In last week’s edition of The Toronto Star, you may have come across a familiar face. Our CEO Marni Flaherty was interviewed about licensed home child care in Ontario.
The piece, written by social justice reporter Laurie Monsebraaten, did an excellent job of painting a complete portrait of what licensed child care is and what it means for parents, children, caregivers and providers. We encourage you to check out the article at http://on.thestar.com/2mdLI1S and stay informed about how these issues affect you and your family. However, we’ll offer up a quick summary and some follow-up thoughts from Marni herself.
The Importance of the Vulnerable Sector Police Check
Prior to a home being opened to have children in care, the child care provider and all residents in the home (18 years of age and older), must successfully complete a criminal reference check and vulnerable sector screening. This check is similar to a background check; it fully discloses any pre-existing offences which may indicate that it is not safe for an individual to be around children. Any parent can ask if their child care provider holds a current vulnerable sector check at any time. Rest assured, if your provider is part of the licensed home child care sector, the home child care agency has already reviewed these documents.
The Difference Between Licensed and Unlicensed Child Care
An unlicensed child care provider is only allowed to care for up to 5 children under the age of 12, with their own children being included in this number. A provider who is part of a licensed home child care agency is able to care for 6 children and will also have a home visitor check in on a regular basis, providing you with the peace of mind that comes from a third party ensuring the safety and welfare of your child. Unlicensed providers are not regulated as such. Those who are affiliated with a licensed home child care agency are also required to provide a list of the children who attend their facility and keep the list updated with the home child care agency. Unlicensed providers are not.
When caring for children, ratios are important. One adult only has one pair of eyes, and those eyes can easily be overwhelmed when caring for too many children. The Government regulations ensure that children receive adequate supervision at all times. A child care provider who is licensed through an agency has additional sets of eyes in a sense – home visitors who check in monthly to ensure that the care being provided is of the highest quality and the home is as safe as it could possibly be for children. This means that a licensed provider is able to care for up to one additional child. These measures ensure that all child care providers are not stretched beyond their means.
The Next Five Years…
Over the next five years, the Ontario Government plans on adding 100,000 licensed child care spaces for children. Licensed home child care can easily help to create welcoming, quality spaces for children and families across the province. More child care providers becoming part of the licensed home child care sector is good for families. The article in The Star states, “Changing provincial regulations so unlicensed home daycares are allowed to care for just three children under age 6, would be more incentive for them to become licensed…The association would also like to see municipalities pay home child care agencies directly for their oversight and support role.”
Catching Up With Marni
We had a conversation with Marni recently and asked her to answer a few outlying questions we had about her comments in The Star.
Today’s Family: The article states that many new parents are sleep-deprived, short on cash and anxious to get back to work and they experience stress when they need to find child care that they can trust as soon as possible. How does the Licensed system help these parents?
Marni: Yes, parents are catapulted in to a new world when a child enters their lives. A world where they no longer have to just organize, make decisions and protect themselves. They have a responsibility for a new life. A precious life. To help parents, we are advocating for more options for licensed care because:
- The licensed system has quality assurance measures
- The licensed system has qualified educators
- The licensed system has access to fee subsidy for families who qualify for financial support. Fee subsidy in some cases can pay 100% of the cost of care.
Today’s Family: The article stated, vaguely, that parents may not be able to afford licensed home child care as it may be more expensive than unlicensed care. Doesn’t subsidy help these parents?
Marni: Child care can be expensive. Of course, subsidy can help some parents who qualify. In a perfect world there would be enough subsidy for all the families who needed it. At this point, there is a limited amount of subsidy.
- In regards to Licensed vs. Unlicensed Care costs: depending on the neighborhood, unlicensed care can be much more expensive. It would be great if we could regulate rates to ensure affordability.
- Subsidy is available through the municipal governments. Ask us, at Today’s Family to help you apply for subsidy.
Today’s Family: An imbalance exists in the system; currently, if unlicensed care did not exist, there are not enough licensed homes to make up the difference. Are any blatant measures being taken to fill the gap before new regulations role out?
Marni: Well, at this point in time, there is unlicensed care. There is a commitment from the current provincial government to develop 100, 000 new licensed child care spaces in Ontario. These spaces will be a combination of:
- Licensed spaces in community settings
- Licensed home child care spaces
- Licensed child care paces in elementary schools (where there is space available)
We believe that licensed home child care is the answer for many family’s needs. New legislation and regulations are helping to clarify expectations. It is our hope that folks providing care in their homes will join licensed agencies, increasing availability to families.
Today’s Family: Parents trust their instincts when it comes to finding care for their children, but is it fair to say that the current system of finding appropriate child care is a stressful on for parents?
Marni: Instincts only go so far. We should always trust our instinct if we are uncomfortable. Parents have resources to help them navigate options. Parents should check out the Ministry of Educations Early Years Website, visit their local Ontario Early Years or Parenting Centre to help them make an informed decision. And then and only then can they proceed, as long as their instincts tell them to.
Child Care can be confusing and stressful for parents, even on the best of days. Know that we at Today’s Family are concerned about the welfare of your children and our doing our best to ensure that the Province is making good choices when it comes to regulating child care.
Whether you’re a parent of a child who is cared for by Today’s Family or not, or if you’re a Child Care Provider, we want you to know that our door is always open for your questions, comments or concerns. We’re here to help you feel comfortable with your choice of child care.
Please, feel free to contact us on Social Media or via e-mail at [email protected]. We’re @TodaysFamilyOnt on Twitter and Today’s Family Early Learning and Child Care on Facebook.
We would like to thank The Star and Laurie Monsebraaten for featuring such a wonderful, clear and comprehensive piece on the current happenings with our Government and Child Care. Again, we encourage you to read the article in its entirety at http://on.thestar.com/2mdLI1S.
Until next time, thanks for reading!
– Today’s Family