OPERATIONS AND SERVICES
Natural Connections Childcare offers care for children 6 weeks of age to 13 years old, seven days a week, 24 hours a day (spaces are limited). Visits to childcare providers’ homes may occur anytime the provider has children in care including evenings and weekends.
Office hours are Monday to Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Please feel free to leave us a voice mail or email at any time. We will get back to you as soon as possible.
The office is closed on recognized statutory holidays. We also offer consultation services to both childcare providers and parents. Please refer to our website or contact the agency for further information regarding these services.
In an emergency, childcare providers and parents may contact the agency outside office hours by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling or texting 613-812-4233.
Natural Connections Childcare recognizes the following Statutory Holidays: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday, Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Boxing Day.
Parents are responsible for paying regularly contracted fees on Statutory Holidays. Childcare providers are not available for care on these days. Parents are recommended to call the agency for alternate care should they require care on a Statutory Holiday.
Natural Connections Childcare strives to provide quality care for all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, financial situations, gender and family structure. All children are entitled to the same level of service, care and hours of operation. The program supports the idea of children, parents, childcare providers and staff, working together in an anti-bias and integrated environment.
Natural Connections Childcare celebrates our rich cultural heritage and the individual right to choose our own lifestyles, which are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
All children have the right to be cared for in environments within their community that can meet their needs and help them grow and develop to their fullest potential. Children with special needs require childcare for the same reasons as all children: to grow, develop, learn, for friendship and social inclusion.
Natural Connections Childcare recognizes its responsibility to work towards the elimination of discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, creed, colour, sexual orientation, marital status, family relationship, and disability.
Natural Connections Childcare is committed to the promotion of the ethnic, cultural and social diversity of our community and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We engage in a continuous process of identifying and challenging expressions of discrimination as well as celebrating differences.
Natural Connections Childcare expects responsible, professional behaviour on the part of its staff and childcare providers as well as volunteers, students and parents associated with the agency. Any display of images, texts or materials which are derogatory to persons on any of the grounds listed above is prohibited. Aggressive, violent behaviour is prohibited.
Staff, childcare providers, volunteers and students of Natural Connections Childcare will keep confidential all information concerning staff, childcare providers, volunteers, students and clients as stated in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Information about staff, childcare providers, the child and family are gathered for the sole use of Natural Connections Childcare and follows the guidelines as set out by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014.
CRIMINAL REFERENCE/VULNERABLE SECTOR CHECK
Natural Connections Childcare requires that all staff, childcare providers, adults over 18 living in providers’ homes, volunteers and students provide a Criminal Reference/Vulnerable Sector Check before contact with children associated with the agency and every three years thereafter. A “Declaration of Offence” form is signed yearly.
All licensed homes are operated by self-employed child care providers and must meet the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 standards and Natural Connections policies and procedures
“In January 2013, the Ontario government released the Ontario Early Years Policy Framework, which articulates the following vision for early years programs: Ontario’s children and families are well supported by a system of responsive, high-quality, accessible, and increasingly integrated early years programs and services that contribute to healthy child development today and a stronger future tomorrow. “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, 2014 builds on this policy framework and is a key component of Ontario’s vision for the early years. It demonstrates the commitment to strengthening the quality of early years programs by ensuring these programs are centred on the child and the family. “(How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years)
Natural Connections actively supports these documents and the ideology that children succeed in programs that focus on child-initiated, adult-supported active learning through exploration, play, and inquiry. Children thrive in programs where they and their families are valued as active participants and contributors.
Natural Connections and affiliated providers believe that children are; “competent and capable complex thinkers that are curious and rich in potential;” and when provided with a rich, responsive, warm environment, that fosters self-initiated problem solving and relationships, children prosper.
a) To create environments where children are provided with daily opportunities to optimally develop their physical, social and emotional selves through self-initiated and adult supported activities that enable fine motor, gross motor, creative, dramatic, science, sensory and block play activities both indoors and out. The opportunity for continued learning, based on interest and development, as well as a period of rest as needed, are encouraged. Self-regulation is encouraged and adult supported.
