An ongoing campaign is necessary to get more licensed home daycare spaces in the community, even after a Dundas pilot project succeeded in establishing one new licensed day care operation in the Valley Town, in 2008.
With new scrutiny placed on legally-operating unlicensed daycare in Ontario after the death of a child in Vaughn, and an ongoing investigation by the Ontario Ombudsman of the Ministry of Education’s handling of complaints about unlicensed daycare, there is still more to be done locally depsite completion of the $72,300 pilot project in Dundas five years ago.
“With the recent tragedies in unlicensed care in Ontario, we would like to see all child care providers in Ontario meet the current minimum licensing standards,” said Brenda Ferguson, director of communications for Today’s Family – which received the 2009 Ontario Trillium grant for the pilot project.
Creating 10 new licensed daycare providers in Dundas was one of the project’s goals, but the result came up short. Ferguson said consultants on the pilot project found unlicensed home child care in Dundas outnumbered licensed home care spaces.
That pilot project followed quickly on the heels of a November 2007 assessment of child care in Dundas, completed in conjunction with Hamilton’s Social Planning and Research Council, Today’s Family, several other Dundas day care providers, and local parents.
The report suggested parents were not well-informed on the differences between licensed and unlicensed care – and recommended a campaign aimed at educating them.
“The Innovation in Early Learning and Child Care Initiative was designed to address aspects of each of the recommendations from the Dundas child care report,” Ferguson said.
An outside consultant and local advisory group tried to develop a network of caregivers that would form a “back-up system” for Dundas residents and a series of educational and professional development opportunities. A total of 24 workshops were held in Dundas with as many as 75 participants. New resources, including books, brochures and posters were created.
But another goal was recruiting and training 10 new licensed home child care spaces. Formal outreach to potential caregivers included newspaper ads, flyers and brochures distributed through recreation centres and the public library.
“By the end of the initiative, one new licensed home care operation was established, creating up to five new child care spaces in Dundas,” Ferguson said. “In terms of challenges, the consultants again identified time as a factor. They explained that in Dundas the number of unlicensed home child care operations far exceeds the number of those that are unlicensed.”
She added it was important to note the one new operator was the first new licensed day care established in Dundas in four years.
“While information sessions and the brochure will help to educate the public on the benefits of licensed home child care, it wlll require an ongoing social marketing campaign to achieve the cultural shift needed.”