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Daycare lacking for needy: Study [CA]

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Monsebraaten, Laurie
Publication Date: 
5 Jul 2006

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Canada's neediest children have the toughest time getting regulated daycare, according to a new national study on early learning in 11 cities.

The report, entitled "Learning from Each Other: Early Learning and Child Care Experiences in Canadian Cities," points to the need for more regional planning to ensure all communities have equal access to this service, considered essential at a time when more than 70 per cent of mothers of young children work outside the home.

But that can only happen if larger amounts of stable funding are available from senior governments, says the report commissioned by Social Development Canada and the cities of Toronto and Vancouver.

"As the Toronto and Vancouver stories show, even with a strong vision, a clear plan and a well-developed local infrastructure, inequities will arise as long as there is insufficient funding to provide a place for all who want and need it."

None of the cities has enough child care service for children from birth to age 12, they found. But all have universal kindergarten for 5-year-olds, and in three provinces &emdash; New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec &emdash; this service is compulsory.

With more than 50,000 licensed child-care spaces, Toronto has the largest regulated child-care system outside Quebec. But St. John's, Winnipeg and Whitehorse serve a higher percentage of children. In Toronto, just 13.6 per cent of children from birth to age 12 have access to licensed child care while there is regulated care for almost 25 per cent of kids in Whitehorse, 16 per cent in Winnipeg and almost 15 per cent in St. John's.

Inadequate and uneven levels of child-care service will continue if Stephen Harper's Conservative government cancels federal-provincial child-care funding agreements next spring, as planned, the report says.

Although children's services vary widely across the country, the most successful are universal programs organized around "hubs" that are able to integrate child care, parent support, recreation and other services such as public health and libraries, the report found.

- reprinted from the Toronto Star