Quality by Design working document:

Elements of a high quality early learning and child care system. [pdf, 8pp, 241KB]


Roles and responsibilities that include…

· A clear definition of roles and responsibilities of governments at different levels, parents and the community set out in legislation and policy

· Public management at system level

· Not-for-profit operation

· Program delivery managed at local level

· Appropriate involvement of community, researchers, parents and children

In ELCC, governance involves role definition, management, participation and ownership. A necessary condition for an effective approach to ELCC quality is definition of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments (and levels of government), of the community, of parents and of other players such as employers, that is “who does what?” Setting roles and responsibilities out in legislation and policy is critical for clarity, effectiveness and sustainability.

Responsibilities in ELCC range from service planning and development to maintaining and managing programs, financing, assessing and monitoring quality. If roles and responsibilities are ambiguous or unassigned, key functions such as program development and planning may be overlooked or – like financing – may fall heavily on the shoulders of parents.
Roles and responsibilities for ELCC involve both public and private players. In Canada, public players include national, provincial/territorial and local governments such as municipalities and school boards; private players with a role in ELCC include parents, community or voluntary groups, employers and the business sector.

The idea that early learning and child care should be a publicly managed service has been suggested by the OECD in its Canada review. This implies that a public authority should manage functions such as planning, training and professional development, finances and infrastructure although services may not necessarily be publicly delivered.

While in Canada all levels of government— federal, provincial/territorial and local - have key roles to play in the definition, formation and management of ELCC programs, the idea that much of program delivery should be determined and managed locally is congruent with the concept of subsidiarity, that is, the human rights principle that tasks are best handled by the lowest level competent authority. One of the benefits of local management of program delivery is that it makes it possible to involve community members, parents and children in the issues of program delivery that are most important for them — staffing, facility design and programming — to ensure responsive programming. Above the level of the individual program, community members and parents can be involved with setting priorities, planning and quality assurance for a locally managed system. However, as Mahon points out, while communities are the place where the policies of senior levels of government are put in place, local management is sustainable only if it is supported by the policy and financing to which those senior levels have greater access.

A final governance issue is concerned with the operation or ownership of ELCC services. The idea that ELCC programs are best provided as community-based non-profit or public operations, not businesses, is well grounded in Canadian and international research on quality. This literature shows that there are numerous problems with for-profit child care, as well as significant advantages that accrue from higher quality community-based non-profit and publicly-operated child care. Prentice points out that “when child care is conceived of as a public good, rather than a market commodity, its close relationship to social capital and social inclusion become obvious”. The OECD made the point in their Canada review that “a protective mechanism used in other countries is to provide public funding only to public and non-profit services…”



For-profit child care: Past, present and future. Occasional Paper No. 21
by Prentice, S.
SOURCE: Childcare Resource and Research Unit, University of Toronto, 2005.

Early child learning and care in Canada: Who rules? Who should rule? Discussion paper prepared for the Child Care for a Change! Conference
by Mahon, R.
SOURCE: Canadian Council on Social Development, 2004.

A legislative framework for a pan-Canadian system of child care services – A discussion paper prepared for the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
by Cameron, B.
SOURCE: Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, 2004.

Bringing cities to the table: Child care and intergovernmental relations
by Jenson, J. & Mahon, R.
SOURCE: Canadian Policy Research Networks, 2002.

Child care and Canadian federalism in the 1990s: Canary in a coal mine. Occasional Paper No. 11
by Friendly, M.
SOURCE: Childcare Resource and Research Unit, University of Toronto, 2000.
This paper was originally presented at Good Child Care in Canada in the 21st Century: Preparing the Policy Map, a national conference held in Toronto in 1999. It was subsequently published in the book of conference papers, Our children’s future: Child care policy in Canada, edited by G. Cleveland and M. Krashinsky.


The politics of child care in Canada: Provincial and federal governments
by Rae, B.
SOURCE: Cleveland, C. & Krashinsky, M. Our children’s future: Child care policy in Canada (pp.62-68). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. Book chapter.

The federal imperative
by Kent, T.
SOURCE: Cleveland, C. & Krashinsky, M. Our children’s future: Child care policy in Canada (pp.69-73). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. Book chapter.