We saw it in Ontario earlier this month when child care centres were closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 then almost immediately re-opened so that health care and emergency services workers with children could stay on the job.
There is no common approach to emergency child care. Some provinces allow home-based licensed and non-licensed providers to stay open while others limit emergency child care to licensed centres. Protocols and staffing ratios are similarly inconsistent from province to province.
Meanwhile the very fragile Early Learning and Child Care sector is in jeopardy as centres close, parents stop paying fees, and workers are laid off.
It seems chaotic and improvised because it is. Government intervention is confused, difficult and complicated because Canada does not have a publicly-funded and publicly-managed child care system.
Instead, the provision of licensed child care has been left to the market to sort out. Child care is in crisis at the best of times; no wonder children, parents and staff are confused and disoriented now.
Child Care Now believes the federal government has taken many important steps to help workers and their families through the pandemic.
Part of this response has to be a coordinated, federally-supported plan to ensure the Early Learning and Child Care sector survives the pandemic and to provide safe, free, emergency licenced child care to parents of preschool and/or school-age children who are required to work, and cannot make other child care arrangements.
Child Care Now has written to the government calling on them to build support for the child care sector into their response plan for the pandemic.
“We know you will do everything you can to sustain the sector through the pandemic in recognition that licensed child care programs must be there for the Canadian workforce when it is safe for all of us to go back to work,” the letter concludes.