Alberta’s Children’s Charter

As per my previous blog post, I recently received an email invitation from AISCA (Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta) regarding feedback on the Alberta Children’s Charter through a friend of mine, who is a preschool owner and teacher in Airdrie.
With the background of working with dayhomes, agencies and parents, and the interests of both parents and childcare providers in mind, I have read all of the documents, and have outlined my feedback and suggestions below. In my response, I have quoted the documents in italics and then given my feedback below each quote.

From the Common Themes Report:
Family-Friendly Policies
Many participants remarked on the need for family-friendly policies in the development and delivery of provincial programs and systems, as well as in the private sector and the community at large. Participants suggested that government do more to accommodate stay-at-home and single parents, particularly with respect to education and job training, tax benefits, and maternity/parental leave. Employers were acknowledged to play an important role in supporting working parents, and participants called for employers to provide improved benefits and workplace flexibility. Community infrastructure, both physical and social, was highlighted as an important component of family wellness, and participants advised governments to employ family-friendly design principles in developing this infrastructure. 
These policies need to include childcare. At the moment, many parents are not able to find the subsidized childcare they need due to shift work, odd hours, locations, etc. However, there are many private dayhomes who, while they are not able to offer subsidy because of the current regulations, they do offer shift work schedules, overnight care, etc.  The highly divisive system of private family dayhomes and accredited family dayhomes no longer works. Only accredited dayhomes are able to offer subsidy, but because of the overly high and stringent accreditation requirements, accredited dayhomes are not allowed to offer the care that these families need.
There was recently an article in the Edmonton Journal about daycares having three year wait lists, and yet many family dayhomes have spaces available immediately!! However, if a family needs, and qualifies for subsidy, their options for childcare are immediately limited. I believe ALL dayhomes should have the option to go through an approval process, whether they choose to run privately or through an agency, and once approved, should then be able to offer subsidy to any family who qualifies for it.
 
“Removing Legislative and Regulatory Barriers
Participants identified several administrative, legislative, and regulatory barriers that prevent the effective delivery of early childhood development and poverty reduction programs and services, including a lack of a coordinated, collaborative continuum of supports. Legislation on information sharing was frequently mentioned, along with program eligibility requirements and restrictions, especially in the areas of income support and affordable housing. Participants recommended focusing less on rules and definitions, and more on desired client outcomes.” 
As the owner and operator of Dayhome Registry (www.dayhomeregistry.com), we support and provide resources for private family dayhomes, and works with agencies and individual accredited dayhomes. Through my work, I hear a lot about the legislative and regulatory barriers in the family dayhome childcare industry. I have heard from many private dayhomes who USED to be accredited through an agency, but chose to leave and operate privately because the requirements and paperwork needed to maintain accreditation were taking away from their primary role, which is providing high quality care for the children in their dayhome.
I know that there currently is a third category that a private dayhome can apply for; the Group Family Day Home. However the requirements for this process do not align with city by-laws, in either Edmonton or Calgary, and so as a result, NO private dayhome has EVER been approved!  This is precisely the legislative and regulatory barriers that were mentioned in the document.
 
I have also been involved in the Early Childhood Mapping Project, through some of the Edmonton Coalitions, and am very concerned that EC Map funding was canceled. As of right now, we have not heard anything about how the work of the coalitions will continue without a central organization to spearhead it.  While I fully understand that the mapping project was a specific project, and the funding was tied to that, we NEED to continue to more forward with all the data gathered and figure out the next steps so we can improve the lives of the children in Alberta.
As was mentioned in the Early Childhood Development Document, page 12, “It is important to continue to collect Early Development Instrument (EDI) data on child health and well-being in our communities in order for community members to know how well children are developing in their own community, and to continuously support actions for positive outcomes for all children.”  However, without a central unit to collect and analyze this data, it will be very difficult for the province to move forward and measure if the steps we are taking are improving the lives of our children.
 
“The principles of accessibility and affordability of child care and a strong early childhood development system were common themes for a significant number of participants. Many respondents identified the child care and early childhood development systems as crucial entry points into the broader education system, recognizing their potential to reduce inequities by providing additional supports for children and families. Education and life-long learning were identified by many respondents as principles with the potential to build resiliency and allow individuals to reach their full potential.” 
By having essentially a two tier system for family dayhomes, the government has reduced the accessibility for families to access the kind of childcare that they feel is right for their children and for their family. As I have stated before, the regulations around accreditation remove the ability for accredited dayhomes to offer extended hours childcare, or overnight care for shift workers. However, those dayhomes who are able to offer this kind of care are only able to operate privately, and therefore, are not able to offer subsidy to those families who need it.
“Participants saw all levels of government as being responsible for reducing inequities and barriers to services and ensuring that children’s basic needs are met. Safe and affordable housing, and child care and education were frequently identified as basic needs. Respondents felt that Albertans should be able to access these services regardless of socio-economic status, geography or other barriers.”
 
