Text of the press release:
The province is improving access to child care subsidies, infant screening programs and hearing, and speech and language programs for more young children, Children and Youth Services Minister Dr. Marie Bountrogianni announced today.
"For our children to reach their potential, we have to work together to ensure they get the best possible start in life," said Bountrogianni.
The Minister announced that the province is providing help to parents by:
- Eliminating restrictions on child care subsidies for parents with RRSPs and RESPs, making more families eligible for subsidies
- Investing an additional $8.3 million in the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program to identify babies at risk early and help parents get the advice and services they need to give their newborns the best chance for healthy development
- Investing an additional $4.7 million in the Preschool Speech and Language program and $1.2 million in the Infant Hearing Program to help children with language and hearing disorders develop the communication skills they need to succeed in school.
Speaking at the government-sponsored Ontario Children and Youth Summit, the Minister also provided an update on the province's Best Start plan.
"If Ontario is going to be a leader in science and commerce and culture tomorrow, we need to be a leader in early child development today," said Bountrogianni.
"Our first priority in expanding early learning and child care will be to provide a full day of learning and child care for four- and five-year-olds."
"Ontario is building a system of early learning and child care that will give our children the best chance at future success. We'll get there in steps. And we'll get there with help &em; from our federal and municipal partners, from our dedicated service providers, and from parents in all parts of the province."
Bountrogianni said the province is also working towards:
- A new model for distributing subsidies, based on income instead of means, making more Ontario families eligible for help.
- A new College of Early Childhood Educators to set high professional standards and ensure quality care.
The province's long-term vision, to be delivered over the next 10 to 15 years, is to extend the full day of learning and child care so it's available to children beginning at age two-and-a-half.
This approach is to be tested in three pilot communities within the government's current mandate.
Child care advocates say these steps will build on what the government is already doing &em; including the creation of 4,000 new subsidized child care spaces this year.
"This won't solve every problem but there's no question it's a step forward for children and families in this province," said Kira Heinick, Executive Director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.
"At last we have a government that understands that how children start out has a huge impact on where they end up."