Friday, March 8, 2019

Passionately Advocating for CHOICE in Childcare

Update on Bill 66/CCEYA, 2014 Proposed Amendments:

The Child Care Providers Resource Network (CCPRN) has applied to speak in front of the committee and fingers crossed that they are approved as they are an amazing voice for supporting Independent Childcare providers in Ontario the reality is that many independent home childcare providers will not be able to apply to the Standing Committee to present directly in person because we either cannot afford to take time off work or we are not comfortable leaving all our clients without childcare for a day to go and advocate for our own viability or the distance to travel to be there in person is not feasible I wanted to share that your voice still matters!!! BE HEARD! 

You can send in a written submission detailing the points on why you support the proposed changes to the CCEYA as it affects independent home childcare viability to and you can CC the Minister of Education

All written submissions go to the Standing Committee and become part of the Committee exhibit and will form part of the permanent public record of the Committee. 

Deadline for application to present is tomorrow, the deadline for a written submission is March 18th.
Please let the Ford government know what you advocate for in childcare. Otherwise each side of the debate on this will assume your silence, one way or another, supports what they are advocating for which is vastly different!

Below if you care to read is my stance on the key components of the Bill 66 as it affects childcare and my letter to the Standing Committee.

To whom it may concern;

I am writing today as an Early Childhood Educator who has called the early years my home for 30 years now. I am writing because I cannot attend the Standing Committee hearings in person but want my voice to be heard on the matters being raised in Bill 66. 
I have worked in both licensed and independent 'unlicensed' sector of the industry over the course of my career so have an in depth knowledge of both and their pros and cons for but working environment for staff as well as learning environments for children. I left the licensed centre industry in 2007 shortly after I completed a year long course on inspirations out of Reggio Italy and how they view children and how they learn. I made this choice because the more I reflected on what I now knew about brain development, about the needs of children in the early years and how I believed children learn best I came to realize that a small HOME setting could offer children what a large centre will never able to due to the constraints of that setting. I also left because I came to realize that a small home setting could also address some of my own work life balance, health and stress to my body challenges I was facing working in a large institutional setting. As a result I have spent the last decade passionately supporting the choice of home childcare as a viable long term solution to the access of affordable childcare challenges faced in Ontario. Home childcare is a hugely untapped resource and finding a way for the government to better 'independent' childcare providers are KEY to tapping that resource!  

For me the suggested changes in #Bill66 for childcare are a first step but IMO more should be done to restore viability, clarity and fairness in the home childcare industry.
So up until 2014 LEGAL independent home childcare providers provided childcare to 5 children ALL of whom they could have chosen to be under 2 if they wanted. It was up to them and their clients to determine their skill and comfort level and most providers naturally balanced a mixed age group for their own sanity and those who could rock the multiple young infants did so because they could rock the multiple infants safely! PLUS their own were included in this number so they are accustom to having more than 5 children in care of mixed age up to 10 years of age. The majority have done this SAFELY while offering quality program and choice to families in their community. We need to remember that while horrible incidents all 'deaths and serious injuries' reported in auditor general report on childcare occurred in ILLEGAL childcare programs – they were not following the rules and a license would not have changed that because there are LOTS of licensed childcare programs reported in that same auditor general’s report that were operating 'outside the laws' and on probationary licenses as a result yet still gave parents the 'illusion' of all is well cause they were licensed!

The 2 under 2 and 3 under 3 restrictions of licensed home childcare were WHY many independent providers resisted licensing before this change came into effect in 2014 because they felt that they were HYPERCRITICAL! Mothers for centuries have SAFELY raised multiple children of young ages without the government stepping in. The reality is to imply that it is 'unsafe' to care for more than 2 children under 2 in a home setting is an insult to every parent of 'multiples! It is also hypocritical because the ratios in large 'centres' are much higher and the safe number of children one adult should care for should be consistent across ALL models to help reduce the argument for one model to operate 'illegal' because they see the other operate that way and be considered 'legal'.

IMO this proposed change to 3 under 2 is more in line with licensed 'centre' care ratios where one adult can care for FIVE children, and in my experience having worked in licensed childcare, all of whom may be under the age of two ranging from 16 months to 24 months in age. Than on top of that higher ratio for up to six hours a day in a centre one adult can care for up to EIGHT children ALL of who might be under 2 depending on the enrollment in that room! If that is deemed 'safe quality care' in a centre than surely allowing for one adult to have 5 children and of those allowing for 3 of them be under 2 years of age is more consistent in how centres operate?

Plus, unlike when the original Day Nursery Act was created and maternity leave was only 6 weeks of age so perhaps it made more sense with its 'restrictions' on how many under 2 children one adult should ideally care for because they would be under 2 for a very long time, we now have Maternity leave in Ontario that is between 12 – 18 months. It is 2019 now and many children entering care are well over a year old so the likelihood of a provider having two children who are non-walkers for any length of time is VERY minimal and in my experience with proper fire drill and emergency practices even if ALL your children are non-walkers you can safely manage evacuation of children in a timely manner be it in a home setting or a centre setting. The key is to be proactive and PRACTICE that something sadly many do not think to do but that is where education is needed not necessarily a 'license' because IMO even FAMILY households that do not operate a business of childcare should be practicing this monthly!

