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Inclusive Early Childhood Education Policy

Policy Issue

Children with special needs may receive support to attend a program of their parents’ choice through the Supported Child Care Program. The program assists the family and childcare providers to develop and implement an individual plan to meet the child’s needs. The government pays for the cost of supports while the parents pay for the cost of the pre-school or child care space.

There are income-tested subsidies for the pre-school or child care spaces for parents who qualify. However, there are many parents who do not qualify for subsidies who cannot afford to send their children to pre school/child care program. In addition, the amount of government funding available for subsidies falls short of the need. Therefore, many children miss the opportunity for increased social and cognitive development that is available to their peers.

Purpose

To ensure that all children with special needs have access to quality inclusive early childhood education programs of their parent’s choice.

Background

Young children require meaningful learning opportunities in inclusive settings to maximize their growth and development. Children with special needs may require additional supports to fully participate in those settings. Children who receive quality inclusive early childhood education have increased opportunities to develop their social and cognitive skills and are better prepared to attend elementary school.

The Supported Child Care Program is a service which enables children who need extra support to be included in child care or pre-school. It allows the parent to choose the childcare setting and then provides extra supports to that setting so the child can be successfully included. The shift to Supported Child Care was inspired, in part, from successful inclusion of children with special needs at the elementary school level.

The early childhood education system is still under-funded and children with special needs are either not receiving adequate supports in their early childhood education settings or are excluded because of waitlists, income testing for subsidies and other eligibility criteria. As well, there are still some childcare facilities that do not embrace the intent of Supported Child Care philosophy.

Policy Statements

  1. All children with special needs are entitled to attend inclusive early childhood education programs.
  2. Early childhood education programs should receive adequate human, financial and equipment resources to support children with special needs.
  3. Children with special needs should be provided sufficient support to enable them to participate fully and successfully in an inclusive early childhood education program.
  4. The extra cost of supports required by a child to participate in an early childhood education program should not be borne by the family.
  5. To ensure all children with special needs benefit from early childhood programs regardless of their families’ financial situation, government should provide subsidies to all parents of children with special needs for the cost of enrolling in a program at a minimum of three-half days per week.
  6. Children with special needs should be financially supported to attend early childhood education programs that meet their unique needs and their family’s needs. This means that if a child’s needs are better met in a more enriched program, or a program of longer duration, families will not be forced to absorb the extra costs or accept a program that does not fully meet their child’s needs.