Tag Archives: Licensing

My Dream

In Manitoba a licensed family childcare provider can care for a maximum of eight children under 12 years of age.  Of those eight children, no more than five may be under six – the other three must be in grade one or older.  I love having a mixed age group and the opportunity to build a relationship with the children in my care from infancy through school-age.

Over the twenty years I have been providing childcare in my home I have known many amazing school-age children who have thrived in this setting.  Some struggled with peer relationships in their school environment but enjoyed being the ‘leader’ here – idolized by the younger children.  Some embraced responsibility and enjoyed helping the little ones.  Some were wildly creative and independent and of course there were also some who resented being with ‘babies’.

I’ve watched older children gain confidence and build their self-esteem by mentoring the younger children.  I’ve seen younger children develop skills they learned from watching and copying the older children play. I’ve also had some older children that taught the little ones things/words that I wish they hadn’t. *sigh*

I’ve noticed something else – the cost of providing food, craft supplies, activities and equipment for school-age children often exceeds the income I receive for their care.  I find that the school schedule is disruptive – breaking up what could be longer periods of engagement in learning activities for the preschoolers.  So, for several years now I haven’t made an effort to fill empty school-age spaces.

Summer was the exception.  I loved having all the ‘big kids’ here for the summer – working in the garden, going on adventures, making incredible creations, sharing fantastic stories – without the rigid school schedule.  It was wonderful to have all this time with the older children instead of just the fleeting moments before/after school when everything was so hectic and there wasn’t really any time to do anything.

Yet, when I only enrolled school-age children for the summer I was finding that the first month was spent getting everyone acquainted with each other, learning routines etc. Then, just when we were starting to develop relationships, summer was over and they were gone. The ‘freedom’ of summer wasn’t quite the same with ‘new’ school-age children instead of ones we already knew.  So, for the first time ever – I didn’t fill any of my school-age spaces  this summer – and I’m loving it.

The school-age table has been empty;

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The little ones are engaging in more age-appropriate dramatic play.  They are demonstrating their creativity instead of copying someone else. I haven’t heard ‘I’m bored’ once this summer, nor have I had to spend hours shopping for tons of additional food and supplies.

I’ve also been imagining what the little ones and I could do with that extra space I have set aside for bigger children and all the supplies they need but the little ones don’t.  I’ve started to think that it would be really, really nice if the province would let me exchange those three empty school-age spaces for one more preschool space.

Group childcare homes have two licensed providers and up to 12 infant/preschool children – that’s a 1:6 ratio.  I have five preschool spaces and although three of those five could be infants I rarely have more than one or two – sometimes even none. If they stay with me until they start school each one year of infant care will need four years of preschool care.  Hence, I’d have to kick out preschoolers if I wanted to keep those infant spaces full – I would never do that.  One more preschool space would help.

Big dream – I know.

 

 

The ‘Un’ Factor

‘Un’ is a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns.  In the field of family childcare we often use the words ‘unlicensed’, ‘unregulated’, ‘untrained’ yet for many government officials and people outside the field of childcare those ‘un’ words are not viewed as negative – simply a choice that parents should be allowed to make regarding the care of their children.

There are regulations governing the manufacturing of items like cribs, strollers, carseats, and toys etc so parents know they are safe.  There are regulations regarding the production, packaging, and labeling of food products to ensure they meet predetermined standards so people know what they are buying. Why do government officials and the general public think that parents should be able to choose unlicensed, untrained childcare but need regulations to assist them to safely feed, house, and transport their own children?

What other career field allows some businesses to operate unlicensed and/or untrained when others providing the same service are licensed?  What is the incentive for any business to be licensed if they can legally operate without any oversight?  Without any licensing/training requirements?  What if, like in childcare, they could actually make more money if they were not licensed/trained than if they were licensed/trained?

Let’s use truck drivers as an example.  The majority of adults have a class 5 driver’s license and have experience driving their own or a friend’s vehicle.  What if there were no restrictions on what size of vehicle you could drive and anyone could just decide “Hey, I’m going to buy a big truck and start a business delivering things for other people.”

Why, is an experienced driver with their own vehicle not allowed to start up a trucking business without additional training or license? Why don’t people argue “It’s his truck, he can do what he wants with it.  If other people are OK with letting him transport their stuff why not let him/them.  He’s never had an accident and doesn’t need a little piece of paper to prove he’s a good driver.”

What if that same driver or another class 5 driver then decided “A bus isn’t much different than a big truck.  If I had a bus I could earn money driving people around.”  What if you’d seen that driver on the street with his bus full of happy passengers and decided to take a ride on his bus.  Then imagine that one day there was an issue – something was wrong with the bus or the driver.  What if it is too late to get off the bus before the accident happened?

Some argue that licensing all childcare facilities and requiring training for all childcare workers doesn’t ensure quality – but it helps.  Just like trained bus/truck drivers in licensed companies will still have accidents there are standards and checks in place to limit them.  Why don’t we hear arguments that training/licensing truck drivers doesn’t prevent accidents so let’s save some money and not bother requiring them to be licensed?

Do we need more incentives for family childcare providers to become licensed or do we need to eliminated the option for them to operate unlicensed childcare homes?  Currently only licensed providers can accept government subsidized families but private paying families usually pay higher rates than the maximum subsidized rate so that isn’t an incentive to be licensed.