Approaches: To ensure the promotion of health, safety, nutrition and well-being of children, policies governing; allergies, anaphylaxis, emergencies, equipment, illness, immunization, nutrition, prohibited practices, sanitary practices and symptoms of ill health have been developed and reviewed by all staff, providers, students and volunteers before beginning with Natural Connections and annually thereafter. Ongoing training for providers and staff is supported and encouraged
Collaboration and communication between, parents, providers and the agency regarding programming and activities environments are encouraged. Regular quarterly checks and phone consultations provided by Natural Connections assist in further supporting the programs and environments. Natural Connections also collaborates with the Public Health Unit to provide ongoing health, safety and well-being resources to provider, parents and staff. Home visitors have Food Handling Training and all staff and providers have current Standard First Aid and Infant Child CPR.
b) That every provider, child, parent, and staff feels confident that their opinions and values are recognized and interactions are positive and responsive.
Approach: To create an environment in which the collaboration between children, parents, providers and staff assist in supporting positive and responsive interactions, Natural Connections acknowledges the parent as the child’s primary care-giver. We respect, support and aspire to understand individual family values and cultural diversities. Natural Connections encourages family involvement in its programs through open communication, open houses, newsletters, parent surveys and workshops.
c) That by creating an environment of responsiveness, children feel confident and are better able to self-regulate themselves in a positive manner when interacting and communicating with others.
Approach: All our sites provide positive learning environments that enhance each child’s total development. Through child-initiated play experiences supported by providers, children are exposed to situations that will stimulate each child’s emotional, social, cognitive and physical skills in a safe, caring environment that fosters healthy development and early learning. These environments encourage children to interact and communicate with others, their environment and the community in positive ways. Clear expectations and open communications develops skills that assist with self-regulation.
d) Children’ are innately curious and capable of directing their own learning. Natural Connections strives to provide child/family centered and play based environments in which children are free to explore, play and inquire daily. When this is achieved natural curiosity is supported.
Approach: Natural Connections believes exploration, play and enquiry are enhanced by recognizing, planning and implementing self-initiated programming across all domains that is reflective of the current developmental age of every child and their family needs.
Believing that children thrive when exposed to the natural elements of our world; Natural Connections strives to connect children to the natural world and the wonders and joy of our environment. Children are provided with varied daily activities both inside and outdoors.
e) That varied activities, supervised and supported by adults, creates an opportunity for child-initiated learning. That play materials and activities are such that adults guide rather than direct child’s individual experiences.
Approach: Providers create and support an environment where children feel safe and free to explore their interests and take the lead in their own learning and development. This occurs by providers responding to the every changing need of children, modeling and communicating in a manner that is compassionate, empathetic and supportive.
f) That by continually monitoring and supporting positive learning environments that each child’s learning and development will supported.
Approach: Natural Connections provides supports in an honest, respectful and professional manner. By supporting providers through consultation, workshops and resources, providers are better prepared and able to offer children positive environments and experiences.
g) That each provider develops a varied program of activities that incorporates indoor and outdoor play, as well as active play, rest and quiet time based on individual needs.
Approach: Providers, parents and the agency work in collaboration to develop activities that support a variety of child-initiated learning and care. Ongoing communication supports this process.
h) That every provider, child, parent and staff feels they are working in a respectful, inclusive partnership. Natural Connections recognizes the right of parents to make choices for their children.
Approach: Regular feedback, surveys, open communication, respect for diversity and clear expectations, all support the engagement and ongoing communications with parents about the program. This is further supported by developing the relationship and communication between parents and the provider by providing an open door policy.
i) That providers and families are further supported by networking with community partners.
Approach: Natural Connections believes that strong community involvement is an integral part of supporting the development of healthy children and families. To support children and their families, Natural Connections facilitates referrals and partnerships with community agencies.
The agency provides field placements for Early Childhood Education students and co-op learning opportunities for high school students looking to enter the field. Volunteers are also welcome.
j) Natural Connections believes that learning is a lifelong process and as such supports and encourages professional development.
Approach: Natural Connections believes in support providers, staff and parents in their ongoing learning and professional development. This is done through providing opportunities to attend workshops, providing resources, organizing networking events and open houses and through partnering with community agencies.
k) To assess programming strategies on an ongoing basis through documentation and review.
Approach: Natural Connections continually assesses program development and planning for staff, providers, parents, children and the community through;
- Reviewing the program statement with all staff, providers, volunteers and students prior to interacting with children and their families
- Yearly surveys for families, providers and staff to assist in reviewing the impact of program strategies
- Documenting provider visits, phone calls, individual program plans for children as applicable and interactions with families
- Encouraging continuous professional learning for all staff, providers, volunteers and students
- Document compliments and complaints regarding program
- Individual development is documented through use of Early Learning for Every Child Today (ELECT) domains and Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS) checklist.
