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Toronto planning free, 24-7 emergency child care for essential workers

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Monserbraaten, Laurie
Publication Date: 
20 Mar 2020


Help is on the way if you are an essential worker in Toronto scrambling to find care for young children in the wake of Ontario’s order to shutter daycares and schools to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The City of Toronto is planning to offer free child care on a 24-7 basis for children up to age 12 for any worker deemed essential by the province, said a city hall source.

As early as Monday, four city-operated sites across Toronto could open to serve up to 60 children each — or 120 kids over a 24-hour period, according to the source.

“And we are prepared to scale up or down based on demand,” the source said.

Parents will register through an online portal that will be available as soon as Queen’s Park gives the green light, the source added.

But the emergency child care cannot open until the province amends its original order that closed all licensed child-care centres. The city has been working closely with the province all week to amend Tuesday’s order, the source said.

The province also needs to spell out which essential workers would be allowed to access the service, the source explained.

Child care advocates, who were briefed on the city’s plans Friday, welcomed the initiative.

“It’s good that the City of Toronto is leading the way in Ontario on this,” said Carolyn Ferns with the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. “ I hope they can get it up and running as soon as possible and that the province continues to work with the city and gives them the approvals they need.”

Ferns said it is “especially” important that emergency child care is free for essential workers “since they are making such great sacrifices for us.”

During his daily briefing Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters that cabinet would be “discussing options” to provide child care for front-line health-care workers and first responders.

“As a parent myself, I know parents want the best for their children,” he said. “Ontario parents understand why schools and daycares are closed: to keep our kids safe and healthy and to slow the spread of COVID-19.”


Toronto officials are co-ordinating with several non-profit child-care providers to help meet demand.

“It’s not a blanket ‘all child cares can operate’ because we need rigorous public health measures to remain in place,” the source explained.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city is still finalizing the plans and hopes to have more to say soon.

“Suffice to say, there is a lot of work that has been done getting this ready, and we want it up and running as soon as possible,” he told reporters Friday. 

In Quebec, where child care is heavily subsidized and widely available, the province has been offering free care since Monday for a broad range of essential workers impacted by school and daycare closings due to the pandemic.

Child care advocates across the country have been calling on provinces to close all child-care programs, including home-based daycares, to promote social distancing.



Entered Date: 
22 Mar 2020
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