Record of absent children: CPEs fear losing subsidies

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Record of absent children: CPEs fear losing subsidies

The attendance rate has dropped sharply due to viruses and the registration rate has dropped with telework.

In some daycare centers, more than a third of the children are absent due to the various viruses in circulation.

Childhood centers (CPE) and subsidized daycare centers are afraid of incurring financial penalties from the Quebec government if the cascade of sick children continues. Several have indeed fallen below the attendance threshold of 70%, below which they lose subsidies.

Thursday, at La Pépinière daycare center in Longueuil, there were 43 children out of a total of 63. An attendance rate of 68%. I don't know what it will look like in the budget at the end of the year, said director Phan Phuong-Minh, worried. It's never happened in the entire history of the daycare.

It's far from the only facility to fall below the attendance threshold because several respiratory viruses are affecting children in Quebec at the same time this fall. Since the current viral attack, we have been driving with 60-65% attendance, says Guy Arsenault, director of CPE Alexis le Trotteur, in Montreal.

The Association québécoise des CPE claims to receive many calls from its members on this subject, all over Quebec. Being penalized for this creates a lot of stress for corporations, explains AQCPE strategic advisor Geneviève Blanchard.

“Schools also have more absences, but they are not going to lose grants. »

— Geneviève Blanchard, strategic advisor to the Association québécoise des CPE

The AQCPE has asked the Quebec Family Ministry to be conciliatory, and she is hopeful that he will be sensitive to the situation. Contacted by Radio-Canada, the department promises to analyze the figures at the end of the fiscal year.

The attendance rate is calculated over 12 months. Missed days include vacations, holidays, and all types of absences. During the pandemic, the government lowered the limit from 80% to 70% to accommodate daycares, but the current situation creates a new challenge.

The pediatric emergency room has been overwhelmed for several weeks.

Claudette Pitre-Robin, the executive director of the Regroupement des CPE de la Montérégie, notes that parents are extra careful as the holidays approach and are more tempted to withdraw their child from daycare.

She says that CPEs in her region closed entire groups because all the children were absent. The absenteeism rate is truly alarming.

“The morale of the management is quite low. Coming out of COVID isn't easy, and there are significant financial concerns on top of that. »

—  Claudette Pitre-Robin, Executive Director of the Regroupement des CPE de la Montérégie

Some CPEs admit that frequent absences can help in a context of labor shortage #x27;work. But it is still necessary that the establishments be notified of the absence of a child.

In general, the absence is not planned, so sometimes we bring in a substitute educator and in the end the group is very weak. So that creates a lot of administrative difficulties, explains Claudette Pitre-Robin.

Meat must be thawed and meals prepared before knowing the exact number of meats. #x27;children present, adds Phan Phuong-Minh, from La Pépinière daycare.

The 70% threshold was set to take into account a possible increase in absence due to the health situation, mentions the Ministry of the Family. Quebec calculates that this gives a potential of 78 days of absence in the year for a child, in which it is necessary to count the 13 statutory holidays and vacations.

The Ministère de la Famille will analyze the situation with respect to the attendance rate, following the transmission of the 2022-2023 annual financial reports. However, it is premature to take a position at this time, said spokesperson Bryan St-Louis.

“The ministry will make the necessary adjustments in a timely manner to prevent childcare services from being penalized by this particular context.

— Bryan St-Louis, spokesperson for the Quebec Ministry of Families

Suzanne Roy is the new Quebec Family Minister.

In 2016, the opposition had criticized the establishment of funding calculated according to an attendance threshold. The Parti Québécois called the measure an aberration.

According to the daycare directors we spoke to, their current financial worries are intimately linked to the relaxation of health guidelines. In times of high transmission, we could not expect anything other than an increase in infections in our communities, says Guy Arseneault.

An opinion shared by Phan Phuong-Minh: We decide that we remove the sanitary measures, we make the choice that we are going to live with the virus, but that has consequences. The children get sick and the parent stays with him. Afterwards, the parent is too sick to take him to daycare.

In addition to the many absences, CPEs in downtown Montreal and Quebec are facing a problem that would make other regions green with envy: hundreds of vacant places. On the other hand, if a center does not have an occupancy (registration) rate of at least 90%, it will lose subsidies.

On rue Saint-Urbain, in Montreal, the CPE Lafontaine has 36 free places out of 143 for an occupancy rate of 75%. Many families have left the center of Montreal, have a more hybrid way of working, notes Émeline Bardoux, mother of two children and president of the board of directors of the establishment.

“Fill rates define how much you earn. But you have to have your staff. You have fixed costs. The rent does not change if you have fewer children. »

— Émeline Bardoux, President of the Board of Directors of CPE Lafontaine

The director of CPE Le Petit Réseau, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, has just filled all of her vacant places , but with pain and misery. It's hard work, says Mylène Bouffard.

Parents desert us. They don't go downtown anymore, the traffic is long. For parents who live on the South or North Shore, they have to work two hours a day to pick up their children.

According to her, the ministry should adapt its subsidy scheme. The most recent data provided by the ministry (December 31, 2021) showed 1,725 ​​free places in Montreal (average of 93% occupancy) and 192 vacant places in Quebec (average of 97%).

With the collaboration of Romain Schué

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