This option refers to private arrangements made between the parents and a caregiver, who may be a relative, friend, neighbor or member of the community offering to care for children in their home.
The Ontario government does not allow for 'independent homes' to BE licensed which is why the majority of home childcare in Ontario is 'unregulated' because being contracted by an agency is not always a desired business model for providers who prefer their 'independence' over fee structure and so forth.
The Child Care and Early Years Act states that an 'unlicensed' provider may not provide care for any more than 5 children under the age of 13 per premise REGARDLESS of the number of adults that are present on the premise.
Just like in an 'agency regulated' home an independent provider can care for no more than 2 children can be under the age of 2. Just like in an agency contracted home the independent providers own children count in their ratio until they reach of 6 or until they are enrolled in school full time as part of the Full Day Kindergarten program.
Unlicesned or unregulated childcare care also means that the person caring for your child is not being inspected by any third party to ensure they have to met any of the provincial health, safety, bi-laws and caregiver training standards as set out in the regulated settings.
However it does not mean that independent private providers are not required to FOLLOW the health and safety rules set out for the childcare industry in the Child Care and Early Years Act or any other Act. Nor does it mean that if we are found by a court of law to not be engaged in due diligence that there will not be 'consequences' under the law for those who do not follow the rules.
Basically 'unregulated childcare' means is that the Ontario Government has absolved itself of the responsibility of 'licensing or regulating' independent childcare providers in any manner and if and ICP wants that option the government has forced ICP to partner with a third party 'agency' which sadly comes at a greatly increased expense to both the provider AND the parent as well as the taxpayer in general to cover the cost of administering this model.
In the 'unlicensed' setting it is up to the provider to choose to 'regulate' themselves in these areas and to perform their due diligence in practicing 'best practice' as determined by the field in general. Therefore it is vital that parents who are choosing unlicensed programs are EXTRA vigilant to make sure that the provider’s home and early learning experiences are such that they would be able to meet the needs of all the children enrolled in a safe and healthy manner to the parent’s satisfaction.
Although there are no regulations mandating professional development standards for unlicensed home childcare I feel it is important to note that there are several valuable home childcare support networks in the London area which offer many professional development opportunities, training and development and so forth that many home childcare providers choose to 'regulate' their own participation in.
Also worth to note that this is done not out of some government regulation to do so but out of the interest of ensuring best practice in their business ... voluntarily ... these providers are choosing to be there on their own time and with their own investment because they are passionate about what they do and maintaining best practice in their chosen field.
So when choosing a provider, if training and professionalism are an important value to you, it is prudent to ask if they belong to a home childcare association or support group and how often professional development is sought for their program. Research shows that people who continue in professional development and growth in their profession are more inclined to thrive in their role ... and since our role is providing a safe and secure learning environment for your wee one - it is only prudent to choose someone who desires to be at the top of their game
In closing, regardless of the avenue you choose for your family, is important to note that government regulations or a posted license are not a guarantee of quality and that the standards set out in the Child Care and Early Years Act are for minimum requirements.
So while many childcare centres might be licensed they might also be providing minimum standards of care and while independent private home childcare is unlicensed or unregulated there are many providers who value professionalism and ensuring best practice in their field and far exceed the minimum standards but choose to be independent because they do not want an agency taking a portion of their income with little return on the investment as they can 'regulate' their program effectively without them ... the agency model is one that often drives up the cost of care to the client while lowering the front line wage of the worker to ensure that the 'middleman' are all drawing a wage as well.
Therefore no matter the setting it is very prudent for parents to do a thorough investigation and double check a centre or provider’s home using a list of criteria and questions that are the same for each provider interviewed; this will help you to compare all the facts within your options and make an informed decision about care.
For more information see “Checklist”.