Thursday, October 13, 2005

The State of Childcare

In honour of the return of the local CBC Information morning show, here is a list of "Just Wondering" questions on the state of Childcare in New Brunswick:

  1. What is happening to the federal childcare dollars offered to and refused by the Province of New Brunswick over a supposed difference of opinion on what constitutes the childcare needs of this province?
  2. Is it just me, or was the timing of the Federal Gov't's refusal to bail out the NB gov't/NB Power Point Lepreau debacle AND Lord's refusal to sign the Childcare agreement which would've meant much needed $$$$$$$ to improve the quality and numbers of spaces in licensed daycares, too close in timing for the two events NOT to be linked? Hmmmmm...just wondering just what Vegas game our Premier is playing. Craps for Kids?
  3. Why didn't the Province of New Brunswick send a qualified expert on Early Childhood Initiatives AND the Minister of Family and Community Services to a crucial federal/provincial meeting on settling the issues surrounding the Early Childhood Agreement, like every other province did?
  4. How many unlicensed daycares have been reported and investigated over the past 10 years? What are the ramifications of running an illegal and unsafe daycare?
  5. Is it true that Early Childhood Daycare providers are the second lowest paid in Canada? What is their level of formal training/skills? Is it true that millions of dollars were set aside under the Early Childhood Development Agenda to address the educational needs of frontline childcare workers in 2001? What is the status of this program. And if the training opportunities are not in place, where was the money spent?
  6. Why aren't all the Standards and Regulations consistent across the country?
  7. Why arent the high quality centres not recognized and promoted for their excellence?
  8. In the past 10 years, how many daycare centres have been shutdown due to serious violations of the Standards and Regulations legislated by the Government of New Brunswick? How can a parent access this information when trying to ensure the safety of their children?
  9. How many Centres have multiple violations to the Standards and Regulations and have been given multiple warnings over the past 10 years and yet have never been shut down? When there is a serious violation (illegal staff/child ratio, incomplete records of registered children, unsanitary conditions, insufficient food provision, unsafe outside play area etc) are the parents notified? Can other consumers access this information?
  10. Whatever happened to the e-coli inquiry of a Childcare Centre located at the Saint John YMCA that resulted in the death of a child? Was anyone ever charged or held responsible?
  11. Annually, each licensed Childcare centre is to receive 3 unannounced spot checks and 1 unannounced license renewal investigation conducted by the Province of New Brunswick. Is this necessary standard met? If not, how often are these licensed centres visited?

These questions, unfortunately are the tip of the iceberg.

The Early Childhood Development Agenda encompassed a 5 year funding and program plan which began in 2001. So far, millions of federal dollars were passed onto each province, including New Brunswick, to fortifying existing services as well as to develop new ones that would support the youngest members of this country and their families. In New Brunswick, there have been some successful services brought forward, namely the Prenatal Benefit Program which was established in 2002 which offers some financial assistance to low income pregnant mothers during the last two trimesters of their pregnancies. However, a large portion of the money was to go directly into improving the quality and state of Daycare centres. It is unclear if this has occured. No updates on the ECD Agenda have been posted since 2003 on the Government website. So, what's up?

It's unfortunate that the Provincial opposition party has a leader who has shown no ability to rally his troops and hold the Lord government accountable. There are many such issues that need to be brought forward and revealed to the voting public. So, it becomes the role of the media (owned for the most part by one family in this province.......) to make this government accountable.

Now that the local CBC staff have been given the golden key to unlock their doors, let's hope they undo the 12 week free ride this government has had, start asking some pointed questions, and start digging up the dirt. The answers are buried somewhere in the deep dark recesses of provincial statistics and archives. They just have to get past the psychospinbabble found in all those glossy published reports, and they will find some of the answers.

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. Dorothy Parker

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