Why does quality in Child Care matter?
While child care in Canada is a hotly debated political topic at the moment, the idea of child care quality should be a bi-partisan topic, as all sides in the debate agree that quality is necessary.
Research consistently shows that high quality "is an important influence on children’s development" (Love et al, 2003; Centre for the Developing Child, Harvard, 2007) In fact, the research that shows that child care programs are beneficial to young children? It equally shows that it is often beneficial only if it is quality child care. Low quality child care can in fact be harmful to the development and growth of young children.
Given this undisputed finding, it is surprising that more research into assessing quality child care has not been done. In Canada, there are few systems currently in place to assess quality care. All provinces have regulated care; there is a governing body in every province that issues chid care licenses and ensures that basic health and safety standards are followed. But across Canada, there is minimal attention to quality.
To ensure quality child care is offered to families, the City assesses licensed programs using the Assessment for Quality Improvement (AQI). The results of this assessment are called quality ratings, and are posted online for all parents to view.
This applies to the city-funded programs only, which is about 80% of childcare in Toronto (union, publicly run)
Accreditation promotes excellence in child care settings in Alberta and helps families choose the best care for their children. It is based on standards of excellence that reflect current research and leading practices to provide high quality child care over and above licensing regulations for children from birth to 12 years of age. Enrolling is a voluntary process, but recommended.
This applies to any child care program wishing to participate, regardless of auspice.
ECERS / ITERS
The ECERS and ITERS scales are available for child care programs to purchase and use to self-assess quality. There is no requirement in Canada to use these scales, however they provide a generalized tool for programs to self-assess.
The NAEYC Early Learning Program Accreditation Standards and Assessment Items aim to ensure the quality of children's daily experiences in early learning programs and to promote positive child outcomes. NAEYC Early Learning Program Accreditation helps create a unifying framework of quality that is aligned with the profession’s collective knowledge of best practices.
The BC Child Care Quality Assessment Standard (QAS) is an assessment tool that, unlike the directive rubrics found in ECERS /ITERS and the AQI and the solely open-ended Alberta Accreditation tool, blends a rubric with outcome-based objectives. Based off of the BC ELF and the BC Child Care Licensing Regulations, the QAS is a tool for child care programs to self-assess as well as participate in a BC quality assessment system that provides Educators and Parents assurance of the quality of a particular program.