Child care centres across the province were given the green light to reopen on Friday, June 12th.
For parents who have been waiting for more support balancing the demands of work and child care during the pandemic, this could have been welcome news.
The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC) along with the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) were ready and willing to consult with the provincial government and develop clear guidelines for reopening safe, affordable and high quality child care centres.
Instead, the provincial government did not consult with the experts, and child care centres are now on the hook to purchase PPE, add new screening protocols, and enhance cleaning and disinfecting guidelines with little time to prepare. Meanwhile, lower child-to-staff ratios mean operators will have to make difficult decisions on which kids they will welcome back.
The provincial guidelines for reopening were modeled off lessons learned from the Emergency Child Care Centres which served children of essential workers. While it is critical that child care centres do all they can to keep children and their communities safe throughout the pandemic, these facilities were three times more expensive to operate.
I am hearing from child care providers that, without additional funding, they may have to hike fees or risk permanent shut down.
Toronto parents pay the highest child care rates in the country and Ontario already has a shortage of child care spaces. Many working parents will find it difficult or impossible to return to work without affordable child care options. The burden of these costs cannot fall on child care centres or the families that rely on them.
The provincial government must step in and ensure child care can reopen in a way that is safe, high quality, and affordable.
During this pandemic and beyond, child care in Ontario needs:
- Consultation with child care operators, early childhood educators, public health experts and parents.
- Integration of government guidelines with OCBCC and AECEO recommendations from their report From reopening to recovery: A child care plan for Ontario.
- Transparent and clearly communicated guidelines for operators with realistic timelines.
- Increased funding so operators can provide safe, quality programs without facing permanent shut down or downloading fees onto parents.
Learn more: Watch my 15 minute interview with Amy O'Neil, Director of Treetop Children's Centre and Chair of the Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care to hear what child care providers need to safely reopen.
Please fill out the form below to send a message to the Minister of Education, Premier Doug Ford, and your local MPP to demand that the government support a safe reopening of child care centres in Ontario.