Kids First Parents Association of Canada

Articles and Research by Kids First—Volume 3 (July 21, 2005)

Daycare staff:child ratios & "quality": bad and getting worse

By Helen Ward, President, Kids First Parent Association of Canada ©

The Federal Government is pushing the provinces to sign on to their national daycare funding agreement. Some spin doctorate has come up with the acronym "QUAD" : Quality, Universality, Accountability, and Development . The provinces must follow QUAD requirements to get the money. Let's look at Q for Quality.

Daycare research indicates that when the worker has more than two babies to look after, the quality of care and child's development is hugely compromised But in Canada the child:staff ratio for 1 year olds is as high as 8:1 in Quebec. These ratios are being INCREASED when they should be lowered.

To understand the ratio numbers you have to spend time with children. For 10 hour/day, five days/wk, look after 3,4,5 or even 8 babies. Or 7-10 3 year olds. Or 8-15 5 year olds. To use the words of the federal National Children's Agenda propaganda, will you be able to: "develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual capacities to their fullest"? (A National Children's Agenda: Developing a Shared Vision , p6) (Yes, the Fed gov't booklet actually mentions "spiritual".) Will you be able to maintain basic hygiene and safety, let alone provide the promised "loving", "nurturing", "sensitive and responsive", "developmentally appropriate", "high quality" care?

Gillian Doherty, a leading daycare lobbyist and researcher in Canada, says child:staff ratio is one of the key elements to "quality" in daycare centres:

"Ten studies show that caregivers are more likely to behave in ways that support and encourage children's development when they are responsible for an appropriate number of chidden given the children's age and developmental level." (The Great Child Care Debate www.childcarecanada.org/pubs/op7/op7.pdf p.44) .

However, there is extreme reluctance to spell out what "appropriate" ratios are.

In her tax-funded paper, Ms Doherty includes another researcher's chart (p.47) on this topic. Note that no children under 14 months were included in the study. Including children under 2 in a national daycare program is not recommended by pro-daycare economists, Cleveland and Krashinski, due to costs and developmental concerns(The Benefits and Costs of Good Child Care, http://www.childcarecanada.org/pubs/other/benefits/bc.pdf p67-68 online version.)

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN PER ADULT AND APPROPRIATE CAREGIVING AND DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE ACTIVITY

Number of children per adult by age of child Percentage of children not receiving adequate caregiving Percentage of children not receiving developmentally appropriate activities
0[14]-24 months
  • 1:3 or less
  • 1:3 or 1:4
  • more than 1:4

  • 10%
  • 45%
  • 57%

  • 7%
  • 50%
  • 46%
25-36 months
  • 1:4
  • 1:4 - 1:6
  • more than 1:6

  • 4%
  • 26%
  • 39%

  • 2%
  • 41%
  • 42%
37-54 months
  • 1:8 or less
  • 1:8 or 1:9
  • more than 1:9

  • 9%
  • 52%
  • 54%

  • 7%
  • 50%
  • 50%


WHAT DOES "OR LESS" MEAN ?

The chart is confusing as a policy guide because of the words "or less". Take the ratio of 1:3 for 0-2 year olds for example. "1:3 or less" means 1:1, 1:2 and 1: 3. But 1:3 is included in the next category : "1:3 or 1:4". So are 10% or 45% of children in the 1:3 ratio setting "not receiving appropriate caregiving"? And do Canadians even accept having 10% of babies in daycare receiving poor care? Recall that when it comes to children who become anti-social adults 'one bad apple' can harm thousands.

However you read this chart, looking at the actual allowable ratios below, it is very clear that the government regulations are not preventing but assuring poor quality care and harming children.

LEGISLATED MAXIMUM STAFF:CHILD RATIOS IN DAYCARE CENTRES

(see ECEC 2004 http://www.childcarecanada.org/pt98/pdf/big.pdf CHART 15 and ECEC 2001 and http://www.childcarecanada.org/ECEC2001/tables_big/TABLE22.pdf )

RATIO
AGE 1
AGE 3
AGE 5
Gr. K-1
Gr. 2-7
2001
2004
Increase
2004
2004
BC 1:4 1:4   1:8 1:8    
Alberta 1:4 1:4   1:8 1:10    
Saskatchewan 1:3 1:3   1:10 1:10    
Manitoba 1:4 1:4   1:10 1:10    
Ontario 3:10 1:5 1:7 1:8 1:12    
Quebec 1:5 1:8 3 1:8 1:10    
Nova Scotia 1:4 1:6 2 1:8
(up 1)
1:15    
New Brunswick 1:3 1:3   1:7 1:12    
Newfoundland & Labrador 1:3 1:3   1:8 1:12    
PEI 1:3 1:3   1:10 1:12    
Yukon 1:4 1:6 2 1:8 1:8    
Nunavut 1:4 1:4   1:8 1:10    
NWT 1:4 1:4   1:8 1:10    


BETTER RATIOS DID NOT PRODUCE BETTER RESULTS

The daycare lobby says the majority of regulated care is of "minimal to mediocre quality". But in the study that proved that sad fact , the ratios were actually BETTER THAN ALLOWABLE RATIOS. For the You Bet I Care! Study there were only 1: 2.6 infants and toddlers per staff, and 4.8 preschoolers yet still the care was poor. (http://www.childcarecanada.org/pubs/op7/op7.pdf p. ix, p. 73).

RATIOS ARE BEING INCREASED, NOT LOWERED

Between Ontario raised its ratios for 1-year-olds from 10 for 3 staff to 5 for 1 staff - an increase of 50%. Quebec raised its ratios from 1:5 to 1:8. These ratios are being INCREASED when they should have been lowered, in other words "Quality" is getting much worse since the 1999 data showed that the majority of regulated is of "minimal to mediocre quality." These scandalous ratios and increases are not mentioned in the daycare lobby PR.

Canada's tax-funded leading daycare think, the Child Care Resource and Research Unit (CRRU) has a brief urging that ratios for under on be usually more and "not less than 1:4" (http://www.childcarecanada.org/pubs/pdf/BN_qualityservicetargets.pdf p.3). In Sweden the ratios are up to 1:25 (see elated Blog)

CHILDREN'S WELL-BEING KNOWINGLY SACRIFICED

There is no doubt that the lobbyists including CRRU Coordinator Martha Friendly know that the ratios are bad for children. They are after all the architect of daycare policy. Yet they are NOT asking for a reduction of ratios. And these ivory-tower ideological academics are not the women who actually work in daycare centres dealing with the results of the regulations the lobbyists create.

It is clear from this that the coercive government policies intended to get more children in daycare have nothing to do with concern for children's well-being. Parents are being misinformed by false assurances that government regulation assures children's best interests are met. And even that daycare will actually improve their children's development when all the evidence is that the opposite is true.

INFORMED CONSENT, PROPAGANDA and ACCOUNTABILITY

Informed consent is a core underlying principle of democracies and the exercise of choice. This principle is being violated by the ongoing tax-funded campaign of misinformation regarding daycare. Parents, media, politicians and the public need to know the facts in order to do right by our children. Those who lead by misleading are ultimately accountable.


Helen Ward ©


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