One of the barriers I see for working parents, particularly single parents, is the cost of childcare. The current subsidy qualification level of $50,000 annual income is much too low, especially given the current economic climate and cost of living. It is very normal for a family to be paying nearly $2000/month for full time childcare for two children. On a family income of $50,000/year, or just over $4000/month, this leaves very, very little for any other expenses. I truly believe the qualifying annual income for subsidy for childcare needs to be re-examined, and raised significantly.
 
From the Poverty Reduction Document, page. 8
“creating a provincial child tax benefit; creating a provincial caregiver tax benefit; providing earned tax credits for the working poor; and extending the family employment tax credit to singles and childless couples.”
 
A provincial caregiver tax benefit would be a huge benefit to those wanting to provide childcare. Again, though, this needs to be accessible by everyone. Setting up a family dayhome is an expensive enterprise, especially in the first few months while the caregiver is advertising, interviewing families, and acquiring children to care for.  Many potential childcare owners wish to educate themselves before taking in children. This can be an expense that prohibits people from doing exactly this. Financial assistance for those who wish to work in the childcare industry would greatly benefit childcare workers, families and of course, the children themselves.
As it stands right now, people who wish to receive their Child Development Assistant Certificate by taking a free online course, must meet the requirement of having a current job!  This immediately prevents the parent on parental leave, or the stay at home parent who wishes to contribute to the family income and provide childcare for their children, and others, from doing so.  If our goal is to reduce poverty and help more people enter the workforce and contribute to Alberta’s economy, we need to facilitate the education of people first!  We need to  ensure that anyone who wants to provide childcare has access to education about Early Childhood Development, improve the brain development, education, and early literacy skills of the children in their care. (as mentioned on page 10)
Page 9, Supports for Families and Children
Child care was frequently mentioned, with participants calling for an increased
number of child care spaces, an increase in child care subsidies, increased wages for child care staff, and a wider range of quality child care options. 
 
I truly believe that anyone who wishes to provide childcare for families should be given the option of going through an approval process so they can offer subsidy to families in need. However, I also believe not all family dayhome providers should be required to work through an agency in order to receive this approval.
Currently, our system has a single requirement for private family dayhomes. This is that they can only take six children into their care.  There are NO other requirements. This leaves private dayhome providers floundering and wondering what they need to do in order to set up a quality childcare arrangement. As part of our business, I get this question from people wanting to start a dayhome ALL THE TIME!!
On the flip side, the accreditation process for accredited dayhomes is very stringent, sometimes to the point of creating barriers for potential providers. For example, the current ratio requirements mean that a parent who has twins, and has to go back to work before his/her children turn one, CANNOT place the children together in an accredited dayhome, as the ratio states only one child under the age of one!!  And with daycare having waiting lists as long as three years, the only place they have left to turn is family (if that is even an option) a nanny, or private dayhomes, none of which give them the option of applying for subsidy.
Dayhome providers need to be given the option of continuing to run autonomously, but still have some guidance and support,  as well as an ability to become approved, and therefore provide subsidy, based on a set criteria. The basic criteria set out on the Finding Quality Childcare, on the Alberta Human Services Website would be a great place to start.
I completely agree with all of the comments and recommendations made in the Enriched Early Learning and Care section of the Early Childhood Development Summary Document, and my earlier comments speak to exactly that.
Early Childhood Development Summary Document, Page. 9
“Some participants noted that information on child care can be hard to find, and some suggested that families could benefit from easier-to-access resources for finding out more about child care options in their communities. Some also suggested that it would also be helpful to have easily accessible information on 
alternatives to child care centres, for example private day homes.”
 
This is precisely what our business, Dayhome Registry, has set out to do. As parents, we found it very difficult to find information about alternatives to childcare centres for ourselves, and so we created a business around this very problem.  I truly believe that by working together and being Champions for Children, we can create a system in which all of the children of Alberta are given the potential to achieve their own greatness.

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