The College’s Registrar, Beth Deazeley, shares what she’s hearing from members, what we’re doing to support the profession and where RECEs can go for reliable information.
We’ve received a lot of questions from RECEs about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the early learning and child care sector. To help provide some insight into a constantly changing situation, we went to Beth for answers.
Q: With so much information in the media, many people seem unclear about whether child care is open or not at the moment. What’s going on?
A: Some child care locations are open because they have been designated as providers of emergency child care for children of frontline workers. Unlicensed home based child care was never subject to the emergency order to close, so some providers may still be operating and are permitted to do so. In Ontario, all licensed child care that is not emergency care remains closed. In some closed centres, staff are still engaging with each other or with families using technology.
Q: You’re in regular communication with the Ministry of Education. Has the Ministry indicated when Ontario will fully re-open its licensed child care?
A: On May 19, 2020, the Premier of Ontario and Minister Lecce announced that a gradual reopening of child care is expected to begin when the province is ready to transition to Stage 2 of re-opening based on public health criteria. Minister Lecce added that the re-opening will come with strict health and safety protocols. We’re aware that some provinces, such as Alberta, have announced plans for re-opening child care and other businesses. We’re continuing to monitor the situation to be able to provide our members with updates as the government shares information around re-opening.
Q: What have you been hearing from RECEs about their College memberships? And how have you responded to these concerns?
A: When the pandemic took hold, the first things we focused on were those we could do directly to support members during this difficult time. We heard concerns around paying fees from members whose renewal dates were coming up. We also heard concerns around some members’ ability to meet CPL (Continuous Professional Learning) requirements. We hope we lessened worries by providing members the option, should they need it, to defer membership fees and also defer their CPL requirements. We want to ensure that children and families in Ontario can continue to rely on qualified professionals who are ready to return to work as soon as it is safe to do.
Q. What other concerns are you hearing?
We heard a lot of concerns from employers and child care operators about their ability to meet their financial obligations while centres were closed. There are concerns that some might not be able to re-open. We shared those concerns with government and were encouraged when a plan to support the sustainability of licensed childcare was announced.
More recently, we’ve heard some questions from members who are concerned about access to personal protective equipment (PPE) or whether RECEs should be entitled to pandemic pay. We’re sharing those concerns with government too, though it may not always be through formal channels such as a letter. Often it’s a phone discussion or virtual meeting.
As a professional regulator, we don’t determine wages or employment conditions, but we are committed to sharing the concerns we are hearing with government. We encourage our members to also share their concerns with the province’s advocacy groups, AECEO and the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. These organizations are currently running campaigns with requests of the government, such as higher wages and protection on the job with appropriate equipment such as masks and gowns.
Q: What have you been hearing from members around emergency child care?
A: It’s been a mix. Initially, there was a lot of understandable worry around health and safety measures. We’re still hearing some anxious comments via our social media channels and we’re continuing to share those concerns with government. We’ve also heard some really great stories directly from RECEs who are providing emergency child care about the ways that they’re rising to this new challenge, the relationships they are forming, and their increasing comfort levels.
When government announced it would be opening select emergency child care, we put together a guidance document for RECEs. We also sent a communication to employers pointing them to resources on our website. We’re continuing to reach out to employers as new operators are added to the list.
Q: What can the College do to support members concerned about returning to work, once it’s announced?
A: We’ll continue to share the information that we have with members, and where there is a need for professional guidance, we’ll endeavor to provide it.
We stay in close contact with provincial advocacy organizations as well as unions and federations and other sector stakeholders; communication and working together is more important now than ever.
Q: There’s a lot of COVID-related information out there. Where do you go for current and reliable information?
A: I depend on government websites for information, whether it’s municipal, provincial or federal. I also regularly visit the Ontario Public Health, Health Canada and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s websites. Here are links to help you:
- Ontario government’s news page for the most up to date COVID-19 announcements
- Ontario Public Health’s COVID-19 Public Resources
- Government of Ontario’s dedicated page providing the latest on COVID-19 in the province
- Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Guidance: Emergency Child Care Centres
- Health Canada’s COVID-19 page, which includes a virtual assistant to help answer your questions
- Ontario Human Rights Commission’s COVID-19 FAQs
Q: Final thoughts?
A: I have a few!
Firstly, know when to step away from the screen; I often have to remind myself to do this as well. There is a lot of information and opinion out there at the moment, and not all of it is relevant or high quality. It’s easy to become confused, distracted or overwhelmed.
Secondly, take time for yourself. Anxiety can come from uncertainty about the future. If you’re experiencing any feelings of depression, anxiety, or are feeling overwhelmed, please visit the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Hub. The Commission has resources to help with your mental health and wellness during the pandemic and beyond. And remember to take time for self-care when you need it.
Third, if you are able, think about the things that we can learn from this challenge. The College is preparing a series of interviews with RECEs who are practicing in different ways during the pandemic, so look forward to a little inspiration.
I’d also like members to know that we’re hearing you. We listen to all the voicemails, we read all the emails, we track the social media. Please continue to share your concerns with us, as well as advocacy organizations. If we can help, we will, and even if we can’t respond directly, we’ll continue sharing your concerns with the Ontario Ministry of Education.
If you have questions or concerns, please reach out on email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our social media channels.