HOME CHILD CARE WEBINAR:


Shannon
[00:00:04]

Hello and welcome to the Ministry of Education's webinar on child care modernization and the home child care sector. The purpose of this webinar is to provide clarity to home child care agencies and providers on requirements under the Child Care and Early Years Act and regulations.

My name is Shannon Fuller and I am the Director of the Child Care Policy and Program Branch with the Early Years Division of the Ministry of Education.

With me today is Holly Moran, Director of Child Care Quality Assurance and Licensing Branch.

This is an exciting time for child care in Ontario and Holly and I are honoured to have the opportunity to walk home child care agencies and providers through some of the key areas of the legislation and regulations.

But before we proceed, we would like to thank you for your ongoing hard work and dedication. The fact that you are watching this webinar right now is further proof of your commitment to high quality child care in this province.

As you know, for a number of years, the government has been working to transform child care in Ontario to better reflect the realities of our modern world.
Our overarching goal is to build a child care and early years system that supports parents and gives children the best possible start in life.

The Ministry of Education has been consulting with the child care and early years sector since 2009 to help develop its modernization plan. Your feedback has been instrumental in the development of the new Act and regulatory changes.

In 2015, the Child Care and Early Years Act replaced the Day Nurseries Act as the legislation which governs child care in Ontario. The new Act came into effect on August 31, 2015, as did Ontario General Regulation 137/15 which provides the licensing standards that home child care agencies and child care centres are required to follow.

The ministry is implementing regulations in a phased approach to allow the sector time to transition. Many regulations under the Day Nurseries Act were carried over under the new Act as part of Phase 1. It is important to note that Phase 2 regulatory changes, including a number of health and safety requirements that impact home child care agencies, have a range of implementation dates.
The reason the ministry imbedded this range within regulation was to provide the sector with time in order to come into compliance. The ministry expects that licensees will be in compliance with the new requirements by the date in which each requirement is implemented.

We will be making note of those dates during this webinar and will also post a list of those implementation dates in the frequently asked questions section of the ministry website.

During the development of legislation and regulations, we consulted the home child care sector through the Early Years Advisory Committee, Early Years Advisory Groups and home child care ministry working groups and tables.

We had an incredible response from our sector on the proposed regulatory changes and some adjustments were made to regulations to reflect that feedback.

For the purposes of this home child care webinar, we are going to walk through both legislative and regulatory requirements that impact home child care agencies and providers, in order to provide further clarity on the ministry's licensing requirements.

Holly
[00:03:55]

As Shannon noted there have been changes in both the legislation and regulations which impact home child care.

As you are aware, the Child Care and Early Years Act and phase 1 regulations have been in effect since August 31, 2015.

The Act prescribes requirements related to the number and ages of children that a home child care provider working with a licensed home child care agency may care for. It also carries over provisions outlined in the Day Nurseries Act, including the requirement that there be an agreement between a home agency and the child care provider that provides for the agency's oversight of the provision of care.
The first phase of regulations helped to transition from the old legislative framework to the new one. It focused on strengthening compliance and health and safety in child care settings, as well as helping parents make informed choices about their child care options.

Phase 2 regulations, which have various effective dates starting on July 1, 2016, will continue to strengthen the regulatory framework and enhance the health and safety of children. Phase 2 has a strong focus on health and safety outlining changes in areas such as water safety, immunization, sleep, medical conditions and emergency planning. The ministry is also introducing a number of provisions related to serious occurrences and administrative penalties which have been established to help minimize risks to children. And finally, as you are likely aware, Phase 2 will remove the case load cap on the number of homes a home visitor can oversee.

Previously, in regulation, a home visitor could not oversee more than 25 homes.
We recognize that a licensed agency is in the best position to determine the appropriate caseload for each home visitor, based on the geographical distances the visitor must cover, the number of children in the homes, the range of qualifications and experiences of the home child care providers, as well as the compliance history and outcomes of previous monitoring visits.

In fact, many licensed home child care agencies have more stringent caseload caps in place for their home visitors, making the regulation redundant.

Regardless of the caseload of individual home visitors, home child care agencies are responsible for ensuring all licensing standards, including program quality and health and safety requirements, are met in each and every premises where the agency oversees child care.

Non-compliances in a home could result in a range of enforcement tools being used to address the non-compliance, depending on the seriousness of the contravention and the role that the agency's oversight, or lack thereof, played.

I am now going to talk about prescribed requirements related to the number of children in care under the Child Care and Early Years Act.


Under the Child Care and Early Years Act, unlicensed child care providers that do not have an agreement with a home child care agency may care

for a maximum of five children, including their own children under the age of six, and no more than two children under the age of two.
A home child care provider that has an agreement with a licensed home child care agency may care for as many as six children, including his/her own children under the age six, and no more than two children under the age of two.

The provider's four- and five-year-olds attending full-day kindergarten are not counted between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, as long as the provider is caring for less than two children younger than two years old.

As set out in general regulation 137/15, in Ontario, the Ministry of Education licenses home child care agencies that in turn are required to monitor and support home child care providers. As part of Phase 1 regulations, the ministry introduced a new provision that licensed agencies are provided a green licensing decal.


This decal must be displayed at the agency and the homes that the agency oversees. This decal tells parents that the provider is being monitored and supported by a licensed home child care agency and is required to meet provincial licensing standards. These standards include health and safety requirements, record-keeping and reporting requirements, as well as program expectations that articulate a view of the child as competent, capable, curious and rich in potential.

We've already noted that the Child Care and Early Years Act requires that there be an agreement between the agency and a provider for the agency's oversight of the provision of child care in the home. This agreement of oversight applies to all the children being cared for in the home, regardless of whether or not the child is enrolled with the agency or if the parent has made arrangements directly with the provider. Shannon will speak more about this oversight requirement in just a moment.


While a ministry checklist is required for quarterly visits, agencies may choose to use their own checklist if they are conducting additional visits on top of the quarterly visits.

Further to this, Phase 1 regulations set out new staff qualifications for licensees and home child care agencies. Home visitors must be members in good standing with the College of Early Childhood Educators, have a minimum of two years of experience working with children, and be approved by the ministry. The ministry may provide director approval for home visitors who do not meet this criteria if the home visitor is deemed capable of providing support and supervision at home child care premises.

Shannon
[00:10:10]

Now we would like to talk about the oversight responsibilities that agencies have under the Act and in regulation.

Both agencies and providers have a duty to act in accordance with the regulations.

Under Ontario General Regulation 137/15, before a home child care agency places an enrolled child in a home, the agency must consider whether or not the child will be safely accommodated in the provider's home. The criteria for that consideration is in regulation and includes the number of children already in the home and their ages and any special needs, the physical environment, as well as the provider's qualifications and experience.

An agency must be informed of all children on the premises where child care is being provided. In addition, under the Child Care and Early Years Act, the agency's oversight is connected to the provider and the premises. This means that requirements, unless otherwise specified, apply to all the children who are being cared for in the home.

This is not a new approach, but rather has carried over from our previous legislation and regulations. We do understand that there has been varied interpretation of these provisions up until now and hope that this has been clarified through the introduction of the Child Care and Early Years Act and regulations.

We also understand that enhanced clarity on this issue may result in a shift in practice for some home child care agencies, providers and parents. The ministry will continue to engage the sector on how best to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all children being cared for by a provider contracted with a licensed home child care agency.

As mentioned previously, health and safety standards were a key area of focus in the most recent phase of regulatory changes.

The intent in this area was two-fold: to move existing policy requirements into regulations in order to ensure consistency and transparency; and to reflect current research and best practices to ensure the safety and well-being of children.

Beginning on September 1, 2017, every home child care agency will be required to ensure that p an individualized plan has been developed for every child enrolled with the agency who has medical needs.


This is to be done in consultation with the parent of the child and with any regulated health professional who is involved in the child's health care and who, in the parent's opinion, should be included in the consultation. Medical needs could include chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, seizure disorders such as epilepsy, or acute conditions such as concussions.

The individual plan would need to include a preventative response strategy such as steps to be taken to reduce the risk of exposure to any causative agents or situations that may exacerbate the medical condition or cause a reaction as well as emergency response procedures. The individual plan also needs to contain a statement about what kinds of supports will be made available to the child.

We appreciate that agencies do not have a relationship or agreement with parents of children not enrolled in the agency. In response, as part of the Phase 2 regulations, we have now carved out anaphylaxis and individualized medical plans so the requirements are related only to children enrolled with the agency.

That said, the ministry expects that agencies will have relevant policies and procedures in place and that they are implemented and reviewed as required.

We will continue to look at opportunities on how the ministry can further support agencies, providers and parents of children enrolled in home child care to ensure that everyone understands the requirements and the rationale behind them.

We have heard from some agencies that they are concerned about an impact on the employment status of home child care providers. Employment status is articulated in the agreement set in place by the agency and provider. The Child Care and Early Years Act states that none of the requirements within it are intended to imply that a home child care agency is an employer of a home child care provider or an in-home services provider.

The government takes the health and safety of children seriously and in order to ensure that providers contracted with an agency are meeting all requirements, home visitors must collect information and make observations during the quarterly visits.

I am now going to hand it over to Holly to touch on some of the new health and safety requirements under Phase 2 regulations.

Holly
[00:15:24]

As Shannon noted, there is a range of new health and safety requirements that impact the licensed home child care sector.

