A guide for parents in Canada

Do you live in a rural, remote or northern community?

As parents know, regulated child care is especially hard to find in rural, remote and northern communities. The market model of child care provision, primarily financed by parent fees in most of Canada, is especially problematic in rural, remote and northern areas due to low population density, large geographic distances and many parents working non-standard schedules. 

A new paper from the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, funded by CUPW and Canada Post provides a current overview of the state of rural child care in Canada: Child care can't wait till the cows come home: Rural child care in the Canadian context.

The executive summary is available in both English and French.

This usually adds up to an unsustainable financial situation for child care.  As a result, many rural communities have few regulated child care options.

  • Seasonal work is the norm for rural families who may work long hours for part of the year and then minimal or irregular hours for other parts of the year.
  • In farm families, one parent may be working off the farm.
  • The need for child care to address child safety issues on farms and other rural workplaces makes the lack of child care a pressing concern.
  • Large geographic distances make it difficult for parents to access child care and for providers to serve spread-out populations.
  • Finding and retaining qualified staff may be significantly harder in rural, remote and northern areas due to low wages and limited career options.
  • Some provincial/ territorial governments and employers have experimented with options or special funding for models of regulated child care suited to the needs of families living in rural communities but often these have not been sustained.
two toddlers playing

A successful rural example…

One model of successful regulated child care in a rural setting is that developed by the Childcare-Family Access Network in Langruth, Manitoba (C-FAN). C-FAN has developed and sustained a number of child care centres in rural Manitoba using an integrated hub model. This model is based on central administration for multiple sites to cut down on overhead costs and enable resource sharing such as program materials and professional development. Partnerships with other community organizations and local business are also used to keep program costs down and provide child and family programs to the community.

Key to C-FAN’s success and longevity is the support provided by the Manitoba government; the provincial government accommodates the special circumstances of rural communities through the licensing process and modifications to the funding model. This is critical for sustaining the flexible care arrangements (including multi-age groups and seasonal arrangements) provided by C-FAN, thus allowing the organization to cope with the realities of rural communities.

Options for parents in rural, remote or northern communities

  • While regulated child care may be more limited in rural communities than in larger population centres, it is not nonexistent. Parents in rural communities should be aware that some regulated child care may be available, so it’s important to check out the specific province/territory and local community using the tools provided in this website.
  • In addition, parents should be aware that provinces/territories may have developed family support services for rural families that provide information about child care options, parenting or drop-in programs, and other children’s services.
  • Among regulated child care possibilities, regulated family child care may be more able to accommodate the needs of children and families in rural, remote and northern regions.