Shortly after the birth of a child, families begin the exercise of searching for quality child care which is needed following the completion of maternity or paternity leave. The process, which is often filled with anxiety, sees parents seek recommendations from their peers while soliciting and contacting references provided by the child-care provider.
Location, hours of service, programs and activities, availability of part-time and full-time seats, as well as availability of infant and after school care for older siblings, factor into the screening and selection process.
The quality of child care provided within licensed for-profit and not-for-profit daycares within the province of Nova Scotia is regulated by the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Inspectors routinely visit the daycares to ensure the standards are being upheld in relation to student teacher ratio, qualifications of the instructors and adherence to the recommended dietary guidelines, to name a few. Not-withstanding, visits from the departments of health and wellness and labour and advanced education routinely occur as well.
There’s no denying the dedication and passion that early childhood educators have for their careers and the development of their students. The attention, stimulation and education they offer, helps shape the minds and personalities of our children while providing a foundation for their integration into Kindergarten.
The profession has historically been under compensated as child-care providers attempt to manage expenses while maintaining a fee structure that is acceptable by most.
In recognition of the value of early childhood education, while further understanding the business case of daycares, the provincial government is in the process of introducing a wage subsidy to educators based on their level of formal education.
The action to provide a fair wage is a welcoming gesture, recognizing the critical role of early childhood educators to the economy of the province. Access to an essential service such as child care, offer parents the opportunity to return to the workforce or school, enabling them to grow by earning a decent income or enhancing their education.
The efforts contribute to improving the disposable income of families, allowing for the purchase of a greater value of goods and services. The compounding effect of the circulation of this added disposable income advances an economy by providing the addition of jobs, businesses and services to support demand.
The social benefits of early childhood education include the delivery of well-balanced nutritional snacks and meals for the students. The healthy meals provide nutrition needed as the student’s bodies and brains advance during their developing years. In addition, the fundamentals for literacy and numeracy are absorbed, providing a platform to minimize poverty.
The delivery of child care by small business and not-for-profit agencies is not without its challenges. Balancing the needs of the children; maintaining a regulated standard of service, while ensuring a financially stable business model demands creativity and flexibility of managers.
Affordable access to child care remains a passionate topic for parents and an important issue for governments to manage.
With many competing interests for limited government funds, the debate remains lively over the best way to deliver child care.
The value of child care to individuals receiving the service and to the economy of regions where accessibility is open and available cannot be understated.
Andrew Lake is President of the Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce.