The majority of regulated child care in Ontario is provided through the private sector, either non-profit or for-profit centres or individuals, and some larger multi-service organizations or corporate chains. Opening new spaces and maintaining child care programs is largely left up to the private sector. This ‘market’ approach to child care provision creates a diversity of working contexts for ECEs and experiences for children and families in regulated child care. There is no comprehensive plan to facilitate universal access to regulated child care for children 0 – 12 years in Ontario.
Early childhood education and child care falls under provincial jurisdiction (there is currently no federal role in education or child care) and is the responsibility of the Ontario Ministry of Education. Regulated child care centres and family home child care agencies are licensed and monitored by the Ministry of Education. Individual family child care providers are monitored by the family child care agency.
Ontario is unique in that local governments also play a primary role in child care. In Ontario, 47 local governments are designated Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Services Administration Boards (CMSMs and DSSABs), responsible for planning and managing child care services, administering fee subsidies and allocating additional resources to families and centres providing care to children with a disability. In addition, about half of these also provide municipal/regionally-operated (public) child care in centres or through family child care agencies.
Because of this local government role, ECEs may experience different funding arrangements and working requirements from one municipality/region to another, including additional quality criteria and curriculum expectations. Each CMSM and DSSAB has a Children’s Services department and is responsible for creating a service plan that can be accessed online. The contact information for Children’s Services in your CMSM or DSSAB can be found here.
New child care legislation, the Child Care and Early Years Act 2014, was passed in December 2014. The Child Care and Early Years Act is an important move forward for child care in Ontario. Legislation provides the overarching laws and rules that govern child care in the province. The new Act includes some important changes, particularly around the oversight of unlicensed family (or home) child care as well as a number of directives to move towards a stronger system of quality early childhood education and child care.
In addition to legislation, regulations are the specific rules of operation that must be followed in order to maintain a child care license. New regulations under the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 are being phased in beginning August 31, 2015. The first set of regulatory changes are described here. Other regulations tied to the old legislation, the Day Nurseries Act, will still be in effect until further notice.
Regulations impact the day-to-day work in child care by setting basic health and safety standards and specific requirements including staff-child ratios, space requirements, nutritional requirements, access to outdoor space and times spent outdoors each day, sleeping arrangements, to name a few.
The Act and Regulations also outline the training requirements for staff in regulated child care centres and homes as follows:
- Centre supervisors must have a two year diploma in early childhood education (ECE), at least two years experience working in a day nursery and be registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario.
- In centres, one staff person with each group of children must have a two year early childhood education diploma and be registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario.
- There are no training requirements for regulated family child care providers, although agencies may provide training.
The Ontario Early Years Policy Framework (link http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/OntarioEarlyYear.pdf) is the most recent policy document from the Ministry of Education. According to the ministry website, “the Ontario Early Years Policy Framework builds on our collective progress and provides a vision for the early years to ensure children from 0-6 years of age have the best possible start in life. The framework is supported by a set of principles and is meant to provide strategic direction to our early years partners both within and outside of government”.
This framework identified priority areas for action:
- continue with the implementation of full-day kindergarten by September 2014
- create an effective approach to implementing Best Start Child and Family Centres by September 2014
- improve the delivery of children's speech and language services
- stabilize and transform the child care sector.
A new funding formula was introduced in 2012. This formula determines how provincial money is distributed to the 47 local governments/service managers and used within those regions.
A memorandum from the Ministry of Education explained that, “the new funding formula is a more transparent, evidence-based and equitable approach to allocating provincial child care funds that respond to demands for services. The new funding framework provides municipalities' flexibility and tools to better manage the child care system at a local level and address issues such as fees and the availability of service”.
A technical paper was released following the introduction of the new funding formula. More information is also available in the Ontario Child Care Service Management and Funding Guideline 2014