Tag Archives: regulations

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.

Going for a Walk

I love hiking.  My favourite outings to take the children on are those that allow us to explore our neighbourhood, nearby parks or hiking trails in forests and nature preserves around the city. Adventures like collecting leaves in the fall, following footprints in the snow in the winter, watching the activities of the birds in the spring or checking out the trees and plants in various seasons.

Many years ago I used a Safe-T-Line when out walking with a group of young children.  It looks similar to this one which is available at Quality Classrooms

15-04-walk01Mine has twelve pieces in total – two adult belts with a long lead, two additional extensions which can be attached to the adult belts, and eight children’s belts with clips.  I usually wore both the adult belts and fitted each toddler with a waist belt before we headed out.

Most of the time the children roamed freely through familiar trails and open spaces. However the walking line came in handy for the parts of the outing where we encountered busy roadways, major intersections or large crowds where noise and distractions made it difficult to communicate.  I could quickly attach the toddlers belts to my belts to ensure we all stayed together until we reached an area where we could explore independently again.

It was like having extra hands and the best part was that all of us had our ‘real’ hands free to pick up treasure along the way, point out exciting things we saw, wave at passing motorists, tie shoes etc.  It allowed the toddlers to venture freely within an acceptably safe distance.  They could begin to learn self control and to follow verbal directions.  Even the strong willed toddlers who balked at holding hands and staying with the group seemed to feel independent.

Then, a few years ago when my coordinator was here for a licensing visit she informed me that I was not allowed to use the safety line as it was designed because it ‘restrained’ the children.  I was instructed to make the belts into loops and have the children hold the loops with their hands – as long as they were free to let go when they chose to.   Sigh.

I don’t really mind not being able to use the safety line but it has limited our outings.  When new children are enrolled our walks are very short – just out the front door around the block and in the back yard to play.  Once I am confident that they understand the safety rules we expand the distance we can travel a block at a time.  I never take the entire toddler group beyond our secluded residential area and I rarely let the children decide the route – those major intersections are so enticing.

Recently, curious to see if my new coordinator would have the same response as the previous one, I asked for her opinion on the safety line.  She reiterated that the children could hold on to the belts with their hands but the belts could not be attached to the children as this would be considered restraining the children.  Just to clarify I then asked if it was acceptable to put them in a stroller with a belt.  She said yes.

So, I still can’t use the safety line as it was designed but I could go for a ‘walk’ if I piled my group of toddlers into one of these.

15-04-walk03

Apparently a five point harness in a vehicle that doesn’t allow the children to touch the ground or anything else is not considered a restraint.

I would disagree.

Sixteen Days & Counting

Page G4 of the Best Practices Licensing Manual For Family And Group Child Care Homes  contains licensing regulations and guidelines regarding outdoor play.

The Regulations state:

regulations

The Guidelines include;

Guidelines

This has been an extremely harsh winter.  So far there have been sixteen days that were too cold for us to go outside to play.  That is well above the two days we had to stay indoors last year and this year isn’t even over yet. Still, I know providers who have only been outside a handful of times this year – probably due to the source of their weather information.

The chart below shows a small excerpt of data I’ve been collecting to compare the conditions at three different sites – the Winnipeg Airport, The Forks, and the weather station in my back yard.  All of the conditions were recorded at the same time on the specific day during a two week period.  The ‘Feels Like’ temperature is the wind chill effect – a combination of temperature and wind.

16dayschart

As you can see here of the six dates shown there were four days that would have been too cold to play outside at the airport or The Forks but only two days that were too cold in my yard.  I even have my weather station mounted in the windiest part of my yard – high on the pergola, above the height of the shed or garage where there is the the most wind and the least amount of shelter.

16days

Yes, if your yard is a wide open field with no shelter from the wind then the weather conditions at the airport would be similar and therefore a good source of weather information.  If you don’t have your own weather station there are many other options available besides the airport or the Forks.  Weather Underground lists 26 weather stations in the Winnipeg area – just click on the ‘station select’ button and find one near you that has a similar environment to where you go to play.

That way the children have the opportunity to learn from experience. They can notice that it feels warmer when they stand in the sunny area than in the shade.  They can discover what objects offer the best protection from the wind.  They can experiment and instead of standing at the window ‘looking’ at the cold they get a chance to ‘feel’ it.  Even if it is only a few minutes before they determine it is too cold to be fun and we head back inside.  It is still a better learning opportunity than using a screen to tell you it is cold outside.

