May celebrate the importance of child care

  • May. 25, 2011 9:00 a.m.

Every May we recognize the importance of child care in the lives of families with young children. Child care can include licensed group full or part-day child care, preschool, licensed family child care, license-not-required child care, child minding and residential care.

Group child care and preschool are provided by licensed early childhood educators who usually have taken a two-year diploma or may be in the process of completing their education. Family and LNR Child Care are operated out of family homes and the provider may have ECE, Family Child Care training or courses in early childhood development. Licensed ECE’s are required to participate in continuing education to stay licensed. Many ECE’s also have additional training as Infant/Toddler Educators, Special Needs (Supported Child Development) Educators or specialties such as Montessori, Waldorf, High Scope or Reggio Emilia-inspired training. Early childhood educators also work in Child Care Resource and Referral, Supported Child Development or may be involved with Early Years Community Development through local Early Childhood Development Coalitions. Supported Child Development also provides trained staff to work in programs with children who need extra support to be fully included in community programs.

Whatever type of child care children attend, quality programs are essential for their healthy development. More children than ever before are spending some or most of their waking hours in child care facilities. Research shows that child care is beneficial to children if it is of high quality. Some of the indicators of a high quality program include level and quality of staff training, staff to child ratio, the quality of adult/child interactions,  smaller group sizes,  and environmental factors such as healthy building materials, size and layout of the facility, and access to safe, natural, creative play environments both indoors and outdoors.

The active involvement of parents is also essential. Children feel safe and secure when they see a nurturing relationship between their parents and their care providers. Many families use child care on a part-time basis when their children are very young so that they can achieve work/life balance and depend on the support and knowledge of the child care provider to help them in their important role as parents and the first educator of their child.

The greatest asset of any child care program is the early childhood care and education practitioner. While people sometimes think of child care as a place to keep children safe so that their parents can work, it is so much more than that. It is an important part of healthy early childhood development, early learning and school readiness. Many developing countries in the world spend a much greater percentage of their GDP than Canada does on early care and education, as they know this is the key to a healthy, educated,  civil society. Both the Organization for Economic  Cooperation and Development and UNICEF have rated Canada very low among the G20 countries for our poor commitment to early childhood development.

Only about 20 per cent of families in Canada needing quality child care for their children can access it in order to work or complete their education. This is a situation that needs to change as more and more families find they need two incomes in order to provide for their children, and research shows that 90 per cent of a child’s brain develops by the age of five. Many of these families with two incomes fall into the category of the working poor due to the high cost of housing, food and child care.

Despite these troubling facts, we have much to celebrate. The North Okanagan has many excellent child care facilities staffed by dedicated and inspired educators. On May 5, a Caregiver Appreciation Night was hosted by the North Okanagan Branch of the Early Childhood Educators of BC, Supported Child Development (NONA), Child Care Resource and Referral (Boys and Girls Club), and the North Okanagan Early Childhood Development Coalition. More than 40 ECE’s and child care providers got together at the Coldstream Women’s Institute for snacks, to make bracelets representing their commitment to the children and families that they serve, and to share displays of the creative and cutting edge programs they provide for our community’s children. They demonstrated the most important skill that early childhood educators need – the ability to play! When they are able to relax and be playful, they can model the value of play to the children in their care.

During Child Care Month, parents are encouraged to let their child’s care provider know how much they are valued! Child care — we can’t work without it!

Lynne Reside is coordinator of the North Okanagan ECD Coalition and regional coordinator of Success by 6 and Children First, North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap.