Citizenship and Immigration Canada funded the organization CMAS ~ Childminding Monitoring and Advisory Services to draft a child care model for newcomer families; one that would “fit with the modernization of settlement services“.
The draft model proposes 3 goals: to simplify the child care system; to support Service Provider Organizations (SPOs) in offering care to more newcomers; and to focus on the child and family. These goals are synonymous with the goals long articulated by child care advocates and researchers, see the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, for example. A comprehensive, not-for-profit, flexible, community-based and publicly funded and regulated child care system would provide all these things to newcomer families with children – as much as it would for all Canadian families and children. In fact, the more “universal” a program, the more it would respond to the differing needs of various groups: student parents, immigrant parents, rural families, shift-working parents. Thirty years of research and policy and program development have the knowledge to build a truly comprehensive system of child care for all Canadian families, newcomer and otherwise.
In the CMAS proposal, there is little meat around the notions of “a streamlined administrative process” and “maximum flexibility”. What do these mean? How will they be operationalized? What are the requirements that CMAS speaks of? Most glaringly, the notion of “quality child care” is not defined, explained or discussed, although it is promised. Is there a more detailed document that is not being shared?
On page 16, it is suggested that each SPO can assess its own child care needs. This adds a burden on the already overworked SPO. If CIC is committed to providing quality child care for newcomer families, then surely it has a clear role in assessing, developing, implementing and offering child care programs. Leaving it to the SPOs does not promote a comprehensive, universal approach.
Again, there is mention of “requirements” that are not elaborated on. Just what are the requirements? Who has set them? How will they be monitored? Evaluated?
How can the new model be responsive to the needs of newcomer children and families when, as stated on page 17, “Adult services will assist in determining what child care support is required”.
Indeed, child care support is the term used throughout the document. Child care “support”? This is a missed opportunity for the Federal government to acknowledge (as many other jurisdictions in Canada do) that child care is early learning. This proposed model is purely custodial. This is not a support to newcomer families. Early learning would support the integration of newcomer children – integration is a priority of the Federal government.
Indeed there is no discussion of programming, other than mentions of a program’s ability to respond to the needs of newcomer children. But how? For a draft model that purports to address the needs of immigrant children and families, it is light on details.
In addition, there is no discussion of staffing. Other than mentions of enhanced ability of “caregivers” to deliver programming, it is not clear if staff will be required to have any level of training. Will staff be Early Childhood Educators? As Ontario (and other jurisdictions in Canada and North America) moves to upgrading and professionalizing those who work with the most vulnerable of populations (children, and in particular, young immigrant children), the Federal government has missed out on the opportunity to provide newcomer children with the best start possible.
(A parallel “system” of child care exists for military families). More piecemeal approaches do little to further the development of a truly comprehensive system of early learning and child care for all families and children in Canada. The proposed model for newcomer families is a disappointment. immigrantchildren.ca urges CIC to go back to the table, consult with researchers, advocates, practitioners, policy-makers and academics and develop a pan-Canadian child care system that meets the needs of all children and families.