QELN believes in the importance of an accessible system of high-quality early learning and care, which meets the needs of children and families. We are dedicated to working with the Ontario government, municipalities, school boards and others to make this system a reality.
Programs and services must use proven best-practices, must be responsive and must be family centred, taking into account the diverse needs of all parents and local neighbourhoods. We believe that these programs and services – licensed centre-based and home-based child care, school age care, pre-natal and post-natal education, parent support, literacy activities, early intervention programs and services for children with special needs – are best delivered by community-based not-for-profit agencies.
QELN supports full-day learning for 4 and 5 year olds and we applaud the Ontario government for implementing this valuable program. We also support the government’s commitment to stabilize and transform the child care system and applaud their recognition of the importance of community partners.
An immediate crisis in child care
The transition of 4 and 5 year olds to the public education system has had a dramatic impact on the child care system.
While government stabilization funding is appreciated, it has not kept pace with the fact that it is far more resource-intensive to care for younger children. This has put tremendous pressure on Ontario’s licensed, not-for-profit child care centres, creating shortages and waitlists. Many families are left with no options. Too often, parents must leave the workforce, making it harder for families to earn a reasonable income and stifling Ontario’s economic growth.
It is critically important for the government to address this immediate crisis by focusing its efforts on programs for children 3 years of age and under.
The need for action
Although the government’s recent announcement of three-year stabilization funding will keep some licensed child care centres in Ontario communities open, it’s only part of what’s needed.
To give our children the best start possible, Ontario urgently needs to transform and solidify the system. A comprehensive range of flexible service and policy options would meet children’s, families’ and communities’ needs. We strongly believe that:
• Good quality early learning and care programs benefit both children and families.
• A strong and healthy child care sector will ensure the success of full day learning for 4 and 5 year olds, as they will be developmentally prepared for a school setting.
• Publicly planned and managed early learning and care is much more effective than the current market-based approach to service development and delivery.
• Stabilization and transformation will require substantially increased public funding.
• Supply-side or base funding to programs is demonstrably more effective for ensuring access and quality than demand-side funding models such as parent fee subsidies or cash payments to parents.
• Based on the best evidence, the operation of early learning and care programs should be on a not-for-profit basis.
QELN wants to continue to work with the government to support the development of an integrated funding, policy and legislative approach. We bring proven expertise that can inform a new approach, ensuring safe, high-quality child care for children and their families.
What should be done today?
Short-term actions can create additional stability and should be congruent with well-designed, planned, long-term policy solutions. For the Ontario early learning and care system to survive and thrive, a multi-pronged approach is needed that includes:
• Immediate, emergency financial assistance;
• long-term policy framework;
• Increased stable public funding; and
• A modernized funding model.
The Ontario Ministry of Education has released a new framework outlining its approach in 2013 to moving towards a system of quality early years care and services. Among its priorities, the Ministry intends to create an implementation approach for Best Start Child and Family Centres and to stabilize and transform the child care sector. QELN welcomes the Ministry’s framework as a positive step forward.