A parent s guide to licensed child care in Toronto

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2 A parent s guide to licensed child care in Toronto Whether you need child care because you are working, attending school or simply because you would like an early learning experience for your child, a licensed child care setting is a great place for your child to learn, to play and to grow. As a parent, you want the best for your child, so when choosing a child care program, quality is a key consideration.this guide will help you to understand the licensed child care system and to recognize the signs of quality. Why is early learning and care important to children and their families? The early learning and care that a child receives in licensed child care: helps a child to develop their social and communications skills provides a variety of play and learning activities that enhance a child s development prepares a child for school allows parents to work or study knowing that their child is well cared for and safe. 1

3 2 What is licensed child care? Licensed child care is government-regulated early learning and care that takes place in (a) child care centres and (b) homes of approved home child care providers who work with a licensed home child care agency. Day Nurseries Act (DNA) This is the Ontario Government law that sets the minimum standards for operating licensed child care centres and home child care agencies. Licensing requirements Child care centres and home child care agencies are licensed every year by the provincial government. A license means that the child care program has been visited, inspected and has met Day Nurseries Act (DNA) standards for children s health and safety, nutrition, equipment, appropriate programs and activities, staff training and more. Child care centres must have their license posted near the entrance, and home child care agencies must make their license available to parents upon request. It is important to read the license because it may include terms and conditions that you should be aware of. If a program has a yellow-coloured license, called a Provisional License, this means that the program did not meet all of the requirements of the DNA, and the operator has been given time to meet the terms and conditions. In this case, find out why the program did not meet the requirements and what steps they are taking to change this. Early Learning and Care (ELC) staff team An important part of every licensed child care program is the ELC staff team. This team includes early childhood professionals who work in partnership with the City and the community in their effort to deliver a quality early learning and care program. Types of licensed child care (a) Licensed child care centres (also called day care centres) offer care for children ranging in age from infancy to 12 years.the ELC staff team at a centre is made up of a Supervisor, Early Childhood Educators (ECE) and Early Childhood Assistants. The majority of child care centres are visited at least once a year by a Toronto Children s Services Consultant who reviews the quality of the program. In addition, Public Health Inspectors visit two/three times per year to review food safety, health hazards and infection control practices. Child care centres must make these visit reports available to parents.

4 Children at a centre are grouped together based on their age, which allows children who are at similar developmental stages to play and learn together. Each group must have at least one qualified ECE. Some licensed child care centres offer a specialized program. Examples include: Nursery schools that offer preschool children an introductory learning experience, either in the morning or in the afternoon. Specialized nursery schools that offer a supportive half-time child care program for preschool children with special needs. These programs have specially trained staff and may have additional supports available, such as occupational therapy and speech pathology. School-age programs that are designed for children aged 6 12 years and are generally offered before and/or after school. Many of these programs also offer a full-day program on professional development days, March break and during the summer months. Francophone child care programs that offer Francophone families services delivered in French. Aboriginal child care centres that offer programs that maintain and promote Aboriginal culture. Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) are teachers of young children who work in child care and who have completed training in child development, child safety, nutrition, children s programming and administration either through a college diploma or a university degree program. Supervisors of child care centres and home child care agencies must have their ECE or equivalent and at least two years of experience working in a child care centre. Child care centre age groups and ratios* Group Age Ratio Infant 0 18 months 3 staff for every 10 children Toddler months 1 staff for every 5 children Preschool years 1 staff for every 8 children Junior Kindergarten 4 years 1 staff for every 10 children Senior Kindergarten 5 years 1 staff for every 12 children School age 6 12 years 1 staff for every 15 children *Some exceptions apply 3

