Minister On Child Care Oversight & Regulation

March 8, 2019 | 2 Comments

“Once we have reset the oversight of our current day care settings, the Ministry will look to regulate other high risk settings for children such as camps, after and before-school care, overnight and weekend care services,” Minister of Health Kim Wilson said.

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [March 8] Minister Wilson said, “Last year we amended the legislation to streamline the regulatory framework, ensuring authority over Day Care and the administration of the Day Care legislation fell within the Ministry of Health. These small legislative changes make huge steps towards aligning accountability and ensuring enforceability of existing laws.

“But legislation is only as good as the policies, procedures and manpower put in place to utilize it. Enforcement of this legislation has included in the past mainly inspections by our Environmental Health Officers and periodic audits of the personnel in the day care settings.

“Recognizing the importance of our day care settings, we also transferred a project manager to the area to review and ultimately reset the child care oversight system.

“The presently regulated day care sector comprises only two settings types; day care centres and home day cares. Even so, it is both a sizable and crucial environment for development. It is estimated that 9 out of every 10 children in Bermuda are cared for in a day care setting at some time in their first four years of life. This is indeed a matter that affects us all.

“We take the safety and development of our children extremely seriously, which is why we have dedicated our resources to this area.

“As I said in 2017, our work is never done when it comes to the children of Bermuda. That’s why, once we have reset the oversight of our current day care settings, the Ministry will look to regulate other high risk settings for children such as camps, after and before-school care, overnight and weekend care services.

“It is appropriate for consistency and to assure the best care and supervision for our children, to expand the scope of the oversight of child care in this way and to garner resources to perform this function well. We are aware of the issues that may occur in these settings and for too long there has only been voluntary compliance with policies.

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr Speaker and Honourable Members,

Today I stand before this Honourable House to provide an update on developments in improving the safety and enhancing the learning space for our infants and toddlers.

Mr Speaker, I rose in November 2017 to announce the publication of our very first set of Child Care Standards for Bermuda. The goal of these Standards was to support persons caring for our children, increase understanding for parents of quality care and harmonize the work of all government agencies and private entities dedicated to the caring of our children. I am pleased to report these were updated in 2018 and opened the door for improved oversight of our child care settings.

Mr Speaker, since the introduction of the Standards, the Ministry of Health began the review of our processes and procedures to ensure enforcement of the Standards, as well as the 1998 Children Act and the 1999 Day Care Centre Regulations – the legislation overseeing specific child care settings.

Last year we amended the legislation to streamline the regulatory framework, ensuring authority over Day Care and the administration of the Day Care legislation fell within the Ministry of Health. These small legislative changes make huge steps towards aligning accountability and ensuring enforceability of existing laws.

But legislation is only as good as the policies, procedures and manpower put in place to utilize it. Enforcement of this legislation has included in the past mainly inspections by our Environmental Health Officers and periodic audits of the personnel in the day care settings.

Mr Speaker, recognizing the importance of our day care settings, we also transferred a project manager to the area to review and ultimately reset the child care oversight system.

The presently regulated day care sector comprises only two settings types; day care centres and home day cares. Even so, it is both a sizable and crucial environment for development. It is estimated that 9 out of every 10 children in Bermuda are cared for in a day care setting at some time in their first four years of life. This is indeed a matter that affects us all.

There are more than 45 day care centres and nearly 60 home day care providers in Bermuda. These settings are licenced or registered annually which includes: an inspection by our environmental health officers to assure a safe physical environment including, but not limited to– ensuring the water is clean, the home or centre has proper play surfacing and there are appropriate staff for the children in attendence.

Following the inspection, the Centre or Provider must also submit an application form and supporting documentation such as a fire certificate, liability insurance and staff applications, educational qualifications, CPR and other staffing documents. The volume of information to collect, vet and review is significant and requires knowledgeable staff resources to overview. The current review and reset are helping us to assess the level of dedicated resources that will be needed permanently to provide proper oversight of this sector.

Mr Speaker, we take the safety and development of our children extremely seriously, which is why we have dedicated our resources to this area. It is also why the Ministry is appealing to our parents to help us.

We need to hear parents’ concerns about the care of their children. Problems with a day care centre or home will be handled confidentially. While we would like to, we cannot be at every day care, every day. But you are, and can be our eyes and ears every day.

Not only should you expect better care, but you can ensure that your home day care providers are registered and day care centres are licenced by the Ministry of Health. If they are not registered or a Day Care Centre is not licenced, there will be no way for us to assure a level of quality in the environment and the person caring for your children. Licensed centres and registered home providers are listed on our website ‘gov.bm’ [search for ‘child care providers’).

Finally, Mr. Speaker, as has been reported in the media, the Ministry has been handling a PATI request to release a number of documents concerning day care centres and home day care providers. It makes sense. Our inspections provide one piece of oversight of settings where our children spend the bulk of their day. We absolutely understand the public’s interest in getting the full picture. But, Mr Speaker, we need to be clear about the full process to ensure there is context with the documentation. As mentioned previously, the inspections cover everything from the water, fire certificate, ratios of teachers to children and qualifications of the teachers. It’s an enormous job and the inspectors have to play both a regulatory and a supporting role.

During these inspections, the officers use their reports not only to document requirements and shortcomings, but also to make recommendations and note follow-ups required. The inspection documents are not crafted notes; they are points in time at a Centre or Home with follow-up sometimes occuring by email or phone. The point is, inspection forms will often only tell one part of the story and not provide the outcome of the recommendations made. We are constantly working to ensure compliance.

Some of the documents that have been requested require us to secure the consent of the affected parties. We are in the process of writing to the centres and home providers to seek this consent.

Mr. Speaker, unlike a restaurant or hair salon, we cannot just close a day care centre or home day care unless there is immediate risk to children. Short of this, the impact on working families would be crippling. We constantly have to work with these settings to ensure compliance and best standards. If we were to shut a day care the reasons must be imminent risk to children’s health and safety. This is the same standard used in other jurisdictions. Our parents need the support of their day care and children need the consistency. We are always striking that balance.

Mr. Speaker, as I said in 2017, our work is never done when it comes to the children of Bermuda. That’s why, once we have reset the oversight of our current day care settings, the Ministry will look to regulate other high risk settings for children such as camps, after and before-school care, overnight and weekend care services. It is appropriate for consistency and to assure the best care and supervision for our children, to expand the scope of the oversight of child care in this way and to garner resources to perform this function well. We are aware of the issues that may occur in these settings and for too long there has only been voluntary compliance with policies.

Mr Speaker, to finish, the Ministry of Health continues to put our children at the forefront of our work in Day Care Settings. We know there is much work to be done and I hope this update can serve as a rallying call to everyone involved in these settings – staff, owners, parents, day care providers – to come together to help raise standards in the care of our children.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (2)

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  1. road rash says:

    Ha! Really?
    “We take the safety and development of our children extremely seriously, which is why we have dedicated our resources to this area.
    So how come children involved in the DCFS investigation were allegedly not interviewed!

  2. Joe Bloggs says:

    “Once we have reset the oversight of our current day care settings, the Ministry will look to regulate other high risk settings for children such as camps, after and before-school care, overnight and weekend care services,” Minister of Health Kim Wilson said.

    Thank you Minister, but what about the Department of Child and Family Services? We have heard recently about actions taken by certain people at that department that may have caused harm to the children they are supposed to protect. What is being done about the Department and the staff there?

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