January 22, 2015 – Ensuring children receive the best possible start in life and parents have access to safe and modern child care, is a top priority for the Ontario government.
On December 2, 2014, the Ontario ‘Child Care Modernization Act’ 2014 (Bill 10) passed third reading in the Ontario legislature, replacing the ‘Day Nurseries Act’ which no longer reflects child care needs or the realities of the child care sector in Ontario.
The Ontario government will have greater authority and enforcement tools to strengthen oversight and enhance safety. The four key changes to the child care system include:
New Authorities and Powers
- The authority to issue administrative penalties of up to $100,000 per infraction
- The authority to stop a child care provider from operating where a child's safety is at risk
- The ability to issue compliance orders and enforce rules in the unlicensed sector
- The requirement to publish information when child care providers are violating the ‘Child Care Modernization Act’
- The power to prevent individuals convicted of certain crimes from providing child care
- Increase the maximum penalty from $2,000 to $250,000 for people found guilty in court of having committed an offence under the ‘Child Care Modernization Act’.
- The ability to share information with other agencies such as Children's Aid Societies and public health agencies to support a more co-ordinated approach in protecting the well-being of children.
Child Care Spaces
- Licensed home child care providers will be allowed to add one additional space – from 5 to 6 children creating approximately 6,000 new licensed child care spaces in the province.
- Unlicensed child care providers will still be permitted to care for a maximum of five children, but they will have to follow the same rules as licensed providers.
Exemptions from Licensing
- Certain types of care will be exempt from licensing, including child care provided by relatives, child-minding at a mall or gym, babysitting, nannies and camps providing programs for school-age children.
- Unlicensed child care providers, who care for no more than five children, will not require a licence.
Child Care Programs
- The legislation and other policy changes reflect a focus on safety and high-quality programs that contribute to healthy child development and well-being.
- This legislation also amends the ‘Education Act’, which requires school boards to ensure “before and after school programs” are available for children from six to twelve years of age - where there is sufficient demand. Programs can be delivered directly by boards, by licensed child care operators or by third-party recreation providers prescribed by regulation.
AMENDMENTS TO THE LEGISLATION
Changes were made to the legislation to support child care providers in home-based settings, to respond to the recommendations of the Ombudsman and support the enforcement focus of the bill, as follows:
- Provide flexibility to home child care providers and acknowledge the implementation of full day kindergarten (FDK), by excluding a provider's own children who are four and five years old, and are enrolled in FDK, from the total number of children that may be cared for - as long as the provider cares for fewer than 2 children under the age of two, and meets prescribed criteria.
- Clarify that the total number of children that can be cared for refers to the number of children being cared for at any one time. This allows providers to continue to care for different children, at different times, and support families with varied work arrangements.
- Support a smooth transition and reduce disruptions for families, by allowing existing, legal unlicensed child care arrangements to continue until January 1, 2016, or another date set out by regulation.
Legislation will also amend the ‘Early Childhood Educators Act’, based on advice received through the statutory review of the Act. This includes the authority to accredit post-secondary Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs, as well as the mandatory revocation of membership from the College of Early Childhood Educators if a member has been found guilty of sexual abuse or acts relating to child pornography. Anyone working within the scope of practice in ECE and who holds the relevant educational qualifications will require registration with the College of Early Childhood Educators, including individuals providing care in unlicensed settings.
Improvements to the act include the creation of a dedicated enforcement team that will investigate complaints against unlicensed providers, as well as an online searchable registry and a toll-free number to inquire about unlicensed child care violations.
"Bill 10 is necessary because it closes loopholes that put children at risk and lays the groundwork for doing more," says Martha Friendly, Founder and Executive Director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit.
- Since 2003, access to licensed child care has grown by more than 130,000 spaces.
- There are 5,069 licensed child care centres in Ontario with a total capacity of 317,868 spaces. 166,429 of those spaces are in publicly funded schools.
- Starting in 2014-15, the government is investing an additional $33.6 million, over three years, to support the ongoing operation and modernization of the child care system –protecting the gains made through the previously announced investment of $346 million over four years.
- Since 2003-04, the government has doubled child care funding to more than $1 billion annually.
- Since September 2014, full-day kindergarten has been available across Ontario to approximately 265,000 children four and five years of age.
"As a child care organization I can say that Bill 10 is a declaration that children in our province are valued and that our government cares about their wellbeing,” says Sheila Olan-MacLean, President of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.
“Protection of our youngest citizens is long overdue and must be the foundation upon which we build our system of education and care. Bill 10 gives us this foundation."