As part of Phase 2 regulations, there are new requirements for licensees to have written policies and procedures in place with respect to sleep, including supervision procedures. These provisions include the requirement to conduct visual checks of all sleeping children and to ensure electronic sleep monitoring devices are functional. In addition, children younger than 12 months old must be placed for sleep in a manner consistent with the recommendation set out in the most current version of the Health Canada-endorsed document: Joint Statement on Safe Sleep: Preventing Sudden Infant Deaths in Canada.


Additionally, agencies will now have more flexibility when it comes to where children may sleep. To align with the options that licensed child care centres have with respect to sleep equipment, when approved by a director, children in homes being overseen by an agency may now sleep on a cot, a bed or an alternative such as a mat.

The ministry has also changed immunization exemption requirements under the Child Care and Early Years Act to better align with the Immunization of Schools Pupils Act. Adults working in licensed child care, including home child care providers and parents of any child who does not meet immunization requirements set out in Ontario Regulation 137/15 must complete a ministry form for religious or conscience or medical exemptions.

For objections on religious or conscience grounds, the objection would have to be sworn or affirmed before a "commissioner for taking affidavits." Medical exemption forms needs to be completed by a medical professional.

This requirement will take effect for new home providers and newly enrolled children on August 29, 2016 . Children already enrolled and providers who are already in an agreement with the agency will have until September 1, 2017 to come into compliance.

As part of Phase 2, there are now new regulations to support children's water safety. The ministry has taken policy requirements regarding children's access to water in home child care settings and established them in regulation. Home child care agencies must ensure that children under the age of six years being cared for in the homes they oversee do not have access to or use bodies of water, such as pools or ponds.

Home child care agencies may choose to allow children 6 years of age and older to access or use water on the premises of the home child care provider. If they choose to do this, they must also develop a policy that includes the requirement that access or use of water by children over 6 years of age must be monitored by a lifeguard who meets the certification requirements stipulated in regulation 565 made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.


We also wanted to bring to your attention that the definition of "serious occurrence" has been refined as part of Phase 2. Now, the requirement to report a serious occurrence pertains only to the following incidents:

a death, life threatening injury or illness of a child who is being cared for in a home that the agency oversees; neglect, abuse or allegations of neglect or abuse related to a child who receives care, any situation where a child has gone missing or been unsupervised while receiving care and any unplanned disruption of normal operations. This requirement will be in effect as of August 29, 2016.

Licensees must report a serious occurrence within 24 hours of becoming aware of the incident. As part of the ministry's broadened suite of enforcement tools, failure to report a serious occurrence to the ministry may result in an administrative penalty of up to $2000. Per regulation, agencies are also required to conduct an annual analysis of their serious occurrences, document the actions taken in response to the analysis and maintain records of this analysis.

In both Phase 1 and Phase 2, administrative penalties have been established which determine a specific penalty amount for contraventions of the Act and regulations. What is new in Phase 2 that I wanted to draw your attention to is penalties relating to failing to keep attendance records and contraventions of requirements related to up-to-date records of home providers.

Specifically, as part of the new regulations, a home child care agency may be issued a $750 administrative penalty for failing to have an accurate list of its providers with their addresses, copies of agreements the agency has with its providers and a comprehensive and accurate list of the children receiving care in the homes the agency oversees.

Be assured that the ministry's approach to enforcement is designed to provide licensees and individuals with an opportunity to come into compliance and the intent of administrative penalties is to deter non-compliance and any economic incentives that arise from those contraventions. Anyone who is issued an administrative penalty may request a review from a ministry senior designated employee. Information on requests for reviews is included in the Notice of Administrative Penalty.

Shannon
[00:21:10]

One last item, aligned with the ministry's approach to prioritizing funding for licensed child care, the Act requires in-home service providers to have an agreement with an agency. In-home service providers care for children in their own homes, typically in situations where a medical condition or multiple siblings are best served within their own residence. We wanted to flag this opportunity to home child care agencies, as it may allow for a broadened business model of oversight that includes not only providers' homes but children's homes as well.

We have almost reached the conclusion of this webinar on the second phase of regulations introduced under the Child Care and Early Years Act. As always, the ministry is incredibly thankful for your commitment to providing high quality child care and early years programs to the children and families of Ontario.

As we noted, there are a variety of different dates on which these new requirements will come into effect. Those timelines are noted in the regulations, which can be found online, as well as in the list of Frequently Asked Questions posted on the ministry website. Given this phased approach to implementation, the ministry expects that licensees will be in compliance by the date in which the requirement comes into effect.

In addition, the ministry has created a range of resources to help provide clarity on the new requirements. Links to those resources can be found on the Ministry of Education website. As we walked you through the new regulations in this webinar, we tried to address all of the questions we received from the sector after Phase 2 regulations were announced. If you still have questions, please check the Frequently Asked Questions section, as well as all the other child care resources available on the ministry website.


However, if you are a licensee with a specific question about your program's licensing requirements, please contact your Program Advisor.

Thank you once again for participating in the important work to modernize child care and the early years and for tuning into this webinar.

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