Rob Ferguson & Robert Benzie, Toronto Star
It reads like a tragedy-in-waiting for busy parents with kids in daycare.
Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s report says the Ministry of Education needs to beef up inspections and enforcement of rules “to ensure that children are safe” — even in licensed centres.
Alarmingly, Lysyk found more than 29,000 “serious occurrences” at licensed child care operators and private home daycare agencies from Jan. 1, 2009 to last May 31, a period of over four years.
Those incidents include injuries, abuse, fires or missing children, and physical or safety threats on the premises.
Despite such frequent incidents, inspections are “not conducted on a timely basis,” Lysyk warned.
- Auditor General of Ontario's annual report: Chapter 3.02 Child Care Program (Licensed Daycare) (pdf 314kb)
- Auditor General of Ontario's press release: Some Licensed Child Care Operators Need More Stringent Oversight
- Over the last five years, one-third of child care operators were not inspected before the expiry date on their licences, including a number of operators with provisional licences who were considered to be at high risk for safety concerns.
- Ontario does not require that operators and staff of licensed child care facilities obtain what are known as vulnerable sector checks, which are more thorough than criminal reference checks.
- The caseloads of ministry program advisers, whose duties include licensing and handling complaints and serious occurrences, have grown significantly. In addition to other duties, more than half of program advisers were responsible for the inspection and oversight of more than 100 child care centres, compared to an average caseload of 65 per adviser in 2005.
- Ministry policies and guidelines are vague or nonexistent in a number of areas, including the conduct and depth of inspections of operators.
- In our review of a sample of new operators, we found that there were criminal record checks on file for only 50% of them.