Unlicensed daycares put onus of safety on parents

One unlicensed daycare owner in Greater Sudbury says her facility is just as safe those with licences.

Sudbury offical says parents need to know differences between licensed and unlicensed daycare providers.

One unlicensed daycare owner in Greater Sudbury says her facility is just as safe those with licences.

Unlicensed daycares are not regulated, which means they can’t care for more than five children at once, not including their own. 

The Ministry of Education is investigating such a facility in Vaughn in southern Ontario, following the death of a toddler earlier this month.

A Sudbury mother said the argument over licensed versus unlicensed child care doesn’t faze her, as she has enrolled her two children at Lively Tots, an unlicensed daycare in the city.

"You have [to] feel comfortable with your provider and you have a connection with your provider," Janneke Nicholls said. "So that could be a licensed or [an] unlicensed provider."

Karry Strelezki operates an unlicensed daycare in Greater Sudbury. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

She said she’s confident her children are receiving quality care.

"The important thing about a daycare is that the person is going to be safe with your children," she explained.  "I think there are a lot of people who can do that — licensed or unlicensed."

Nicholls' children attend a daycare owned by Karry Strelezki, which switched from being a licensed to an unlicensed daycare seven years ago.

"The age ratios definitely tied our hands," Strelezki said. "We can have three children under three, two under two, [and] if the children don’t grow up in your home, finding kids who are past their third birthday is almost impossible. It made things difficult for both providers and parents."

Licensed or not, she said it’s up to parents to make sure their children are safe while in care.

"I may not have monthly check-ins with home visitors, but I have daily visitations with parents," she said. "So if they see something that’s awry, they will absolutely bring it to my attention."

Choose licensed daycares: city

The city’s children’s services planner said parents need to make sure they understand the drawbacks of unlicensed providers.

"There’s a lot more responsibility put on the parent to ensure that the quality is there," Kate Barber said.  "We don’t have visitors going into unlicensed and private homes to make sure the quality is here."

There are about 80 licensed daycare centres in the city, and 20 licensed daycares in homes, Barber said.

Greater Sudbury's children's services planner, Kate Barber, says it's best parents understand the drawbacks of unlicensed providers. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

The number of unlicensed daycares is not known because they’re not registered or regulated.

"When parents are looking for unlicensed care, we really want them to make sure that they know the difference between the two," Barber said.

"Whether it’s a licensed home or an unlicensed home, not every daycare is a good fit for every family. We encourage parents … to go, ask questions [and] make sure the centre looks right, feels right and is a good fit for them."

Complaints about unlicensed daycares are managed by the Ministry of Education.