This week I had a visit from a nice lady who is trying, with a provincial grant, to set up a Family Home Day Care Agency. The stated goal, she told me over the phone and in her first email, is to offer support and resources to those of us running unlicensed (i.e. six children or less) dayhomes. She told me all I would need to do to be a part of this Agency was to update my first aid training (something I’ve been planning to do this summer anyway). So I invited her to come out during my already hectic workday with the express intention of signing on.
What she brought still has me reeling. A 40+ page book of “Family Home Day Care Guidelines” that is taken, word for word, from the provincial Day Care Regulations. Under this new (so far voluntary) system, all dayhomes will be required to comply with the existing Day Care Act – this, despite not having staff, purpose-built premises, or grants & subsidies from the government to assist.
In order to comply with all the regulations, it would cost me literally hundreds of dollars – not to mention hours of additional administrative and meal prep time every day. (Right now, my kids bring lunches & snacks from home. Under the new guidelines, I would be responsible for all meals & snacks – prepared to provincial food preparation & service standards, natch). In return for this massive investment of time and money, I would get access to two free professional development workshops per year, and a “Family Home Day Care Agency” sticker for my door.
Here is the letter I sent to the consultant:
Thank you again for making the trip out to see me yesterday. In principle, I agree that guidelines and a support network for home daycare providers are much needed and an important acknowledgment of the service we provide to the community.
I’ve reviewed the Handbook you left and discussed with my family, as well as with a friend of mine who also offers dayhome care for young children. After careful consideration, I have to say that I will not be participating in the Agency at this time.
This was not a decision that I made lightly, and please bear with me as I explain my concerns with the program as presented. I encourage you to share any or all of my concerns with the Minister of Community Services and the Department.
I made the decision to care for other people’s children in my home for many reasons. First, with two children of my own, placing them both in care is financially prohibitive. Second, I have what I thought was an ideal setup – fenced yard, plenty of space, and a dedicated playroom area. And finally, I enjoy children and felt that I would be able to offer flexible, affordable, home-based care for other young families faced with a shortage of child care options.
I have always done my level best to provide safe, fun and reliable care, at a reasonable price. I keep records and issue tax receipts. We do crafts, read stories, go on nature walks, and dedicate lots of time to imaginative play. We do not watch TV or play on computers.
In short, I do my very best to provide professional and loving care within the boundaries of being one adult caring for six children under the age of four.
I feel that the proposed Family Home Day Care Guidelines are too onerous and expensive for the average dayhome to meet. As far as I can tell, they are basically identical to the requirements for setting up a licensed daycare – with the very significant difference that we dayhome providers do not have staff available to assist.
For example, the requirement that the dayhome provider must purchase, prepare, and supply one meal and two snacks per day, per child, to provincial nutritional guidelines – while following all provincial food preparation and service requirements, as well. In my dayhome, I currently have one child on a vegetarian diet; one who is still largely bottle-fed; one who is lactose intolerant; two who won’t eat whole wheat bread; and one who won’t eat white bread. In order to follow the proposed guidelines, I would need to prep snacks & meals for all of these disparate tastes and food restrictions. Unless I want to be preparing food in the play area, with all attendant dangers (not to mention my lack of attention to the children), I would need to prepare these meals & snacks during the evenings, when I am caring for and spending time with my own family. This does not even take into account the cost of providing fresh fruit & vegetables for all those additional children – meaning I would need to put my rates up.
I also strongly disagree with the requirement to have a fully-fenced yard. As you know, I do already have one, but many dayhome providers do not. The cost to fence a yard is exorbitant, not to mention time-consuming. I feel this is an unreasonable requirement to place on dayhome providers. After all, the parent clients would know when they chose to place their children in a particular home; if they are not concerned with the lack of fence and are satisfied that their children will be adequately supervised, that should be enough.
In addition, I don’t think it is reasonable to require dayhome providers to adhere to daycare regulations regarding illness. Clearly, any dayhome provider will not take children who are obviously very ill – and will call the parents if illness happens during the day. To require a doctor’s note to re-admit the children is not something I personally would be require; I have a close relationship with all my parent clients, and we work together in cases of illness to determine the best course of action.
Finally, I am struggling a bit to see a positive cost/benefit analysis for we dayhome providers. Following the proposed guidelines would be an increased administrative burden, not to mention the additional costs in both time and money to meet all the requirements. There are no subsidies available to help with these increased costs, meaning that the providers must raise rates. I currently charge $30 for a full day (anything over four hours) and $18 for a half day. My research has shown that this is standard for my community and thus what the market will bear. To raise my rates would result, I suspect, in me losing clients – and having a harder time attracting new ones. With no budget for publicity of the Agency in the community, promoting this new strategy would also fall largely on the providers. Frankly, it appears to me as if the province is trying to increase the number of available child care spaces while downloading the majority of the costs to the providers. I’m not convinced that it is in my best interests to participate in the program.
I could go on, but for me the bottom line is this: people who chose home daycare do so for a host of reasons. It is usually less expensive. It is more personal. For children with anxieties, it is a more gentle transition from home to the big wide world. It is more flexible in terms of drop off, pick up, sick time, and holiday time. It is a unique service that we dayhome providers offer, and to try and fit us into the licensed daycare mould is both unreasonable and unworkable.
Again, please feel free to share my concerns with the Department.
Comments? What do you think? Those of you who place your kids in a home-care setting, what were the reasons behind your decision? Would you be prepared to pay substantially higher rates for the homes to be meeting all current day care regulations?