Daycare parents triumph
TARA WALTON/TORONTO STAR
By filing a series of freedom of information
requests that took more than 18 months, the
Star obtained records detailing many
disturbing incidents at daycare centres in
the past three years.
Less than 24 hours after `disturbing’ Star probe,
minister promises new website with reports on
2007 04:30 AM
The wall of secrecy surrounding
abuses in daycares has tumbled less than 24 hours
after a Star investigation documented
troubling problems in centres across Ontario.
Parents concerned about the quality
of care their children are receiving in licensed
centres will soon be able to visit a ministry
website listing serious incidents and inspection
Mary Anne Chambers, Minister of
Children and Youth Services, said yesterday her
ministry will launch the website by the fall.
Chambers is also considering a stronger colour-coding
system in which a red licence posted at a daycare
would indicate a serious problem.
Findings of the Star probe
included incidents of children being physically
assaulted, left to wander away in public places, fed
allergy-triggering foods that nearly killed them and
being forced to play in filthy surroundings. The
Star found numerous cases where daycares with
these problems were allowed to remain open,
sometimes for years.
The cases were drawn from provincial
and municipal records of inspections, enforcement,
complaints and serious incidents, obtained through a
series of requests under the Freedom of Information
Act that took two years.
Chambers called the revelations
"What I read in the Toronto Star
(yesterday) is unacceptable," she said. "I
think parents deserve to be able to access
information that relates to their child's care."
The proposed website will contain a
"more robust form of reporting," including details
on why a centre has a provisional licence – a tool
used by the ministry to allow daycares with
substandard conditions to remain open.
There are 57 daycares in the
province operating under a provisional licence.
White licences mean there are no problems, yellow
licences are provisional. Chambers said she favours
a stronger colour-coding system, similar to the
well-known restaurant rating system. "When you walk
up to a restaurant door you see a red label on that
door and you know there's a problem. We can do
that," Chambers said.
In the wake of the Star
investigation, parents across the GTA flooded the
newspaper with phone calls and emails with a clear
message for the Ontario government: When it comes to
children's safety and well-being, there should be no
If daycares are dangerous, dirty or
allow children to wander off unattended, parents
should know about it, they said.
"It's a no-brainer," said Andrew
Stalony, who recently entrusted care of his
15-month-old son, Ryan, to a daycare in Mississauga.
"There is no question we should have the right to
know what's going on. You're letting someone else
take care of your child."
During Question Period at the
provincial legislature yesterday, Chambers was
attacked by both opposition parties for hiding the
problems at daycares. "The minister and her
government made efforts to keep this information
under wraps for two years," Progressive Conservative
Leader John Tory said, referring to the length of
time it took the Star to get the
Chambers denied this, noting that
daycares with provisional licences are required to
hand out a government pamphlet titled "Attention
Parents. This centre does not meet all the
requirements of the Day Nurseries Act."
She also said the province has hired
more inspectors and now conducts unannounced reviews
of daycares as well as the annual inspections. The
changes protect children better, she said.
The minister said she also favours
posting the data collected by the ministry on
serious occurrences at daycares – ranging from
children who were temporarily missing to abuse
allegations, which daycares must report to the
"I agree the serious occurrences
should be there. I really do want to take a look at
our ability to report any kind of serious
occurrence. One of the things we have to be
cognizant (of) is volume of data and ability to
manage 4,000 pieces of data online."
The Toronto Star
investigation, based on thousands of daycare
incidents, inspection reports and complaints,
uncovered serious problems including children
wandering off unattended, being forcibly confined in
closets and storage rooms, and being served meals
prepared in mice-infested kitchens. There were 5,814
serious occurrences reported by licensed daycares
across Ontario in 2005-2006, including nearly 3,000
injuries, 674 missing children reports and 675
allegations of abuse or mistreatment, according to
data analyzed by the Star.
One parent who contacted the
Star had tried on her own to obtain similar
information. Karen Krawec said she eventually gave
up in frustration after trying to get information on
daycare centres in York Region to help her decide
whom to entrust with the care of her young son.
"I was first told that I would not
be able to access the information," Krawec said.
"Later on when I quoted the Freedom of Information
Act, I was advised that it would be a lot of work to
dig up all of the records so I would have to pay the
"They said it would cost hundred of
dollars and (take) several months," Krawec said.
"After consulting my MP, who did nothing for me, I
finally gave up."
Lisa MacLeod, Tory MPP for
Nepean-Carleton and her party's critic on children
and youth, said there has to be absolute
transparency for government-run daycares. "If we're
going to be doing this for restaurants, we should be
doing it for daycares," she says. "We are dealing
with the physical safety and emotional well-being of
Under the province's Day Nurseries
Act, daycares are required to post their licence
inside the daycare, where parents can see it.
Provisional licences must also be posted, allowing
parents to see issues in which the daycare is
failing to meet minimum provincial standards.
But posting licences isn't nearly
enough, say parents.
Carrie Makins has been shopping for
a daycare for her two children without much
information to work with, she says. "The only way of
sourcing daycare is by my gut feel and word of
mouth. Really, there is no information and no
transparency for parents and that's unfair, because
they're taking care of our kids for 40 hours a week
and that's a huge influence on their life.
"You're paying these people to take
care of the most precious people in your life, you
need to make sure they're in good hands."
"The state of daycare in this
country is appalling both in terms of the space
available and the unhealthy conditions presented,"
said Deborah Wilson, whose daughter is in a downtown
"To think that a daycare facility
can continue to operate on a provisional licence is
devastating to me. I truly hope that this article
will reinforce to our government that decisive
action needs to be taken to improve daycare in this
Julie Wallis, whose two grandsons
are cared for in a Toronto daycare, says Canadians
are "burying their heads in the sand" on the daycare
issue. "A website put forward by the provincial
government is needed."
Transparency would force daycares to
be more vigilant about maintaining standards, says
Teresa Wong, who has a 4-year-old in daycare. "It
would also make them clean up their act if they knew
somebody was watching," she said.
"People forget this is a service
industry and the client is the child," said Anne
Eisenberg. "That's the problem, the focus isn't on
the child. We lost that a long time ago.
"It's a money issue."
Daniela Fiacco, who operates the
Columbus Children's Centre, says she supports
parents' requests for information. "Our records are
there. If parents want to see them, we let parents
look at them. We have nothing to hide."
Robert Cribb and Dale Brazao can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (416) 945-8674.