Private Babysitting Businesses Need More Regulations

The Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta (AECEA) is echoing calls from Ontario for increased regulation on private babysitting businesses, following concerning incidents in both provinces.

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Late last month, the Home Child Care Association of Ontario suggested that province change its child care regulations to ban private babysitters from caring for more than three children at a time. They also suggested that municipalities could help fund the home child care agencies that provide oversight of licensed day home-style operations.

This proposal is intended to encourage existing unlicensed babysitting businesses in that province to become regulated.

In Alberta, very few regulations exist on private babysitting businesses. Moreover, a confusing but common practice sees many of these private babysitting businesses referring to themselves as “day homes,” even though they are not associated with a day home agency.

In most municipalities, all that is needed to start such a private babysitting business is a business license and development permit. And, some operators don’t even voluntarily apply for either.

Such private babysitters can care for up to six children, plus their own, without falling afoul of existing regulations. And, according to the AECEA, such businesses are unmonitored by any agency nor by Children’s Services.

Asked whether Alberta’s regulations are too lenient, AECEA Chair Nicki Dublenko, M.Ed., said: “Yes, AECEA advocates for a comprehensive system of Early Learning and Childcare which would not allow for unregulated childcare.”

Her organization also warns families to avoid unregulated choices when considering who to care for their children.

“We strongly advise families not to use unregulated babysitters for childcare and all private babysitters to contact a family childcare agency to become approved, monitored and regulated,” Dublenko explained.

A recent case involving a private babysitter made headlines again earlier this month. In that case, the operator of an Edmonton-based private babysitting service, referring to itself as a “day home,” was charged with five counts of causing a child to be in need of intervention.

That operator had previously been charged with five counts of child abandonment, allegedly after leaving children in her care unattended in a locked basement at her private home.

The AECEA also sees a role for municipalities to do more in improving oversight of child care in the province.

“Since child care legislation and regulation falls under the provincial government, municipalities should advocate the province for better care of Alberta’s children,” said Dublenko.

In contrast to unregulated private babysitting businesses, regulated and approved childcare facilities in Alberta face substantial oversight. This includes:

– Agencies conducting a combination of announced and unannounced visits to the day homes.

– Children’s Services representatives being obligated to conduct regular monitoring visits to both agencies and day homes;

– Regularly-updated criminal record checks being required, including a vulnerable sector search, for all adults in the home;

– Safety being paramount, with in-depth checks being conducted to ensure homes are child-proofed, while staff must have current childcare First Aid certifications;

– Medical certificates being required, to ensure the family dayhome provider is physically and emotionally capable of caring for children;

– Staffing ratios being enforced to ensure that a maximum of six children — including the provider’s own children — are being cared for at any one time;

And, unlike the non-existent process for private babysitting operators, becoming a regulated and approved dayhome provides still further measures to improve child safety; these measures include thorough screening, association with a family day home agency, program planning, and caps on the number of children being cared for.

“The #1 indicator of quality in child care is the knowledge, education and capacity of the adults working with young children,” Dublenko continued.

“We continue to advocate for high quality care provided by a well supported, educated workforce,” she concluded.

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