The word 'advocacy'
Connexions Professional Practice

Advocating for the profession: AECEO leads the charge

We recently connected with Alana Powell RECE, Executive Coordinator at the Association of Early Childhood Educators (AECEO). We wanted to find out about AECEO’s advocacy efforts since the pandemic started.

AECEO is the professional advocacy organization for early childhood educators in Ontario. Its mission is to amplify the collective voice for the profession in order to influence change in the sector. AECEO will mark its 70th anniversary in 2020.

Differentiating between a regulator and an advocate

In contrast, the College, as the profession’s regulator, oversees its entry requirements and sets the standards and ethical guidelines members must follow to remain in good standing. The College also develops resources and works to support excellence in the practice of the profession. By regulating the profession, we’re fulfilling our mandate of protecting the public – in particular, children and their families. We’re also responsible for protecting RECEs’ scope of practice.  Only College members are legally permitted to work as ECEs in Ontario and can use the protected titles, the designations of RECE and ECE, and their French equivalents.

While we’re regulating the profession, AECEO is advocating on behalf of RECEs for change in areas that the College has no jurisdiction over, such as wages or employment security. They’re focused on bringing RECEs together to influence positive changes that not only benefit RECEs, but also children, their families and communities. The College strongly believes in the value of advocacy work. We believe that a strong profession requires an effective regulator as well as an active professional association, and healthy dialogue between the two.

Advocacy in the time of COVID-19                                                               

“Much of AECEO’s work has been focused on our Professional Pay and Decent Work campaign,” Alana says. “It prioritizes improving wages and working conditions for all RECEs in the province. Since the pandemic, though, our asks of the different levels of government have shifted.”

These days AECEO is advocating for:

  • Sector-specific funding to keep RECEs’ jobs, ensure they’ll be hired back and have decent pay when they return to work
  • Pandemic pay for RECEs in emergency child care and a clear plan that considers RECE concerns. These include what health and safety during COVID looks like, what protocols could be implemented and how members can engage in practice after the pandemic is over.

“We’re also creating opportunities to bring RECEs together to share experiences and connect during this challenging time,” Alana says. “We know we’re strong together. Our collective voice amplifies and gives power to our advocacy. RECEs have knowledge that should be considered when developing any return-to-work plans.”

Other championing efforts

“There’s so much advocacy work happening in the sector. RECEs are showing their power and leadership by writing letters, creating podcasts and starting petitions,” Alana shares.

“On a national level, there are a few campaigns to watch,” Alana says. “Several organizations are advocating for all levels of government to develop and implement a plan to sustain child care through COVID-19.”

Those campaigns include:

RECEs as advocates

“We’ve seen RECEs and the sector use their voice throughout this emergency,” Alana says. “Seeing the passion, power and dedication of those in the profession has been such a positive, throughout. RECEs have really shown their power, strength and resiliency, demonstrating the broader public that what they do is so important.”

The AECEO leadership team is encouraged by how RECEs are coming together to make their work visible.

Patricia Borges, an RECE in a pre-school room in Toronto, and Stephanie Walker, an RECE in a toddler program in Richmond Hill, have been engaging in advocacy efforts during the pandemic.

“We recently started the Child Care Revolution podcast,” Patricia says. “Our goals are to discuss early learning and care in Ontario and connect with fellow educators.”

Stephanie adds that they’re calling it a revolution “because that’s what we need to better serve children, educators and our communities.”

For RECEs looking to engage in advocacy efforts, the duo suggest going out to social media to share stories and connect with others. “It’s an extremely powerful advocacy tool,” Patricia says.  “We need to come out of the pandemic with more people understanding that child care is [part of the] backbone of the economy.”

“There are a few things you can do to further participate in advocacy,” explains Alana. “You can support AECEO by joining as a member. That makes a big difference to both the resources and our collective voice. You can also join a Decent Work Community of Practice.”

Visit the AECEO website for more about their advocacy work.