Ontario launches online list of day cares after report blows whistle on abuse, neglect

Critics say website provides little real help to parents

Lee Greenberg, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Friday, August 17, 2007

TORONTO - Parents looking at day care options for their young children can now search online. The Ontario government yesterday launched a website listing all provincially licensed facilities, along with inspection results for each day care.

The provincial website (accessible at www.ontario.ca/licensedchildcare) contains information on each of Ontario's 4,486 licensed child-care centres, including whether it operates with restrictions, a list of any specific terms and conditions and whether it holds a "provisional" licence, indicating the centre is not meeting minimum provincial standards.

Currently, 69 centres hold such provisional licences.

The website was prompted by a Toronto newspaper story documenting cases of abuse and neglect in certain licensed centres in the provincial capital. They included cases where children had been assaulted, allowed to play in filthy conditions and fed allergy-triggering food that nearly claimed their lives.

Mary Anne Chambers, minister of Children and Youth Services, said the government hurried to get the site online following the newspaper investigation. "When parents place their children, and their trust, in a licensed child-care program, there is no room for compromise," she said in a statement. "This is a new tool to help parents find information on licensed child care so they can be confident in the well-being of their children."

But critics say the new website is largely an inventory of existing services -- a tool that points to a shortfall in day care spaces in Ontario.

"Telling people something's available isn't going to help when there's nothing available," says NDP critic Andrea Horwath. "There's a horrible shortfall which is leading to a crisis in the child-care system. It's in cities, in rural towns -- it's everywhere."

Ms. Horwath noted another crack in the system -- unlicensed day cares escape scrutiny and are therefore off the list. Unlicensed day cares are permitted when they house five or fewer children under the age of 10.