

Beyond the numbers

There are “significant data gaps” regarding child care demand in Canada, according to the report.

“There is no local-level data available anywhere in Canada that shows how much child care would be needed if it were to be available to all families who might want it,” the reported noted. “What we know anecdotally and qualitatively from community engagement is that what we have is greatly inadequate.”

The targets

For infants and toddlers the plan is to facilitate five to six programs each year for the next decade, improving the ratio from 15.5 to 23.8 child care spaces for every 100 children by 2031.

“This target access rate of 23.8 percent by 2031 will most likely not address all of the unmet need for child care for infants/ toddlers, but it is considered a realistic target given the challenges of creating new spaces for this age group,” according to the report.

The city also plans to add approximately 105 child care spots per year for children between the ages of five to nine years old, ultimately boosting the ratio from 17.0 to 30.5 by 2031.

The city also plans to boost the ratio among preschool-age children from 44.5 to 50.4 by 2031, a change that would mean adding approximately 50 spots per year.

Difficulty for operators

Child care operators frequently struggle to find a space to operate and to find staff able to work odd hours and to pay that staff: “commensurate with their education and experience,” the report noted.

Location, location, location

The report also notes the “considerable benefits” of putting child care on Coquitlam property or in city buildings, many of which already work as community hubs.

“As such, these facilities can be a natural fit for new licensed child care spaces to serve community need.”

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