5 (b) Licensed home child care Licensed home child care agencies offer early learning and care in approved homes for children ranging in age from infancy to 12 years.the ELC staff team in licensed home child care is made up of a Supervisor, Home Visitor and Home Child Care Provider.The Home Visitor works with a family to determine their needs and preferences, and helps them select a home child care provider from the agency s approved list. Home child care providers can care for a maximum of five children including their own children under the age of six. Of these five children, they can care for no more than two children under two years of age, and no more than three children under three years of age. The Home Visitor visits the provider s home at least once every three months and regularly reviews nutrition, activities and safety standards according to the Day Nurseries Act (DNA). The agency also provides ongoing training, resources and support to the Home Child Care Provider. While the hours of care available vary from home to home, licensed home child care can often accommodate families who work shifts or who need part-time, weekend or overnight care. 4

6 The Toronto Operating Criteria is a set of City standards that builds on the minimum licensing standards set out in the DNA. These standards provide guidelines for operators to follow in the areas of programs and activities, health and safety, nutrition, administration and financial management. The Criteria also supports child care operators in providing inclusive child care that promotes positive and healthy environments for all children. The Criteria is available on the Toronto Children s Services website at Community Partners The ELC staff team also works with community partners including schools,toronto Public Health, Parks Forestry and Recreation, family support programs and libraries to meet the needs of the children in their care and to offer the children additional programs and activities. Early Learning and Care Support Services The ELC staff teams at child care centres and in licensed home child care are supported by: Special Needs Resource Staff who deliver services such as consultation, intensive resource support, training and enhanced staffing to enable children with special needs to actively participate in the child care program Children s Services Consultants who provide training, information and support to operators of child care programs, to help them meet the standards set out in the Toronto Operating Criteria. 5

7 What are the signs of quality child care? The Early Learning and Care staff team: provides a nurturing and safe environment for your child ensures a happy and relaxed atmosphere demonstrates good supervision skills and positive behaviour guidance provides appropriate early learning opportunities for your child s development promotes your child s self-esteem and independence helps your child develop social and communication skills helps you to understand your child s growth and development. The child care centre/private home is welcoming, safe, clean and well maintained with a variety of books, creative materials, and both indoor and outdoor toys and equipment. The program and activities help children grow and develop by allowing opportunities for playing, socializing, exploring and learning. These opportunities are age appropriate and ensure that your child s individual needs are met. Parents are encouraged to become involved in their child s care. The policies and procedures are fair and consistent. The child care setting welcomes all children, regardless of their ability/ disability, race, religion, language, culture or family structure. The importance of play All children play because it is fun. But did you know that play is also one of the best ways children learn? Through play, children learn about themselves and about the world around them. A quality child care program will include lots of opportunities for learning through play activities. 6

8 How to find licensed child care in Toronto Step 1. Start by asking yourself a few questions. Do you want your child in a child care centre or do you prefer licensed home child care? If you have more than one child, do you want them at the same location? Do you need a program that is close to your home, your work or your child s school? Do you need help with the cost of child care? You may be eligible for financial help (fee subsidy) with the cost of child care if you are working or going to school, or if your child has a special need. For more information on child care or to apply for fee subsidy, phone KIDS(5437). Apply as soon as possible as there may be a waiting list for fee subsidy. Step 2. Begin looking for child care programs in your area. There are a wide range of licensed child care options in the City of Toronto. For a complete list of programs in your area call Toronto Children s Services at KIDS(5437) or visit our website at Start contacting programs as soon as possible since many have a waiting list. 7

9 Step 3. Call the centre/agency you are interested in, speak to the supervisor and ask them to describe the program and answer a few questions. Does the program offer care for your child s age group? Does the program offer care on the days and for the times you need it? How much will it cost? Is there a registration fee or is a deposit required? If you need help with the cost of care, is subsidy available? If your child goes to school, how will the program get your child to and from school safely? Does the program offer care on school holidays and/or professional development days? How will the program support any special needs your child or family may have? Will there be a space available when you need it? If the program interests you at this point, ask how you can put your name on the waiting list. Registration fee Some child care programs charge a fee to place your child on the waiting list. This payment is a nonrefundable administrative fee and it is not covered by subsidy. Deposit Some child care programs require a deposit, which is an advance payment of a set amount to guarantee a space for your child. This payment will be applied to a future payment of your child care fee. 8

