No more red tape: Alberta will no longer administer accreditation for child care services
In a move which has attracted international attention, the Canadian province of Alberta announced this week that effective 1 April 2020, the Government of Alberta will no longer administer a child care accreditation system parallel to licensing.
Under the current system, accreditation standards focus on outcomes such as children’s wellbeing, development, inclusion, respect for diversity and support for staff, in much the same way as the National Quality Standards.
Licencing in the Province is managed under the Child Care Licensing Act, and lays out minimum standards, including rules against “any form of physical punishment, verbal or physical degradation or emotional deprivation”, in much the same way as the National Laws and Regulations do in Australia.
Until this point a service which is accredited in Alberta is then eligible for “wage top ups” for educators. Currently, around 16,000 workers in the Province are eligible for top-ups. Under the new provisions, because all licensed child-care centres and day homes will receive top-ups, 18,000 workers will qualify to access them.
Adrienne Keller, the chairperson of the governing council of the Alberta Association for the Accreditation of Early Learning and Childcare Services (AELCS) was quoted in local news source The Edmonton Journal as saying she felt “almost overwhelmed by sadness and helplessness” in the wake of the decision.
Vice chairwoman for the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta (AECEA) expressed her concern about the decision, which she told The Edmonton Journal came without consultation with key stakeholders such as AECEA.
Minister of Children’s Services in Alberta, Rebecca Schulz, said that eliminating accreditation would allow educators and providers to “spend more time with children and families.”
“Child care centre operators and workers have been clear that the accreditation process added unnecessary red tape, causing workers to spend hundreds of hours on paperwork rather than focusing on care for children” Ms Schulz said.
The safety of children remains the highest priority of her department, Ms Schulz continued, saying “licensing officers will continue to enforce safety rules and regulations in licensed child care centres and licensed family day homes. This has not and will not change. We will be reviewing the Child Care Licensing Act later this year, and these changes to accreditation will be taken into consideration.”
The move will reportedly save roughly $3 million in contracts for administering accreditation, money which Ms Schulz said will be used to supplement the wage top ups, and further professional development for educators.
“Child care programs that were participating in accreditation have worked hard to embed the highest standards into their everyday programming – and we are confident those high standards will be maintained” she added.
“We are keeping the best elements of the accreditation program – fair wages for all certified child care staff and professional development fund – and rolling them out to all licensed child care programs” Ms Schulz said.
Childcare operators will continue to have access to Alberta’s provincial curriculum, but are also free to choose to implement a childcare curriculum which meets the needs of their community.
The AECEA has urged the provincial government to raise education standards and legislate mandatory ongoing professional learning for workers when the legislation governing child care licensing expires in October. Ms Schultz said she believed the government could build high safety and quality standards into the new legislation.