Parent Voices Network

Meet the Regional Representatives

Newfoundland and Labrador Parent Voices
Clare Bessell

My name is Clare Bessell and I am the parent representative for Newfoundland and Labrador. I am the mother to 3 great girls, ages 9, 8, and 4. I was reluctant going back to my nursing job after my maternity leave, and experienced tremendous challenges to securing child care when I did go back. As a result, I have experienced many forms of child care and education ranging from babysitters, to an early childhood educator who came to my home, to a parent run child care, to a not-for-profit daycare. My experience with these different types of care has given me the utmost respect for the profession of early childhood educators and of quality environments for learning. I have asked for and received advice from early child hood educators that has saved my sanity as I tried to work through phases of my children’s development!

I am appalled at the lack of respect and support that society generally has for early childhood education, and the salaries sadly reflect this apathy. I have found myself becoming an advocate for access to quality child care and for the profession of early childhood education because I have experienced what they offer, and I believe that every parent and child should have access to this level of care, education and nurturing for their children. The impact will stay with children and families for a lifetime.

New Brunswick Parent Voices
Jody Dallaire

My name is Jody Dallaire; I live in Dieppe, New Brunswick with my husband and two sons aged 4 and 8 and am proud to say that I am a parent child care advocate on behalf of my children.

In NB there is a crisis in the child care system where over 74% of families have both parents in the paid labour market but only 10% of children and 5% of infants can access licensed child care. Our family felt this crisis acutely when we moved to Dieppe a few years ago and had trouble locating a licensed quality child care spot. I now feel lucky that we were able to locate care for our children.

As a parent, I feel that it is unacceptable that the welfare of my children be dependent on luck. Feeling compelled to take action, I did some research and realized that this problem is not unique to New Brunswick and that there are other challenges that child care facilities face – difficulties in finding and keeping trained staff because of the poverty level wages. Also as child care fees are so high, families such as ours are choosing to have smaller families as we cannot afford to have more children.

Although life can be hectic as a working mom, I believe that parents such as myself have a role to play in changing the child care system to make it a better one – and no longer a matter of luck. I hope that some day when my sons choose to have children of their own that they do not face the same challenges that we face today as parents in balancing both our family and work lives.

Ontario Parent Voices
Sheri Hincks

My husband and I have two young children (4 and 2). We both work full time and like all working parents, one of the most critical issues facing us is quality, affordable child care. We need to feel confident about where our children spend part of their days.

Over the years, I had heard stories from parents who were looking for child care- there was general anxiety, frustration and anger at the lack of quality, affordable spaces. In Guelph, there are licensed spaces for 53 infants, while the waiting lists are in excess of 300! So, when I was two months pregnant I placed my name on a waiting list for a space at the University of Guelph’s Child Care and Learning Centre.

When I returned to work, we still did not have a spot at the centre- I was shocked! I had been on the list for more than a year, and I was a “priority” since I was a University employee! I returned to work, leaving my daughter with a friend. Eighteen months later, a space opened at the child care centre. Now, during the day, we know the children are in a safe and nurturing environment where they are free to explore new tasks, develop new relationships and begin practicing social skills. Their smiles and stories at the end of each day, as well as their anticipation of each new day makes us realize how lucky we are to be part of such a great child care and learning environment.

In the fall of 2002, I was elected to chair the parents’ advisory council at the child care centre. One of the mandates of the council is to advocate on behalf of children. The more I learned about the politics, and about the research in early childhood development, the more I realized that it is time that this government listened and responded to the needs of parents and young children!

I believe, that all parents have a strong and common passion to the best for their children, to do all they can to ensure their children get the best possible care. Sadly, in this province, quality child care is neither accessible nor affordable. Parents should not have to choose between their children’s safety and well-being, and the economic well- being of their families. If we as a community ignore the actions that reduce standards of care, we are cheating the future well being of this province. As parents, as voters, we need to continue to be the voices of children in this country – we owe it to ourselves and to our children! Quality, affordable child care should not be a matter of “luck”!

Manitoba Parent Voices
Donna Riddell

My first encounter with daycare was in 1986 when I worked as a substitute caregiver in a family day home. I was amazed at the connection that I felt with the children and the opportunities for learning and teaching for all of us!

