LICENSED VS. UNLICENSED CARE
In Ontario, all child care centres must be licensed under the Child Care and Early Years Act and adhere to government regulations related to virtually every aspect of the centre's operation. From staff qualifications, the ratio of staff to children, to the safety and cleanliness of the care environment, behavior management and much, much more, these regulations help ensure that any potential risks to your child's well being are kept to a minimum.
Home child care
Some home child care agencies are also licensed under the Child Care And Early Years Act, which requires that the homes in which the children are cared for meet certain standards, that caregivers follow certain procedures concerning safety and cleanliness, and so forth. If an individual providing child care in a home setting doesn't specifically say she/he is licensed, probably she/he is not. While many unlicensed or informal home child care providers do a very good job, the absence of regulatory safeguards or of a back-up caregiver should the home child care provider fall ill or be otherwise unavailable are two of the major reasons many parents prefer licensed child care.
Look for care that exceeds regulatory standards
Beyond minimizing basic health and safety risks, a high quality child care program offers caring staff who take the time to get to know each child and family personally; activities, surroundings, toys, equipment and books that promote children's development; nutritious meals and snacks; and is a place that your child looks forward to going to each day. As a parent, it's important that you understand that while the Child Care and Early Years Act, and government licensing and regulation have allowed for the establishment of some basic standards of care that all child care programs in Ontario must meet, these are very basic standards. It is always wise to choose a child care program that far exceeds them, and that provides both general early learning experiences as well as any specific developmental opportunities such as music, sports, computers or other activities you feel would be of interest or benefit to your child.
Trust your own judgement
Not every licensed child care program is right for every family or every child. It pays to be an informed consumer, to ask questions, to explore your options and to know what to look for. Remember, your own judgement, instinct and experience as a parent are also vital assurances of child care quality.