“What could be more pressing, more urgent, than protecting children?”
That’s the question Ontario Ombudsman André Marin asked with the release last week of his highly anticipated report Careless About Child Care, which investigates unlicensed daycare in the province.
The answer to his question seems obvious: nothing.
But the report indicates that the safety of 823,000 children cared for in unregulated settings across the province — more than double the number in licensed daycare — was anything but top of mind for staff assigned to protect these children.
Instead, Marin found a “bureaucracy that shied away from inspections and investigations and preferred to use soft tools of encouragement.”
That is deeply disturbing when the lives of children were at stake, as they clearly were. Marin found that four children died as a result of “systematic government ineptitude” in unlicensed daycare over a period of seven months in 2013-2014.
The unfortunate reality is that parents have no choice but to turn to unregulated settings because of a shortage of licensed daycare places in the province. That makes Marin’s descriptions of lax protections in unregulated daycares especially troubling, and his exhaustive 113 recommendations to improve these spaces all the more urgent.
The good news, he says: “The bulk of them (95) are already being addressed by the ministry and long overdue new legislation is finally on its way through the legislature.”
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