Calgary council unanimously votes to add rules to unregulated day homes

City council voted unanimously in a decision that aims to increase day home safety.

Calgary city council voted unanimously in favour of a bylaw that will add rules to unregulated day homes Wednesday.

Previously, the only rule around operating unregulated day homes in Calgary was care providers could not look after more than six children at a time.

Regulated day home operators need to have first aid training, an intervention record check, and a criminal record check to obtain a licence. They can care for the same number of children as unregulated day homes, plus their own children if they have any.

Under the new bylaw, unlicensed day home operators will be required to undergo a criminal record check and show proof of first aid training in order to get a business licence by January.

Jen Woolfsmith started a movement advocating for safer childcare in Alberta after her 22-month-old daughter Mackenzy died in an unregulated day home in 2012.

READ MORE: Judge recommends day home review after toddler’s death

The day home operator, Caitlyn Jarosz, said the toddler, who died from brain and spinal cord injuries, had fallen down the stairs and flipped through the air. Jarosz pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison.

Judge Joshua Hawkes called for an extensive re-examination of the legislative, policy, and operational framework that governs child-care in Alberta in his ruling.

“It’s easy to think that a tragedy would never happen to you,” Woolfsmith said.

“It can, and it does happen to anyone, and having first aid, having vulnerable sector check for everybody in the home, not just the person providing the care, but anybody that may be coming in and out of the home while young, vulnerable children are in the care and custody within that home. It just makes sense.”

Woolfsmith believes regulating all child-care in the province will benefit the day home owners the most.

“If anybody needs [the] support of the municipality, of the province, I think it’s folks that take care of small children in their home for a living.”

A city report from earlier this year looked into families’ challenges when accessing safe and affordable childcare. Responses suggest that unlicensed day home owners worry regulation of their industry would focus more on paperwork and less on how children are treated in their care.

Other responses suggest that instead of red tape, they prefer enhanced safety measures and age-appropriate training to ensure children get the best quality care possible.

Respondents also say that as more regulations are added, more paperwork and fees will follow, fees that some potential operators say would have to be passed down onto the parents, making childcare less affordable.

In addition, several participants brought up concerns about a lack of autonomy. They say too much regulation will dissuade people from wanting to enter the field.

Danielle Bourdin, the executive director of Embolden Private Daycare Community, says she understands the concerns about over-regulation, but she says she’s “going the other route.”

“You’re going to have people that don’t see the value in introducing this permit. And they think that it’s just a cash grab from the city of Calgary, or that more regulation isn’t up to the city of Calgary to put in place,” Bourdin said.

“The reality is that the province had already proven to us that they are not going to be doing anything to increase safety within the unlicensed sector. Otherwise, they would have done so when the legislation was open. And so having the city of Calgary come in and do this, I think it’s the right call.”

She says the new bylaw is a step in the right direction for the city, and notes that Calgarians need licenses for many things, but not for taking care of children.

“I think a lot of times, there are parents that don’t realize that you can operate a day home in Calgary, or anywhere in Alberta, without having any minimum require requirements needing to be met,” Bourbon said.

“You have to have a license to have chickens in the city of Calgary; you have to have a permit to have a pet. But here in Alberta and Calgary, there are no minimum requirements for caring for children in your own home.”

–With files from Tiffany Goodwein and Tate Laycraft

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