Saskatoon

Province now considering regulation of unlicensed home daycares

Parents are finding ways to warn others about dayhomes in the city and they're going online to do it.

Response to parents filing complaints online

Parents with bad experiences urge others to be vigilant with unlicensed day homes, Jennifer Quesnel reports. 2:14

The Saskatchewan government says it will now consider changes to regulate unlicensed home daycares.

"By looking at all of these different options available to us including legislation we're going to do that," said Education Minister Russ Marchuk.

"Because in my mind, if that's what best for children, that's what we have to do."

Parents are already doing their own reviews of the dayhomes – by going online to warn other families about unlicensed dayhomes in the city.

Last week, an ad was posted on Kijiji called "Beware of this childcare ad." The mother who wrote the ad warns of a 24 hour dayhome on Saskatoon's east side where she sent her toddler son for two days.

A portion of the ad reads: "As soon as he would get home he would be thirsty and starving, it was also odd to me that he would be somewhat zombielike and quiet after I picked him up both days and it made me wonder if she was giving them Tylenol or something to make them groggy."

The ad also alleges that her son's diaper was not changed all day. The parent wrote that the dayhome operator blocked the entrance of the home when children are dropped off or picked up and that the curtains were closed all day long.

The warning has been circulating on social media but the original ad appears to have been removed from Kijiji.

Father says son scared of going to dayhome

CBC News spoke with a man whose four-year-old son attends the same dayhome the ad warned about.

Carlito Tuazon is a truck driver and his wife works in healthcare. The couple works shift work and have been sending their son to the dayhome for about one year. 

Corliss Kia Tuazon, 4, and his mother, Nora Dalma. (CBC)

They`re not happy with the care he receives, but said the dayhome is the only place they can find that offers 24-hour care. Tuazon's description of the dayhome is similar to the ad.

"There's a bad smell and it's really messy inside," he said. "I notice there's kids inside, I saw them, they have runny noses going into their mouths. My kid, I'm very sure they don't wash his bum when he poops ... I've found that his bum, there's poop in his briefs."

He also said his child is scared to go to the home. He and other parents tell CBC their children say the meals there consist mainly of rice, with an apple or popcorn on occasion. 

"Every time I bring my son there, he says, `Papa, I don't want to stay there,' Tuazon said. "He's scared. I asked him why. He says it's because there's no light in there. It's like a jail. It's totally dim. I can't see anything in there."

Tuazon said he pays the day home provider $600 per month. He and his wife check online for a new child care each week, but most don't offer hours for shift workers. He says they cannot afford a nanny.

"I feel my kid is not safe," he said. "Really, my kid is not safe in there. But there's nothing I can do. Because I have to go to work, and my wife too."

In addition to the anonymous posting, CBC News has heard similar complaints from two other people about the unlicensed dayhome.

Ministry not responsible for unlicensed facilities

The province currently has 10,752 licensed daycare spaces but the majority of childcare remains unlicensed.

According to the Canadian Child Care Federation, only 20 per cent of Canadian children between zero and five years old are in licensed care.

The Ministry of Education said it does not track the number of unlicensed dayhomes in Saskatchewan. Officials will not visit an unlicensed facility unless someone files a complaint about the number of children there.

Education officials oversee licensed childcare facilities. Each one gets two random visits from inspectors each year, along with one scheduled 'review' visit.

Ministry officials look at provider-to-child ratios, medication rules being followed, hygiene practices, health and safety conditions, interactions between children and providers, nutrition, and facility dynamics. 

Last year, they issued 66 "provisional" licences to licensed daycare centres and dayhomes that had run into problems with staff not meeting educational standards, or non-hygienic practices.

At unlicensed facilities, no one from the province checks on the food being served kids, what activities children do or what conditions are like inside.

Most unlicensed facilities do have local business licences. Municipalities have been known to revoke them if building codes are not being followed.

Officials at the Ministry of Education said any allegations of negligence or maltreatment of children should be forwarded to the Ministry of Social Services. Or, to the police, if the allegations involve physical or sexual abuse.

Andrea Brittin is the assistant deputy minister responsible for Child and Family Services. She said the Ministry of Social Services does not track or investigate private, unlicensed day homes.

"The Ministry of Social Services does not have the authority to investigate a daycare," she said. "Our mandate is around ensuring that parents are providing safe care to their own children."

She said that unless there is physical or sexual abuse, the province cannot shut those homes down.

Tuazon said he plans to make a formal complaint about the dayhome his son attends as soon as they can find another child care provider.

"If nobody makes a complaint, it'll always be like this."

Replay this morning's live chat about child care in Saskatchewan.