When this home day care closed, I had the opportunity to open a comparable facility in my home. I did this for two years – at the end of which I was very burnt out! At that time, I had no children of my own, I found the hours long – 6:00 am until 6:00 pm with no one to support / work with me, also – the pay was miniscule. I loved the children – I cried desperately when any of them moved or went on to school. I still get pictures and enjoy visits with these children – now young adults!

To stimulate my work as a home daycare provider, I began to take courses in Early Childhood Education. By taking Distance Education and commuting for night courses, I achieved my ECE ll in 1989.

However, my life changed and I no longer had the opportunity to keep my business. I chose to go onto acquire my Education Degree.

I have worked in several centres – some good, some bad, some profit centres, some not for profit, some Montessori, some not, some in Manitoba, some in Alberta. I learned a lot from working / subbing at these centres.

1996 brings me back to Manitoba – Miami, Manitoba. I had two daughters at that time and I found a job as an Educational Assistant at a community, one half hour away. I struggled with finding suitable care for my two children – juggling in home care, a neighbour lady babysitting, and finally resigned myself to travel with my children to a licensed facility.

Over two years of winter driving – these arrangements were not safe, in my opinion. I did not want to have to take my children on the highway with me. Also, I wanted them to be part of the community that they would go to school in.

A group of Moms in Miami gathered and discussed the potential of developing a licensed child care resource in this community. After consultation with the Child Day Care Coordinator, we decided that we would pursue such a venture.

Well…. 2 years later, we opened the Miami Children’s Facility – a brand new child care program. I am the current Director of this facility – still working on my degree and training, with four daughters and many other extra curricular activities!

The Miami Children’s Facility is a culmination of my experience as an Early Childhood Educator and my needs as a parent. Also, several community surveys were done in order to discover the true needs of this community. It is because of this survey that the Miami Children’s Facility offers such a diverse spectrum of services.

These services include:

  • Extended hour, flexible and emergency child care in Miami
  • Nursery School in Miami, Graysville and Roland
  • Family Resource Programming in partnership with School Division and the Regional Healthy Authority in all three communities
  • Multi age programming in Miami for infant, preschool and school age children
  • FREE daily hot lunch
  • Farm safety activities – in the three preschools and elementary schools

Even though the Miami Children’s Facility is a success story – I don’t want to stop my advocacy efforts here. I have assisted other communities in development of their new centres, I have worked with centres to increase their pay, and I participate on the Rural Voices advocacy project – to lobby for quality child care and family services in rural communities.

I am anxious to learn more on a Federal level – what issues are common to all children and families – how can we unite forces and lobby for equal access and quality to such essential services. I look forward to hearing stories from other parents and to be part of an effort to truly affect change and enhance the quality of life for children and families.

BC Parent Voices
Sharon Gregson

In 1987 I was a single-parent mum with a one-year old and a two-year old. I was living on welfare and decided to go back to university. I was accepted at Simon Fraser University and showed up with my boys at the child care centre looking for two spaces. I had no idea about waiting-lists, age groupings, staff/child ratios, cost, etc.

I, and my sons, were very fortunate and were able to secure two part-time spaces in one of the highest quality child care programs in the country. The program was an immediate support to my family. I was able to role-model after the staff which improved my parenting skills, my sons benefited greatly from the early childhood education and care they received. We were able to receive the provincial government’s subsidy for low-income parents. Without subsidy I would never have been able to access quality, licensed child care.

I went on with that child care organization (a not for profit society) to be involved with the Advocacy Committee, from there to a Board member and then to Chairperson of the Board of Directors. I was interviewed by media fairly often as I spoke out about my need for child care and the bigger picture benefits of quality, affordable ECE.

I married and had two daughters and continued to use high quality child care services. I believe so strongly in child care and the not for profit model that I went to work for a child care organization in 1995 just a few weeks after my second daughter was born.

My involvement with advocacy has only increased since then with examples set by wonderful women advocates who blaze a trail. I have learnt to be slightly more comfortable in speaking publicly, using microphones, facing media and even waving placards in demonstrations when necessary. I have chosen to be more political with my time over the years as I believe we must pressure politicians to improve pubic policy around child care spending. My motto is to never let an opportunity go by where I could educate and advocate for quality child care.

The fight for quality, affordable, accessible, publicly funded, accountable child care goes on and on.

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