Wee Nouvelles – avril 2015
PART 1: SUPPORTING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
In October of 2013, the Telegraph-Journal attempted to access day care inspection reports from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development through the Right to Information Act. The request was denied, and the newspaper filed a complaint with the Office of the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner. The investigation ended last month when the Department sent a box of day care inspection forms to the Telegraph-Journal along with a letter admitting they had made a mistake in not honouring the initial request.
Brian Gallant, who was leader of the Opposition when the complaint was filed, supported the request stating, “The safety of children should come first”. Mr. Gallant said that he would see to it that day care inspections were posted on-line to help parents and guardians make informed decisions about their children’s day care.
The Government recently announced that it would act on that commitment and began the on-line publication of annual inspection reports for child day care facilities. http://www1.gnb.ca/0000/Daycarecq/index-e.asp
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said this initiative would support parents by providing them with the opportunity to find out how well their care provider is performing on a set of criteria related to the provincial day care standards that every licensed operator is required to follow.
If you go to the web site, you can find your child’s day care centre and a link to an inspection report the government has posted related to how they performed. A red “X” marks any area where an infraction was cited. Operators have a designated amount of time to rectify the infraction and have the correction registered and posted on a subsequent inspection.
EVALUATING TRUE QUALITY
It is paramount in our society that we make every effort to promote transparency and accountability with respect to the services we provide to children and families – especially when parents pay for those services.
Posting on-line inspections is a step in the right direction – as long as it is done competently, proficiently and responsibly. Anything less than that and there’s a risk that parents do not get the facts they need, or they get information that is either meaningless or misleading.
An overview of the Government’s recent day care initiative indicates that while they may have succeeded in the authenticity of their intent, they failed to provide the public a valid or reliable measure by which to secure any meaningful information and reassurance.
Day Care Quality Across The Province…
First, the on-line postings are not copies of the inspection reports that day care operators actually receive – they are an overly simplistic caption of the major headings that make up the provincial standards. There is no detailed explanation of what any of the headings actually mean, so an “X” leaves you wondering what the exact nature of the infraction is. They also do not include any of the comments that inspectors write in the actual inspection report, further limiting any clarification of the presence or absence of an operator’s efforts at delivering quality services.
To make things increasingly uncertain, if not alarming, a review of the results on a provincial-wide basis exposes major inconsistencies across the province that raise serious questions about the validity and reliability of the postings.
How can variances be so indiscriminately broad? Is the quality of service that much higher or lower in some areas of New Brunswick, or are government inspectors that much more efficient or inefficient? The discrepancies, variations and lack of clarity raise more alarms than they silence.
And the concern does not stop there. The government qualifies its overall effort “to help parents and guardians make informed decisions about their children’s day care” with the following “disclaimer”:
“While every effort is made to ensure the timeliness and accuracy of the information provided below, the Province of New Brunswick assumes no liability or responsibility for the completeness, accuracy or usefulness of any of the information. Information is provided solely for general public information purposes”.
It is not acceptable for anyone, especially Government, to promote the concept of public transparency and accountability for children and then absolve themselves of all responsibility for completeness, accuracy and usefulness. Parents and guardians need the right kind of information to reassure and support them in their relationship with their caregiver of choice. This is not the mark of excellence that families expect from the professionals who are associated with the education of their children.
Wee College has been a strong advocate for transparency and accountability. We promote the right of families to be informed, involved and supported with information that is comprehensive, precise and helpful. This month, James Arsenault – our VP of Business Operations and a former day care inspector for nearly three decades – begins a four-part series that will offer some valuable professional insights into how parents can more effectively assess the quality of the caregiving option they have chosen for their child. Over the next four weeks, he will explore the minimum requirements that all operators are required to exercise on a daily basis. He’ll discuss the issues related to licensing and monitoring so that parents have a better understanding of the role it plays. Most importantly, he’ll examine the key variables in what constitutes high quality care and learning environments as well as their complex interaction with standards, licensing, and the roles that parents, educators and government play to either strengthen or weaken the enhancement of quality services to children and families.