What about training?  Currently family childcare providers with Early Childhood Educator II/III training can receive slightly higher subsidized rates than untrained providers but those rates are still lower than the private rates most unlicensed/untrained providers charge so why bother?  Just think of all the tax dollars we could save if we had trained and untrained police officers  – both had the same duties but the city could pay the untrained ones less – but either trained or untrained officers could go work privately for more money without a gun permit or any other type of license.

In an effort to increase the number of licensed childcare spaces, the provincial government is considering lessening the requirements and ‘red tape’ needed to open licensed childcare homes.  Why, when there was a shortage of family doctors was it never suggested that we lower the requirements to become a doctor?  I don’t think lowering FCC licensing requirements will increase the number of licensed childcare spaces and I’m absolutely positive it won’t improve quality.

What part of licensing do they think is unnecessary?   Criminal record/child abuse registry checks? First aid training or a 40 hour course? Behaviour management, nutrition, safety and supervision policies? Adequate equipment? Developmentally appropriate activities? Documentation and record keeping?

I don’t think any part of the licensing process is difficult or unnecessary.  If fact, I’d like to see more.  I’d like to see MANDATORY licensing for ALL childcare homes.  Greater incentives for trained providers (possibly higher ratios).  MANDATORY annual professional development and more.  I’m thinking about the best interests of the children, not just convenience and the cost for quality and safety.

 

licensing-manual

Licensing Manual

Stepping Forward – or Back?

With the Conservatives now in power there is a lot of apprehension about the future of childcare in Manitoba.  I’ve heard comments that I should be happy/excited – after all, during the election campaign the Conservatives did claim to support licensed family childcare. You can read more here

In that article the Conservatives propose  “Increasing operating funding for licensed, home-based child care spaces by 70 per cent for infants, 68 per cent for pre-school aged children and 15 per cent for school aged children”. Those increases to operating grants sound impressive and would result in approximately an 11% increase to my total annual income however there is no mention of the time period over which those increases could occur.  To put that into perspective, through NDP training and funding initiatives my personal annual income has increased by 44% over the past 12 years.

The Conservatives also claim that there are “550 fewer home-based child care spaces in Manitoba today compared to 17 years ago. This reduction in spaces is due in part to the cumbersome regulatory regime which governs the development of child care facilities in Manitoba.”   and they propose “Simplifying the process governing the opening and operation of child care facilities with a focus on home-based child care spaces.”

Yes, there are definitely fewer licensed family childcare homes than there used to be and it may be due in part to the licensing regulations but those regulations are there to benefit the children.  I’m absolutely positive there would be more home based ‘pharmacies’ if there weren’t so many regulations involving opening licensed pharmacies too.  I’m also certain many people would willingly choose to use the services of unlicensed, untrained, home-based pharmacists but I’m not certain that would be a good choice either.

I don’t think the problem is that it is too hard to become a licensed family childcare provider but rather, it is too easy not to.  Yes, there is a legal limit of four children under the age of 12 in an unlicensed childcare home but with no enforcement of that law unlicensed, uninsured, over numbers, childcare homes are a lucrative business – just like unlicensed/illegal pharmacies.  Maybe the Manitoba Conservatives should follow the lead of Ontario and crackdown on rogue unlicensed providers

I don’t believe an increase in operating grant funding will encourage unlicensed providers to pursue licensing.  Not if they can charge higher daily rates than funded homes.  Not if they are unable to meet minimum licensing standards. Not if they can operate above legal numbers without repercussions.  As long as unlicensed childcare continues to be a profitable option there is little incentive for home based providers to become licensed no matter how much the process is simplified.

The current minimum standards and licensing process are not obstacles for providers who are truly looking at childcare as a career.  It can be a daunting process for those who have no experience with the system and are trying to tackle it alone. Even 20 years ago – under a Conservative government – it took me nine months to complete the licensing process and I had several childcare mentors who helped me.  Many currently licensed providers would be eager to assist new providers through the licensing process but there isn’t (but should be) a mandatory mentorship program. Childcare coordinators already have too little time to adequately visit existing facilities – who is going to be able to license and offer support to new childcare homes?

I do agree that opening licensed family childcare homes is a more cost effective way to increase the number of licensed childcare spaces compared to the cost of opening centres.  However, I also believe that simplifying the licensing process will reduce the quality of those childcare homes.  The minimum licensing standards are not that difficult to achieve – poor quality licensed homes and centres exist even with current regulations.  Good quality centres and homes are not content with simply adhering to the minimum licensing standards – they CHOOSE to go above and beyond what they are required to do and strive to provide the best care for each individual child.

Sure, Sally is a great stay-at-home mom who wouldn’t mind having a few extra children hanging around with her kids while she does the laundry.  There’s room on the couch in front of the TV and a swing set out back if they want to go outside.  Babysitting is a great way to earn a little extra cash – her mom did it too back in the day.  But it is 2016 and we’ve worked really hard to show that early childhood education is more than just babysitting.

If quality wasn’t a concern then the easiest, most affordable childcare solution might be to simply double the current ratios for all childcare facilities.  No additional buildings.  No additional equipment.  No additional trained staff.  No additional licensing coordinators.  Just twice as many children crammed into existing programs.  Like magic – thousands of more childcare spaces.

Yet quality IS a concern and making it easier to open licensed family childcare homes isn’t going to provide more quality childcare – just more temporary babysitters.  Maybe all women should just quit their jobs and stay home with their own children.

Whichever option you choose it might just be a step backwards.