Ontario is heading for a child care crisis, yet the general public seems mostly oblivious to the ramifications of Bill 10 which this week passed Second Reading, and is now in the Committee Stage. The Liberal majority government curtailed debate on Bill 10, and refused to support a public consultation process which would allow families and child care professionals from all parts of Ontario the opportunity to provide meaningful input on this legislation before it is presented for Third and Final Reading.
The background on this legislation is that the existing Day Nurseries Act has not been updated in many years. With the changes to the public education system, and some high profile cases which resulted in the tragic deaths of children in care, the government brought forward Bill 143. The provincial election this year meant that Bill 143 had to be re-tabled as Bill 10. While it is admirable to try and create safer and higher quality child care environments for children, what many people do not realize is that the government has done nothing to address some of the key issues with Bill 10. For example, in at least one of the cases where the government is facing litigation, the government had failed to act on complaints about the location and/or operator. Additionally, the Ombudsman has reported that many licensed centres are currently operating with expired certificates, due to lack of renewal inspections. In the Ottawa area it is estimated that about 60% of the “licensed facilities” are operating without a valid license. Again Bill 10 does nothing to address this in a substantive way. Do parents know when they are placing their children in a program that the facility has gone beyond the mandated time frame for re-inspection? Do they ask? Or do they assume that the government is “doing its job”? Increasing fines for operating a child care facility outside of the legislative requirements does not really mean much when this is the “status quo”.
What are the practical implications of Bill 10? It is estimated that as many as 140,000 children will be displaced by the legislation. Bill 10 imposes restrictions on independent child care professionals that will limit the ages of the children in care, expands the ages of children who must be counted in the total number of children, and adds the caregiver’s own children into the group. As a result, almost every home child care provider in the province will need to release children. Many will shut their doors as their business will no longer be viable. Some will try to make up for the reduced number of children they can care for by increasing their fees. You may think to yourself, “this does not affect me, I have a nanny”. Wrong. Bill 10 will make it illegal for families to share a nanny, a fairly common practice, especially among first time parents. “My children go to a centre, it does not affect me”. Maybe, maybe not. You will now be competing with thousands of other children for limited spaces, what happens if your child is about to “age out” of one group? Many centres specifically do not guarantee a spot in the next age group; you may not have a spot in the next age group due to competition for scarce child care spaces. What about shift workers and others such as teachers, nurses, doctors, paramedics and police officers who have enjoyed the flexibility of independent child care professionals? Their caregivers will be forced to release children who do not fit the prescribed age bands, and many caregivers are indicating they may have to forgo any clients who need part time or flexible schedules, as they will need to only accept full time/full fee clients to offset the reduction in the number of children they can care for. Did you know that children between the ages of 10 and 13 who are often supervised in a home child care setting in their neighbourhoods are going to be displaced? Under the current legislation a caregiver does not have to “count” these children, but under Bill 10 they will count. Your friendly neighbourhood independent child care provider will no longer be able to afford to “keep an eye” on your child who may not quite be ready for being at home alone after school. It is estimated that “unlicensed” child care providers care for approximately 800,000 children in Ontario, more than twice the number in “licensed” settings. Are you starting to see why this might affect you? Did you know that this legislation will increase the number of children/caregiver in certain settings? How does Bill 10 make sense when independent child care professionals have so clearly been targeted for extinction by this legislation?
I am an independent child care professional, and have been for many years. I offer a high quality, holistic child care setting that includes not only the child, but also their family. My interest and efforts for each of the children extends well beyond a 40 hour work week. What I offer is different than what a nanny offers, and different from what a family will experience in a child care centre. None of these choices are wrong, and all of these settings may be perfectly suitable. Some of these options may work better for some families than others. I am also a parent who has been on the other side of this equation. I liken this discussion to the difference between having a baby using a family doctor, as compared to an obstetrician, as compared to a midwife. I have had all three of these experiences – I was delighted with the outcome in each case (I took home a beautiful baby!). All of these professionals were perfectly qualified to “do the job”, but the time and detailed care that the midwife provided was nothing like what I had experienced before, and I still highly recommend that people consider this option if it is suitable for them. Not that many years ago midwives were subjected to the threat of law to “shut them down”, which is ridiculous when you see the professionalism and experience that they bring to prenatal care. Like the midwives in Ontario and B.C. twenty years ago, independent child care professionals, welcome the opportunity to work directly with the Ministry on a registry and/or licensing process. This is the best way to ensure quality care and accountability. We would like to see the “kiddie warehouses” shut down, we want parents to be aware of the rules and know what quality care looks like. Bill 10, as it stands, will not do that. Many of us also feel that there are parts of Bill 10 which do not reflect the reality of the child care needs of Ontario families today, and are based on assumptions derived from urban centres, and do not account for some of the challenges in rural communities. Since the government is not going to permit public consultation through-out the province, your best opportunity to have your concerns heard, is to make a submission to the standing committee on Bill 10.
I have included links to many articles and information on this legislation on my Facebook page if you would like to read more about what others are saying about Bill 10.
These are the emails for the clerk and members of the Committee on Bill 10. Please write to them TODAY to express your concerns.
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