We’ll continue to play outside whenever possible because we certainly don’t want to be stuck indoors all day every day. However, there is one thing we don’t miss this year – waiting for the school bus.  Luckily I don’t have to walk any children down to the school bus stop this year.  Standing at the corner waiting for the school bus is a totally different experience than playing outside and we don’t enjoy it much.   They don’t cancel the school bus until the wind chill reaches -45°C.  There are a lot of cold days that the buses are running – they’re just late so we have longer to wait outside.

The Paperwork

I remember one day – many, many years ago – when I was chatting with a group of family childcare providers.  We were discussing the recent departure of a couple of other providers.  They hadn’t left the field entirely but they had left family childcare.  They had originally worked in childcare centers and had opened their family childcare homes when they had their own children.  Now that their children were older they were returning to work in centers.  They claimed they missed working with others and they desperately wanted their homes back.

I couldn’t imagine ever leaving family childcare – I had finally found my niche.  This was a job that so perfectly suited me that it didn’t even feel like work.  As the discussion continued we began to reflect on what we would miss the most if we couldn’t be family childcare providers.  My answer then was ‘the paperwork’.  Seriously!  I said I would miss doing paperwork and if I ever went to work somewhere else.

That wouldn’t be my answer now – even then I don’t think that was what I really meant.  You see, back then the majority of the ‘required’ paperwork was still done on paper.  I was an avid computer user. I began using computers in the early 90’s – programs were very basic and using them required a significant amount of resourcefulness.  It was fun to design my own spreadsheets for recordkeeping and to create parent handbooks.  ‘Paperwork’ using computers provided a creative outlet and I thought it was exciting.  Back then even doing paperwork was really just play.

Now, everything is done on computers – it is automatic and boring.  There is little imagination required just fill in the blanks.  Someone else has already done the creative part and all that’s left is the work.  Sure, some things can be ‘personalized’ but even that requires little more than the click of a button and if you don’t like it just click ‘undo’. The thrill is gone.

There is also the ever increasing need for written policies and procedures and required revisions — there is a ‘correct’ way to do paperwork and when you do it differently you’re ‘wrong’.   Blah blah blah….’Paperwork’ – even on computers – has become ‘required work’ instead of play.

Maybe this is a good time to point out that one of the reasons that I’m self employed is because I don’t like to take orders.  I could be considered to be a ‘Compliant Rebel’ – I will not openly defy authority but that doesn’t mean that I like what I am required to do — sometimes I can be resentful and I hold a grudge. I am creative, and following instructions is the opposite of being creative so ultimately required paperwork makes me feel stifled.

As a family childcare provider I am considered self employed but there are still rules and regulations that I am required to follow in order to be licensed.  So, I have some freedom and some restraints.  As the amount of required paperwork steadily increases there are days when I just want throw my hands in the air and scream “No more paperwork, that’s it, I quit”.   I don’t because I am…well, naturally compliant…submissive.

So now, I want to mention something good.  For the first time in a long time, the Province is about to unveil something that I am truly excited about; the OnlineChildcareRegistry  actually promises to make my life easier.

My current waitlist is depressing, confusing, and I’ll admit that it doesn’t work very well. It is depressing because in the last year I have added roughly 150 children to my waitlist – and I’ve enrolled three of them. I’ve had people call when they first learn that they are expecting a baby and they call again two years later when their maternity leave is over and they should have already returned to work but haven’t because they still haven’t found childcare. I don’t like to answer the phone because it could be another young woman with a dream for her future which should begin next week when she’s expected to start university except that she has no one to care for her child so she won’t be going.

My wait list is confusing because of the timing of calls.  Many people call me from work on their lunch break when they have time.  Do you know what my house looks like at lunch time?  I work alone and I’m serving lunch to eight children and some need to leave for school soon and some are cranky because it is almost nap time.  I get calls other times of the day too – when we’re out in the yard, when we’re creating masterpieces with glue and paint, when I’m in the middle of changing a baby’s diaper or in the evening when my husband yells “Don’t answer it – the daycare is closed”. But I do anyway.  And when I have time I try to decipher what I scribbled on that napkin/scrap of paper/fencepost and add it to the official list.  The list that doesn’t really work very well because it’s just a chronological list of when people called but it does little to help me choose who to call for the one space that may be available.

Yep, I’m looking forward to the centralized online waiting list because finally it is something that doesn’t require me to do more work and in fact it will be useful – for all of us.