It is important for parents to know their child is getting the best start in life in a safe and nurturing environment to support their development. Recently, changes were made to child-care regulations to better protect children by ensuring that anyone who is working or volunteering at regulated child-care centres has criminal record and child abuse register checks in place. The criminal-record check will be replaced by the vulnerable-sector check in June 2015, and must be renewed every five years. A vulnerable-sector check goes beyond a criminal-record check to include a search of the pardoned sex offender database.
I want to assure parents that Nova Scotia is fortunate to have many child-care operators and staff who are dedicated, caring and have the best interests of children at heart. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development expects child-care operators to have quality programs in place that meet the needs of all children to help them reach their full potential. We have a good child-care system in the province, but we can and should always do better.
It is important for parents to always ask questions before enrolling their child in licenced or unlicensed child care. Licensed child care is available for children from birth to age 12. To be licensed, child-care centres must follow the Day Care Act and Regulations, and are inspected and monitored by the province. Family home day care is child care offered in someone's home under the supervision of a licensed family home day-care agency. Agencies are licensed by the department to approve, manage and monitor the care providers in their homes. All licensed child-care centres and approved family day-care homes display a sticker at the main entrance. The sticker shows the parent that the provider is regulated. A list of regulated child-care providers is also available on the department website.
Unregulated child-care providers can look after up to six children of any age, or eight school-aged children without a licence. Unlicensed child-care arrangements are made privately between the parents and the provider and the department does not regulate these providers. However, it is important for parents to make sure the provider they choose is not exceeding the maximum number of children allowed in the setting.
No matter what type of child care, it is important that parents contact and visit the child centres or homes they are considering before making a final decision. During the visit, parents can observe the children and staff and how they interact with each other. The visit provides an opportunity to assess the physical setting and gives parents the chance to talk with staff, care providers and the operator of the program.
Parents should have a list of questions ready to ask. The answers will help parents to decide what setting is best for their child. A child-care visit check list to help with assessing centres is available at www.ednet.ns.ca/earlyyears/families/findchildcare.shtml .
The safety of children is our highest priority and we expect licensed child-care programs to ensure regulations are followed. Parents can always check to see if their child-care centre has any violations by viewing the online child-care directory. For more information about choosing a child-care centre and other information about child care in Nova Scotia, visit www.ednet.ns.ca/earlyyears/ .
Karen Casey, MLA
Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development