Children in spotlight Nov. 20

As National Child Day approaches on Nov. 20, Cowichan Valley childcare advocate Mary Dolan is urging everyone in the community to educate themselves and tell government that education and care of young children is an investment, not a cost.

"It affects all of us," said Dolan.

"It’s like trying to build a house without a foundation," she said of trying to build a future for our country without a strategy and systems in place to take care of Canada’s children.

Dolan has long championed the idea of a universal, low-cost, childcare system along the successful Quebec model.

She’d also like to see an increase in maternity and paternity benefits for parents who would like to stay home longer with their children in their formative years. "All of us need to become aware," she said, because "families are struggling." Parents have the right to go to work to try to better conditions for their families, she said, but right now the supports for that with regard to childcare are inadequate.

"The needs of children in Canada are not being addressed," Dolan said. "Children have the right to a home and culture and education, and many of them are not even getting the necessities of a good meal."

People need to know, she said, that while the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was signed in this country, it has not been enacted.

A plan by the provincial government to give a small tax credit for every child under six starting next year is "really not improving the lives of children in the way that we would hope," said Dolan. "I think the money could be better used to go into a system of quality, affordable care and learning for infants and toddlers."

It won’t help people who have money find a childcare space, she said, and it won’t help low income families because even with the government money they won’t be able to afford the top-up.

The provincial government announced Monday that through a capital funding project where childcare providers could apply for money to build or add on to facilities, B.C. will see 1,006 new licensed childcare spaces, including 18 infant/toddler spaces at Jitterbugs Childcare in Cowichan Bay. That facility received a grant of $125,013.

Dolan is dispensing blue ribbons with pink hearts (heartstrings) that people can wear in acknowledgement of National Child Day. They have long been made by Growing Together Child and Parent Society to raise awareness.