The period from birth to the beginning of formal schooling provides the foundation of a lifetime of intellectual, social, emotional and personal development. High quality early learning and care is essential to provide children with the skills they need to succeed. Without these supports, children can easily remain in the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
In Edmonton, care for children prior to school entry is fragmented and insufficient. Supports for stay-at-home parents, including respite care, are much in demand but difficult to find. The number of spaces available in early learning and care centres lags far behind the need. Because of the market-based approach to supply, centres typically are not available in low-income areas where the need is particularly high. Costs are prohibitive and subsidies are insufficient for many low-income families. Supports that are culturally sensitive and appropriate are in short supply for Edmonton’s large Aboriginal population and its growing newcomer communities. Workers at early learning and care centres often lack the resources and training required to connect families with the diverse health and social services that are needed to address or prevent child- and family-related problems.
There are at least two reasons why virtually every poverty-reduction program focuses on early child development. First, the quality of children’s early environment, with positive and nurturing relationships and experiences, has lifelong implications for reaching their full potential. Children who grow up in poverty are often exposed to long-term negative experiences and environments that disrupt healthy development and contribute to negative outcomes, such as mental and physical illness, continued poverty, criminality, and addictions. These negative outcomes are damaging to communities and costly for society. Second, our youngest citizens, no matter what their circumstances, are entitled to a quality of living that will enable them to enjoy life, to participate fully in family and community activities, and to be free from harm. Providing appropriate care and nurturance for children is not a charitable act but rather a fundamental responsibility of society.
EndPovertyEdmonton priorities that directly relate to ‘Affordable and Quality Child Care’
#23. Plan and implement a system of early learning and care
#24. Reduce barriers for children and families to access services, including out-of-school care and respite care
#25. Advocate to the provincial government for the implementation of culturally sensitive curricula and for standards that require well-educated
staff in all early learning and care centre