Ontario parents can now turn to the Internet to learn more about the conditions inside their children's daycare centres as the province has posted provincial inspection results online.
While the move is being hailed by some child-care experts, others say the website doesn't contain enough vital information to help parents make good choices, such as staff training levels and specifics on occurrences.
Ontario joins Manitoba in publishing child-care licensing information on the web. The move was prompted by a Toronto Star investigation into troubling incidents in daycares.
"Our objective is transparency and accountability," Minister of Children and Youth Services Mary Anne Chambers told the Star on Wednesday.
"My ministry was under a lot of pressure to get this out as quickly as possible. I felt that if we waited until everything was perfect and comprehensive, it would take much longer."
The new website contains information on each of the province's 4,486 licensed child-care centres, including:
- Whether it operates with restrictions on its licence;
- A list of any specific terms and conditions; and
- Whether it holds a "provisional" licence, indicating the centre is not meeting minimum provincial standards.
The Star investigation revealed how children in provincially licensed daycares have been assaulted, allowed to play in filthy conditions and fed allergy-triggering food that nearly claimed their lives -- information that had never before been made public.
Some daycares were found to be operating for months or even years on a provisional licence without meeting basic requirements.
There were 494 provisional licences issued to child-care centres across Ontario between January 2000 and January 2007. Currently, 69 centres hold provisional licenses, the newspaper reports.
Until now, Ontario parents had to file costly and time-consuming freedom of information requests to obtain basic information on what provincial inspectors had discovered at daycares.
Child-care experts say the website is an important first step, but want to see more detailed information being posted, such as occurrences that, for example, led to the daycare centre being forced to develop an allergy policy. Such inspection data is common in many U.S. jurisdictions.
The City of Toronto's Children's Services department is planning to launch its own website by the end of the year that will take daycare disclosure a step further, assigning grades for performance on such issues as health and safety, staff and child interactions, learning and physical environment, the Star reports.
"(The provincial site) doesn't tell you anything about quality of the program -- just whether it meets the basic requirements," Petr Varmuza, director of operational effectiveness for Toronto Children's Services, told the newspaper. "We're looking to go beyond that."
With a report from CTV's Matet Nebres