10 Step 4. Arrange to visit the child care centre/home child care provider. It is important to visit the child care programs you are interested in. Visiting allows you to see the physical space and observe the interactions between the children and the ELC staff team. Visiting also gives you a chance to speak with the staff team and to ask questions. Consider visiting at different times of the day to observe different activities. Bring your child along so you can see how they like the child care program. Be prepared for your visit. You probably have thought of a number of things that are important to you, so be sure to write down any questions you want to ask. You can also use the checklist* included in this booklet. It suggests some of the things to look for and some questions for you to ask. During your visit, you may want to take notes so you can review them later. * Remember to bring a checklist to each child care program you visit. Additional copies are available at Step 5: Review your options, make your choice and confirm with the child care program. After you have visited all the child care programs you are interested in, review your notes to compare them. Where possible, check with other families who have used the same child care centre/home child care provider and ask them: Would they recommend this child care centre/home child care provider? What were the things they liked about the program? What were the things they did not like? Base your decision on the things that are important to you and your family. You know your child the best, so make sure you are comfortable with your choice. When you have made your decision, contact the child care centre/home child care agency to let them know you would like care. Confirm that you are on the waiting list; confirm that care will be available for when you need it; and arrange start dates and times. Before you start care, make sure you have a clear understanding of the ELC staff team s responsibilities as well as your own responsibilities, as you may need to sign an agreement. 9

11 How to prepare your child Starting at a new child care program is an exciting time. Here are a few suggestions to help prepare your child. Keep in mind that some children settle very quickly in their new surroundings while other children can take much longer. Talk to your child about the new child care program. Let them know about the daily routine, and the various activities that will occur. Familiarize your child with the name(s) of the team members who will teach and care for them. Explain to your child who will be dropping them off and picking them up, and at what times this will happen. Arrange for you and your child to visit together before starting care, to meet the ELC staff team and to show your child where they will eat, play, sleep and use the washroom facilities. During your visit, encourage your child to get involved in the activities and to play with the other children. If possible, leave your child for a short period of time to allow them to adjust to the new surroundings without you. 10

12 How to make the child care experience a good one for you and your child Your child s care is a shared responsibility between you and your ELC staff team. Building a good relationship is an important step in achieving a positive early learning experience. Talk to the team and let them know: about your child, his/her likes and dislikes, sleeping and eating habits if your child had a restless night, or didn t eat breakfast, or if your child has any injuries that may have happened at home when something special has happened so they can celebrate with your child immediately about any changes in your emergency contact information, and keep them up to date on any special medical concerns. Get involved in any special events that may be arranged for parents and children. Drop in occasionally during the day to see how things are going. Discuss your child s progress with the ELC staff team. If you have any concerns, set a convenient time to meet with members of the team so you can have an uninterrupted meeting. Be on time to pick up your child. If you must be late and are unable to arrange alternate pick-up, call the child care centre/ home child care provider ahead of time and be prepared to pay a late fee. Continue to ask your child about their day, and above all, listen to what your child says. 11

13 Important contacts City of Toronto For licensed child care and early learning opportunities, contact: Toronto Children s Services at or phone our Kidsline at KIDS(5437). For recreation programs including After-School Recreation and Care (ARC), contact: Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation or phone For information, programs and services that promote healthy child development, contact: Toronto Public Health or phone Toronto Health Connection For information about City programs and services for children and families, go to: Toronto s Family Portal The Government of Ontario For information about the Government of Ontario s programs and services for children, go to: The Children's Information Portal or phone the Ontario Government Information and Referral Service:

14 Licensed Child Care Visit Checklist (Please make a copy of the blank form for each centre you plan to visit.you can also download a checklist at Child care centre/home child care provider name: 1.The physical space Things to look for: The space is welcoming. Yes Not sure No The space is clean, well-maintained and safe. The washrooms and kitchen facilities are clean. The license is posted and accessible to you. (Licenses are posted in centres only. Home child care agencies must make the license available to parents upon request.) There are a variety of well-maintained books, toys, puzzles, blocks and creative materials. The outdoor play area is well-maintained and safe with a variety of outdoor toys and equipment. Things to ask: Where will my child take a nap? If the license is provisional, ask the supervisor why and what they are doing to make sure they meet all the requirements. 13

15 2.The ELC staff team, the children and their interactions Things to look for: The team members seem warm, caring and sensitive. The children seem happy and involved. The children are supervised at all times. The team members respond to the children s needs quickly. Things to ask: What are the ELC staff team members training and experience? Do all the team members have first aid training? How does the staff team manage challenging behaviour? Yes Not sure No Who else will have contact with your child? Are there students or other adults working or volunteering in the program? If yes, who are they? What responsibilities do they have? How long and how often are they at the program? Can you meet them? Notes: The Early Learning and Care (ELC) staff team The ELC staff team in a child care centre is made up of a Supervisor, Early Childhood Educators (ECE) and Early Childhood Assistants. In licensed home child care the staff team consists of a Supervisor, a Home Visitor and a Home Child Care Provider. 14

16 3.The daily program and activities Things to look for: A daily schedule is posted and it shows time for indoor and outdoor play, a rest period that does not exceed two hours, meal times and time for snacks. A daily plan of activities is posted that includes age-appropriate activities, quiet and active times, individual and group play. Menus are posted, and meals and snacks are healthy and nutritious. Yes Not sure No Things to ask: What are the routines for using the washroom and washing hands? What happens if my child does not want to take part in an activity? What happens if my child does not want to sleep at nap time? What happens if my child does not want to eat at meal or snack times? Does the program allow television/movies/computer games/internet access? If so, how are they monitored? Is the ELC staff team willing to work with or meet with other professionals who are involved with my child? How will the staff team support the special needs of my child? The Day Nurseries Act recommends that every day, all children spend time outside for fresh air and exercise except in extreme conditions. This may include stroller walks for younger children and playground time for older children. 15

17 4. Parental involvement Things to ask: Are parents welcome to visit at any time? Are there times when parents are able to meet with members of the ELC staff team to discuss concerns? How can parents get involved? Notes: 16

18 5. Policies and procedures Things to ask: Are there written policies and procedures? Ask for copies. What is the policy for giving medication to my child? What happens if my child becomes injured or sick while in care? What procedures are followed in the event of an emergency, accident or fire? Who do I talk to when I have concerns or questions? What is the policy if I am late to pick up my child? What is the vacation policy? Are there any days in the year when care is not available? What notice is required for withdrawal, holidays or other absences? Notes: 17

19 6. Cost of care Things to ask: What is the cost? Are there any additional costs (for example, food, diapers, special trips)? Is there a registration fee or a deposit required? Do I have to pay when my child is sick, absent or on vacation? Will I receive receipts for income tax purposes? What is the method of payment (in advance, weekly/monthly, cash/cheque/pre-authorized payment/credit card)? You may be eligible for financial help (fee subsidy) with the cost of child care if you are working or going to school, or if your child has a special need. For more information on child care or to apply for fee subsidy, phone KIDS(5437). Apply as soon as possible as there may be a waiting list for fee subsidy. Notes: 18

20 7. Home child care Things to ask: How many children are in the home and what are their ages? Are there other people in the home (for example, teenagers, adults, boarders, relatives)? If yes, ask to meet them to see if you and your child are comfortable with them. Are there pets? Which areas of the home are used for child care? Where does the home child care provider take the children for outdoor play? What happens when the home child care provider is sick or takes a vacation? Home child care providers can care for a maximum of five children including their own children under the age of six. Of these five children, they can care for no more than two children under two years of age, and no more than three children under three years of age. Notes: The Day Nurseries Act states Smoking is prohibited at all times in a day nursery and private home locations whether children are present or not. 19

21 Editorial and Design Assistance: Community Outreach Support Unit Social Development, Finance & Administration Special thanks to Child Development Resource Connection Peel, for their guidance in getting this project started City of Toronto Printed in Toronto, Canada April 2007 (05) Printed on recycled paper. 20

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