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Attention: Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, Deputy Premier Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education
As a concerned student and an Early Childhood Educator I am writing in regards to the proposed suspension of the Early Learning and Child Care diploma program at Red Deer College. The Red Deer College, Early Learning and Child Care program, offers multiple delivery options, on campus, blended delivery, and distance. This allows traditional students to attend on campus and allows mature students to continue to work full-time and support their family, while obtaining a higher level of education. Without the ability for students to continue on to the diploma program, many students may choose not enter the field, rather than be forced to take the certificate at Red Deer College and then transfer to another institution to complete their diploma. Grant MacEwan does not have a distance option; therefore students from Central Alberta would either have to apply to attend Mount Royal or Bow Valley via distance (limiting choice for the students) or move to Calgary or Edmonton to obtain their education on campus. This will negatively affect the child care programs in Central Alberta. If students move out of the area to obtain their education, they may choose to stay where they have relocated if they have secured employment through their practicums. The Government has legislated and made regulations around levels and there is already a shortage of supervisors to meet that need. Fewer graduates will ultimately affect the number of child care spaces available. The Early Years Study 3 (2011) has already noted that only 1 in 5 children can access regulated care and I fear that this move to suspend the Early Learning and Child Care Diploma program will mean that daycares will be forced to decrease the number of children they can accept into their programs. When you combine that with the information documented by the Understanding the Early Years project in Red Deer (FSCA, 2010) and the Early Childhood Mapping Project (Government of Alberta, 2012); 1/4 of Canada's children between birth and six years of age are experiencing some learning or behavioural difficulty, the majority of young children in Canada and in Alberta are developing well, however a large percentage are already struggling by the age of five; 28.85% of children in Alberta are struggling in one or more areas of development and 12.86% of Alberta’s children are struggling in 2 or more areas of development (above the Canadian average). It is clear that there is a need for quality early childhood programs (this includes: regulated family day homes, licensed day cares, licensed preschools, and licensed out of school care programs), that provide optimal educational environments for Alberta’s young children. “The CCHRSC reports a general consensus among ECE students and faculty, early childhood educators, child care employers, licensing officials and experts that early childhood postsecondary education gives graduates the skills and knowledge they need to work in child care.” (Massing, 2008)
Without childcare, we lack the infrastructure for parents to go to work; about 8 in 10 lone-parent families were female lone-parent families in 2011, accounting for 12.8% of all census families (Stats Canada, 2011). This makes the loss of this program a woman's right issue. This program is female dominant and the loss of it could potentially increase hardships for women wishing to obtain post secondary education and for those seeking childcare. The loss of the program could negatively affect more than child care. Other human service and education careers could see an impact from the loss of the Early Learning and Child Care diploma program. Careers such as Educational Assistants, Family and Community Support Facilitator, Youth Care Worker, Community Disability Service Practitioner, and In Home Support Worker could see a reduction in qualified professionals available for the positions. Without the Diploma program the potential of transferability into another course is affected, such as Bachelor of Education, Degree in Community Rehabilitation, Degree in Human Ecology, and Applied Degree in Human Services Administration, and those programs could see a reduced number of enrolment. This could lead to careers, such as Social Welfare Workers, Social Service Specialists, Teaching Administration, Occupational Therapists, and Child Mental Health Specialists, seeing a reduction in qualified professionals who are specialized in the field of early learning. The Provincial Government has placed Early Childhood Development on the top of their priorities according to their Social Policy Framework. “The Children First Act was brought before the Legislative Assembly on May 7, 2013...The bill updates and amends legislation and enhances the tools, process and policies that impact how government and service providers deliver programs and services for children and youth. It also aligns with and supports the work of other initiatives including: the Social Policy Framework, Early Childhood Development Strategy, Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Information Sharing Strategy.” (Alberta Human Services, 2013). The Ministry of Human Services is in the process of developing and piloting a Curriculum Framework for Early Learning and Child Care in Alberta; the Framework requires more qualified, educated, ELCC staff, not less. Central Alberta and the Early Childhood community need the Early Learning and Child Care Certificate and Diploma program through Red Deer College.
I hope that this letter persuades you to re-look at the suspension of the Red Deer College Early Learning and Child Care Diploma program, and encourages you not to follow through with this course of action.
Ella Brekke Family Day Home Consultant
CC: Central Alberta Family Day Home Association