Two years ago, Marisol Petersen’s family was paying more than $1,200 a month for her son to attend child care in this small, coastal town about 20 miles across the Howe Sound from Vancouver. Despite the cost, which made it hard to put any money in savings, she felt lucky to even have a spot.

Then, in September 2022, the family experienced a dramatic shift in fortune. They were notified that there was a spot for them in a nearby child care center that had recently signed on to a government-led initiative to lower parent fees to just $10 a day. “It’s like I won the lottery,” Petersen said. “I got into child care and a ‘$10 a Day’ site.”

At the new center, the Huckleberry Coast Child Care Society, Petersen’s fees are capped at $200 a month. Without that reduction in fees, Petersen, who works as a social planner for the city of Vancouver, said her family would “be in massive trouble.”

The “$10 a Day” child care initiative, as it’s known in British Columbia, has been life-changing for parents. In the five years since it launched, it has also provided some financial stability for child care programs in the province, which now receive operating funds directly from the government instead of relying solely on family-paid tuition.

This idea — that parents should pay an average of $10 a day for child care and that public funds should underwrite child care programs — is now a cornerstone of a new national child care system rolling out across the country.

As American child care experts call for more federal investment to salvage a struggling industry, Canada’s experience may hold the most relevant lessons on how to make universal child care palatable to politicians and how to design a program to meet the needs of a diverse, geographically sprawling nation. With its new system, Canada has had to strike a balance between upholding the federal vision and allowing local autonomy over details, and between addressing the financial burden for parents while determining how to directly fund child care programs to ensure their stability.

Read the full article about Canada’s national child care system by Jackie Mader at The Hechinger Report.