Province opening 50,000 free, 24-hour, child care spaces for essential workers

Posted on March 23, 2020 in Child & Family Delivery System

Source: — Authors: – GTA

Ontario is partnering with municipalities and First Nations to open as many as 50,000 child care spaces for essential workers across the province in centres that will be free and available 24-7, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Sunday.

The spaces, to be available “in the coming days” will initially serve front-line workers including doctors, nurses, lab technicians, paramedics, firefighters, police and correction officers, he told reporters.

“The heroism they are demonstrating on a daily basis … is something that we need to reciprocate with some support,” he said, adding the list of workers eligible for the service “can be expanded.”

“I accept there are other people, other workers throughout our economy who are critical to the supply chain and we will continue to discuss that with cabinet and with stakeholders,” he said.

All licensed child care centres in the province were ordered closed last Tuesday to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Public schools were shuttered March 12.

Toronto officials have been working with the province for a week to amend the order so that it could open four-city operated child care centres for essential workers, said Councillor Joe Cressy, chair of the city’s board of health.

In the wake of Sunday’s announcement, registration will begin as early as Tuesday with a goal of opening by the end of the week, he said.

“We are moving mountains to get them open as soon as possible,” he said in an interview Sunday.

Free, 24-7 child care for children up to age 12 is unprecedented in the city, added Cressy, who has been closely involved with the plan.

“This initiative – which staff are working to get up and running as quickly as possible – will help the heroes we are relying on to fight COVID-19 with their child care needs in the wake of the provincial emergency,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement.

The city is working closely with Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams and Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa to ensure that every site follows the appropriate public health standards and protocols, Cressy said.

Since social distancing is not possible when caring for young children, the city will be taking additional measures such as daily screening of children and families, increased cleaning and reduced group sizes, he said.

Cressy said the level of commitment from municipal essential workers, from TTC drivers to janitors has been “massive,” and that the city is working with the province to ensure they also become eligible for the service.

“We have expressed our hope that it is as broad as possible to account for the range of front-line workers. We are also committing that we will have the space to accommodate them,” he said.

“Just as these front-line and essential workers have our city’s back, we want to have their back too,” he added.

For parents not on the front-lines, Lecce acknowledged the hardship many are facing as some private and non-profit child care programs continue to charge fees while their centres are closed and urged operators to “be as reasonable as possible.”


“We’ll continue to look into the matter with hope for a resolution. We don’t want to see families on the hook for services not rendered,” he said.

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