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The latest advice for expecting parents? Sign up for child care as soon as you're pregnant

Jessie Cahill-Bouzane says she's cobbled together a complicated childcare plan to ensure her two children are looked after. (Submitted) Jessie Cahill-Bouzane says she's cobbled together a complicated childcare plan to ensure her two children are looked after. (Submitted)
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Newfoundland nurse Katie Thorne is getting worried. Even though her due date isn’t until October, she’s been convinced she needs to find a daycare now or else she’ll be out of luck.

"A lot of the women have told me as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you’ve got to start looking," she said. "Because it'll be impossible to find a regulated daycare."

Throne hopes to return to her work in health care after her maternity leave, but that hope is increasingly becoming doubt, as the weeks go by without any firm plans in place.

"I’m really stressed," she said. "It seems like… I’m going to be left in a situation where I’m not able to go back to work, or I’m going to have to put myself out financially."

Canada’s new $10-a-day child care program is expanding, but there’s growing evidence that demand for the program is rising even faster, leaving many parents on the outside looking in.

Some are building creative solutions to get their kids the care they need, like another Newfoundland mom who has created a complicated family schedule.

"It’s a very much mishmash, patchwork solution,” said Jessie Cahill-Bouzane, a mother of two who works in St. John's.

Her eldest daughter, 4, is in daycare part time. Her one-year-old son isn’t. To make it all work, she relies on her mother in law, her mother, her husband’s ability to work from home, and a friend who babysits.

"Tuesdays both children go to their grandmothers, and Wednesdays my mother watches my son while my daughter goes to daycare. And then Thursday, I pay my friend an unregulated rate to watch both of them."

"I have the most ridiculous patchwork childcare solution ever," she said.

She's been told both of her children will get a spot in a new daycare centre when it opens, but she says the opening has been delayed as the centre staff struggle to navigate licensing and regulations under federal and provincial rules in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Federal ministers have been touring the country over the past week, touting the $10-a-day child care program and their attempts to create more regulated spaces.

At a stop in St. John’s Wednesday, Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan acknowledged more spots need to be created, and faster.

"We’ve got a lot more work to do, but we’re doing the work," he said. "We’re ahead of schedule and we’re doing more."

Reports by Statistics Canada, released late in 2023, show more and more families are struggling to find child care spots.

Among parents who did find childcare, 49 per cent told surveyors they had difficulty making arrangements in 2023. That number is up from 36 per cent in 2019.

Around half of Canadian children under the age of one who are not in child care are on a waitlist – a number that has also grown in 2023.

"There were more moms and dads who raised their hand and said, wow, this is obtainable for me now," said Jenna Sudds, Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

"So we’ve seen the increase in demand."

The federal government says it’s aiming to create 250,000 new spots across the country by 2026.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial government says more than 2,000 daycare spots are in development, but it hasn’t yet compiled a waitlist that would give it a true sense of how big the demand in the province is.

Many parents and expecting parents are on multiple waitlists. In the capital city of St. John’s, it’s also common advice to get on any waitlist you can find.

Users in online child care groups in the city say you should be calling day care operators immediately, even before telling your family you are expecting.

"The second I heard a heartbeat, I called," one woman wrote.

It didn’t do much good for Cahill-Bouzane, who signed up for waitlists a few weeks into her first pregnancy, and is still waiting for a full-time spot.

"I really didn’t think that it would take until she was almost four years old for her to get a daycare spot," she said. "I didn’t think it would be that difficult."

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