District child care issue clarified

Nicholas Donaldson

A press release from the Emo Child Care Centre, published in the June 7 edition of the Fort Frances Times, surprised the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board with its message.
The release stated the organization recently had been approved by the Ministry of Education to operate a child care centre at Knox United Church in Emo but noted the local DSSAB was “the only remaining obstacle.”
“We are calling on the DSSAB to step up so we can achieve this goal,” ECCC director Cindy Judson said in the release.
DSSAB CAO Dan McCormick and child care services manager Tanis Fretter met with the Times last week to discuss plans for child care in the district and clarify some of the statements made by the ECCC.
Fretter noted she has been working with the group on and off for about two years, helping it with the licensing and lining up other requirements for opening a child care centre.
But at this point, a few roadblocks are preventing the DSSAB from funding the Emo Child Care Centre.
These include the funding model of the DSSAB, uncertainty of funding initiatives from the province, and the complicated nature of choosing to open a day care centre.
“The issue is that we work within a fixed funding model, so we have sort of a funding envelope,” McCormick explained.
“That envelope currently is distributed amongst our day cares, so unless a day care quits operating, we truly don’t have any money to bring another one on without going to the municipalities for 100 percent funding,” he said.
McCormick also noted a lot of initiatives are coming down from the province, but the DSSAB is not sure yet how it will affect their funding model.
In fact, the funding
Please see “District,” A7

allocations for this year had just come out at the beginning of May and the DSSAB still is in the process of doing budgets for everybody.
“So we are already six months into their budget year, and because we don’t have the funding allocation from the government, we can’t firm up the budgets to even our existing [day care] operators,” McCormick stressed.
He noted the press release stated the “DSSAB has suggested that no funding is available for the project.”
“At the time we met with them, there was no funding and we clearly told that,” McCormick remarked.
“And that’s not to stop them, they can move forward at any time they want, but they would have to fund it with their own revenues,” he added.
Fretter said the DSSAB is committed to offering affordable, accessible child care, but it always is aware of uncertainty in the budget.
“Up until just recently, we didn’t know anything about what the province’s commitment to expanding the licensed spaces was going to be,” she noted.
“We do have some information, so I think we are in a planning stage of what we can do that is going to best support access to child care for families throughout our district, and conversations with Emo are definitely a part of that,” Fretter added.
The press release also noted the ECCC had not been invited to attend DSSAB’s community consultation meetings–despite ongoing dialogue between the two parties.
“The thing is, those are public meetings,” McCormick said. “It was advertised in all the local papers.
“We didn’t give anybody a personal invite.
“They were welcome to come and I believe some of them did,” he added.
Fretter also explained the community consultations are a separate process related to the new announcement that the four provincially-funded programs will be rolled into one, which will be known as “Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres.”
The area currently is running only one of those programs, which are known now as “Best Start” Hubs.
The DSSAB is leading the planning for the new amalgamated program. The community consultations to see what is working–and what is needed–is part of that process.
“Out of that I expect we’ll hear, and we have already heard, some things about licensed child care,” said Fretter.
“So we’ll take that back and roll that into our planning.
“But the reason we are actually out there is with the primary goal of looking at planning for Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres,” she stressed.
McCormick said the DSSAB is gathering more information on the needs of the community to look at child care across the whole district.
He noted that although there currently is no child care centre within Emo, there is one just 10 minutes away.
“The question is, if you open a new one, how does that impact the existing day care?” McCormick wondered.
“So we really haven’t made any commitment to go one way or the other, but we are looking at other initiatives.”
Some initiatives McCormick mentioned involved funding for school builds that can house day cares in the same facility and day care expansion funding, but nothing that would keep a new day care operating in the long-term.
“That is the other thing that we need to watch to make sure that we can properly maintain anything that we create,” he noted.
Fretter explained the ECCC has received its non-profit status and has tentative plans drawn up for renovations to Knox United Church in Emo.
It also has submitted to the Ministry of Education for licensing and has received approval in principle.
“Now where the DSSAB comes in, and I think that is more what my role has been working with the group, is working with existing operators to get all of those other pieces that need to be in place that would make a child-care operator eligible for a general operating funding and fee subsidy funding through the DSSAB,” Fretter said.
She added a lot of things need to go into that to set a centre up for success in the future.
“That was where we were at with the last meeting at the end of April, just talking about some of those pieces that we’d be looking for as a funding administrator to help them put into place to be in a good position,” Fretter noted.
McCormick reiterated the question is about what the DSSAB can provide with the funding from the province, so now it is waiting to see what comes out of some new initiatives.
“They might make the announcement for 100,000 spaces, but we don’t know how that translates to our area,” he explained.
“We are just continuing to look at the needs and make the best plan we can to support our communities, recognizing that we have different needs across all of our communities,” echoed Fretter.
McCormick said the DSSAB has a Child Care Service Plan for the district that lists achievements and goals it is working towards.
He said the plan is due for review in the coming year or two, and that it is available for anyone to read on the DSSAB’s website at www.rrdssab.ca (under the “Child Care” tab).