The District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board recently received approval from the Province of Ontario to open the first licensed emergency child care centre in Sault Ste. Marie to provide care for children of health care providers and other essential service workers. Working in partnership with the YMCA, this centre opened at their 235 McNabb St. location, on April 13, 2020.
On April 17, 2020 the province amended the emergency order that defines the list of eligible workers to expand the list to a number of other essential workers including:
- Individuals serving vulnerable populations (e.g. people working in Children’s Aid Societies);
- Staff who work in shelters serving homeless populations;
- Emergency response and law enforcement sector staff (e.g., First Nations constables, critical staff operating the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre);
- Power workers;
- Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing;
- Non-municipal water and waste-water employees; and
- Federally employed staff including RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency Officers and Canada Post employees.
Additions to the Provincial “List of Workers Eligible for Emergency Child Care” are being considered using a phased in and measured approach. For a complete list of eligible workers, please go to https://www.ontario.ca/page/child-care-health-care-and-frontline-staff. Emergency child care services are reserved exclusively for children of essential and critical service workers who have no other alternatives for child care. Priority will be determined by Social Services based on eligibility and available spaces.
The District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board Chair, Luke Dufour is an advocate of the Emergency Child Care program. “Access to safe, quality child-care is essential for working families. We are proud to support frontline workers with emergency child care during COVID-19. The expanded list of eligible workers increases our ability to help those keeping our community safe during these unprecedented times.”
Licensed emergency child care is funded at no cost to approved families. Currently spaces are available for children under age 12 and are operated during extended hours up to 14 hours a day, Monday to Friday. Should there be sufficient demand, weekend hours will be considered.
Essential service workers are to complete and submit the online application available at www.socialservices-ssmd.ca and will be contacted by Social Services staff to receive more information.
The DSSMSSAB has worked closely with Algoma Public Health to ensure that a number of steps are being taken to maintain healthy and safe environments for Early Childhood Educators, children and parents. Precautions include daily screening of all children, staff and parents as well as increased disinfection, significantly reduced group sizes, limitations on the number of people allowed in the centre, as well as increased staff training related to maintaining safety and health protocols throughout the day.
The DSSMSSAB continues to work with the Province, community partners and our local Medical Officer of Health to expand the availability of emergency child care in order to support the children of our community’s essential workers, in safe and healthy environments.
For Social Services updates on COVID-19 please visit our website https://socialservices-ssmd.ca/
For City Services updates on COVID-19 please visit the City of Sault Ste. Marie website https://saultstemarie.ca/