- Taking part in Raising the Bar to assist in quality assurance development of program (see below)
Raising the Bar is a quality assurance program designed to help families ensure their children are receiving high quality early learning and child care services. The presence of a Raising the Bar certificate is a sign that the program is committed to maintaining provincial regulatory standards as well as local community standards. Raising the Bar was developed and introduced in Hamilton, Ontario to promote and support observance of community standards in Licensed Home Child Care Agencies.
The Child Care community in Lanark County including Natural Connections Childcare has embraced the Raising the Bar initiative and is working towards the three levels of achievement.
• Bronze level programs follow fundamental quality indicators and are also in full compliance with the Child Care and Early Years Act.
• Silver level programs have additional strategies to enhance quality.
• Gold level programs demonstrate a long-term commitment to high quality in early childhood education.
Our high-quality service is facilitated through screening, supporting and training dedicated childcare providers who offer childcare in their home. Home childcare providers are selected for their childcare skills and their ability to provide children with a warm, inclusive and stimulating environment. Natural Connections Childcare believes in supporting childcare providers through diverse models of care. Childcare providers who are valued and supported are better able to support children and their families.
Natural Connections Childcare holds itself accountable to support an environment in which the children are free to be themselves. The program promotes personal responsibility, the development of self-help skills and an appreciation of and respect for our natural environment.
The programs strive to enhance children’s awareness of human diversity and to promote non-sexist attitudes. Natural Connections Childcare strives to know, accept, appreciate and respect every child and his/her family for their individuality and uniqueness. We develop emotional safety by showing empathy, compassion and comfort to create an environment that is responsive, understanding and trustworthy. We strive to be accessible and offer integrated care for children with special needs.
Natural Connections Childcare acknowledges the parent(s) as the child’s primary caregiver(s). We respect, support and aspire to understand individual family values and cultural diversities. Natural Connections Childcare encourages family involvement in its programs through open communication, open houses, newsletters, parent surveys and workshops. Parents are encouraged to contact a Natural Connections Childcare team member via phone or email with any concerns, questions or compliments. A Home Visitor will contact the parent(s) monthly to share their visits and to answer any questions that may arise. Ongoing co-operative involvement and communication between parents, childcare providers and the agency enhances the program.
Staff (We prefer Team Member)
It is Natural Connection Childcare’s policy to hire Early Childhood Educators (RECE) who are registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario. The personnel committee, which is comprised of the Executive Director and a support staff/community volunteer, conducts all permanent hiring. The Executive Director works with the Home Visitor(s) to ensure that high-quality programming is maintained across the organization. Administration for all programs is the responsibility of the Executive Director.
Home Visitors visit all homes regularly to provide support, consultation and educational opportunities. Ongoing professional development is encouraged and supported by the agency.
Natural Connections Childcare believes that strong community involvement is an integral part of supporting the development of healthy children and families. To support children and their families, Natural Connections Childcare facilitates partnerships with community agencies. We believe in supporting all individuals in the childcare field including Independent Care Providers looking for information and support for their programs.
The agency provides field placements for Early Childhood Education college students and co-op learning opportunities for high school students looking to enter the field. Natural Connections Childcare Supervision Policy states that only staff and contracted childcare providers have direct unsupervised access to children. No volunteer or student will be left alone with a child or group of children.
PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION AND PROHIBITED PRACTICES
Children are guided in a positive manner at a level that is appropriate to their actions and their ages. By promoting self-discipline, we contribute to lifelong social/emotional development and assist with health and safety and respect for others and their property. Positive reinforcement is used to deter negative behaviour. Fairness, firmness, consistency and flexibility are characteristics of appropriate disciplinary techniques.
All staff, childcare providers, volunteers and students are expected to follow behaviour management practices. Different approaches will depend on different situations and different children. A variety of strategies may be implemented. Immediate suspension, discharge or termination of contract will result where a staff, childcare provider, volunteer or student:
• wilfully places a child in serious danger;
• exercises inappropriate disciplinary measures or prohibited practices including, but not limited to physical contact, physical deprivation or harsh/degrading verbal treatment.
Staff, childcare providers, volunteers and students are made aware of the agency’s policies and procedures prior to interaction with children and through a yearly review and sign off process as well as through training session and impromptu visits.
The following forms of behaviour management practices are prohibited and shall not be permitted by anyone including childcare providers and parents on the premises:
• