For a number of years, countries around the world, including Canada, have brought more focus on child care systems to support children and families. Key areas from a global, national, and provincial/territorial perspective include access, affordability, governance, and quality of the Early Years programs being provided. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a stark view of the actual system across our country. In Canada, since child care is the responsibility of the provinces and territories, many attempts have been made to negotiate a pan-Canadian system that would respect the various jurisdictions across the country. Bilateral agreements reached in 2017-2018 have helped set up areas of focus supported fiscally with federal grants based on specific action plans for each province and territory. This set of agreements has been the precursor to the current agreements signed in 2021-2022, which now will be in effect until 2026. Ontario’s action plan, the last province to sign in 2022 focuses on: 1) affordability; 2) access; 3) quality; 4) inclusivity; and 5) data sharing and accountability.
Over the past four years, Fanshawe College has supported London’s Licensed Child Care Network (LCCN) in its efforts to have a better understanding of the child care system in the London-Middlesex region and to support their advocacy for the system at all levels of government and within the local community. Multiple phases of research are leading to the construction of an Early Years policy framework prototype that will reflect the aspirations of the key stakeholders in the London-Middlesex region, what they see as key to a quality child care system in the area. In the fall of 2019 and early winter of 2020, fourth year students in the Honours Bachelor of Early Childhood Leadership worked with a faculty member and conducted a survey to gather data on the perspectives of Early Years professionals on the child care system within the London-Middlesex region. This data then helped inform the next stage which involved semi-structured interviews with four key stakeholders in the region, which included parents, Early Years professionals, child care providers / directors, and employers during the summer of 2021 into the early winter of 2022 (AECEO article). Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, these interviews were conducted via a digital platform. The data from this phase helped support the 2nd Annual Early Years Town Hall discussion panel where representatives of key stakeholder groups answered questions based on the previous phases of the research.
The research, in its final phase, is underway with four focus groups involving the key stakeholder groups - parents, Early Years educators, child care providers / directors, and employers. This process is taking the information from the previous phases (survey, individual semi-structured interviews, municipal data, government documents), and sharing it with the participants who are reviewing. From there, adding further information, and validating key elements to create an Early Years policy framework prototype that reflects the perspectives of a system that will support the needs of the children and families in the London-Middlesex region. This data will be analyzed to create the final Early Years policy prototype and will be shared with the community during the 3rd Annual Early Years Town Hall in late fall of 2022.
The Final Phase