For me the Ford governments proposed changes do not go far enough in the way a providers 'own children' are counted with the change to their own childcare 4 and up not counting ... personally I think when it comes to offering childcare for a fee to others ALL children under 13 should count in a childcare provider ratio regardless if the provider gave birth or not. HOWEVER I think they need to adjust the total ratio of how many children one provider can care for to include up to 3 school age children so 8 children in total a mix of your own or daycare clients or all daycare clients should not matter. As this change could definitely help to clarify what is 'legal' vs 'illegal' in the community when choosing childcare because currently one provider can care for 10 children 'legally' if 5 are their own children and another provider with 10 children even if they are all the same ages is considered 'illegal' because their children are all grown and out of the house now. Suddenly that provider is seen as only capable of caring for 5 children despite the demand in her community for more care. In my opinion this inequity and hypocritical approach actually encourages both provider and parents to choose to operate 'illegally' in communities where childcare is in high demand and ‘need’ is great because they can rationalize that the 'rules' are illogical and hypocritical and therefore can justify breaking them. Amending this rule would not only provide clarity on legal vs illegal but it would open up potential 'school age' programming in communities across Ontario where it too is in great demand AND it could encourage seasoned home childcare providers to REMAIN in the industry once their own children reach 13 because they could begin to make a more viable long term income in order to save for retirement and so forth with the additional income school age spaces would offer verses closing up shop because they can now make more money working in retail or service industry than they can as a home childcare provider because they cannot use the ‘balance’ that they are saving on childcare for their own childcare against the income they make in this profession.

As for increased oversight of industry – I agree it is needed. I personally wish that the government would require a 'public registry' at a SMALL fee for ALL home childcare providers where they had to self-declare that they had read the rules, agree to abide and followed the rules and IF there are PROVEN public complaints than that person is REMOVED from active registry and a WARNING placed to the public. Similar to the College of ECE does currently but for ‘home childcare sector’ as this would help ensure SOME oversight and accountability, it would ensure that providers KNOW the rules so cannot deny they didn’t know and parents could also search registry for providers and ensure they've not had issues. This should be able to be done with MINIMAL cost to either providers or government in comparison to the currently option of an 'agency' model as the ONLY choice for oversight.

As for who should ‘fund’ oversight of the childcare industry I think BOTH the business provider AND the government should share the burden fairly – however it should not be done via a forced agency model as currently done. - IMO if done properly ensuring safe, healthy environments could be done via a registry at a fraction of a cost and providers can source professional development and support through already government funded Early ON programs. Sadly the current agency model is like forcing people to have a 'business coach'. We do not all need a 'coach' as the majority of us can operate independently and offer quality programming just fine!

As for the 'health and safety' standards being ensured again IMO the basic ‘health and safety’ expectations of society for ANYONE caring for young children, family member or for a fee to others, should be the SAME for ALL regardless if it’s a family member caring for the child, if it’s a neighbor, a home childcare provider or a LICENSED centre. So in regards to the question 6-8 on this survey from the HCCAO YES I agree that ALL people caring for children should not be known child abusers or pedophiles those people should not have unsupervised access to any children even their own, they should have first aid and CPR, they should regularly inspect their home for health and safety, they should have working fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, they should have proper home and care insurance for their model of care, they should ensure that their equipment for children is up to date and not expired, they should ensure any pets in the home are properly vaccinated, they should keep medications safely out of reach of children …. ALL of them including PARENTS should be held to these standards of health and safety for children in their care and you do not need a LICENSE to do that! What you need is better public education of what ‘health and safety’ is and to VALUE that these are indeed things you SHOULD be doing regardless of who is looking over your shoulder. – IME if you DON’T value them licensed or not you will NOT do them when people are not watching and in that end licensing provides a 'false sense of security' to parents who assume that if licensed a program is ALWAYS complaint and as the auditor generals report showed for licensed care this is NOT the case there are lots of non-complaint programs out there who do not value certain rules therefore do not follow them, including adult to child ratios, even when caught not following them. YET they continue to be allowed to be licensed but with a 'probationary' note that most parents using childcare do not even know to LOOK FOR :(

I was with an agency when I first opened my program – I became independent shortly after because I wanted to keep all my resources on the front line to invest back in my own program not someone else’s business, my clients still get the SAME great program but its more affordable because all the resources are kept on the front line and the reality is the supports that an agency provided that I actually need can be sourced at a fraction of a cost elsewhere via Early On programs and other professional development agencies where I can choose what is needed vs an agency choosing what they think we 'need'!

Do not get me wrong the agency model serves a purpose for providers who NEED the help with finding clients, development of contracts and policy handbooks, who do not want to be responsible to bill and receive fees and just want to 'work and be paid' but work out of their home. However for those of us who can manage our business end of things we do not NEED all the extra stuff agencies offer and the expense it comes with to cover their own overhead is just to great an investment for services not needed. In other business model terms it is like some people want to open a 'Tim Hortons' franchise' because all the work is done for them and as a result they are willing to pay the high fee for that franchise support while others are passionate about baking and happy to be an independent donut shop. They too would be VERY resistant if the government came along and tried to tell them that some independent donut shops are shoddy and putting public at risk (because there are a few) and therefore to ensure that they catch those shoddy donut shops moving forward you must ALL convert and belong to a Tim Horton's Franchise if you want to sell donuts in Ontario! Fact is that even in the franchise model 'some locations' are shoddy – a license is not the answer it is changing what people VALUE as quality childcare and ensuring that both the service providers and the pubic demand that value in their service ;)

We need to protect CHOICE in childcare and to do that we need to support INDEPENDENT home childcare in a financially viable manner that ensures quality childcare to the public!

I sincerely hope that the current Ford government can find solutions that will both improve and support the needs of Ontario families in regards to choice in childcare while ensuring quality early learning for children!

Thank you for your time and consideration

Margaret Wake
You only get one childhood. Let’s make sure it is full of magic, nature and discovery!

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