The Yukon Childcare Association is concerned about how changes to the Child Care Act will affect children’s safety at day camps and summer camps throughout the territory.
“The safety of children is paramount to what we do, and that’s pretty much the bottom line,” said Kate Swales, an association board member. The association provides training and support for early child educators, but does not receive government recognition, she said.
In May, the government changed the Child Care Act so it no longer applies to programs that operate for 12 consecutive weeks or less and don’t have providing childcare as their main goal. This includes March break or summer day camps and summer camps.
The act outlines what programs, like daycares and before-and-after-school programs, need to be licensed. Licensing rules say what sort of qualifications staff need, including police checks and first aid and CPR certification.
“This feels to us like this is a step of de-regulation of early child development of the act, that if they can do this for what they’re doing - if they can do this for camps, which is a real problem in itself, then what’s next?” said Swales.
When parents find out that day camps are not regulated by the government, they’re shocked, she said.
But the Child Care Act was never supposed to apply to day camps and the government has never regulated these programs, said Pat Living, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.
However, the act could be interpreted to apply to them. The government wanted to clarify what programs the act applies to, she said. The act is meant to apply to programs with the primary goal of caring for children. Day camps are often provided to older children, and are often focused on different sports or activities, she said.
And some camps, especially those run by not-for-profit groups, may not be able to afford to meet all the licensing requirements, she said.
Last year, the department created a handout listing questions parents should ask when choosing a program for their children. It includes questions about what the staff-to-children ratios are and what qualifications and certification staff members have. The department hopes to come up with a list of best practices to give to different camp providers, said Living.
Several camps already make sure their staff have certain requirements. City childcare specialists run the camps offered at the Canada Games Centre over March break, said Chris Milner, manager of recreation and facility services for the city. And the students hired to run summer camps are all over 18 and have police checks and first aid and CPR training.
Organizations like the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon and Northern Cultural Expressions Society make sure to keep low camper-to-staff ratios. There is one support worker for every 2.5 children at the Northern Cultural Expressions Society’s programs, said Naomi Crey, workshop co-ordinator for the society. And there are four staff at each of LDAY’s camps, said executive director Stephanie Hammond. Each camp can take a maximum of 10 children.
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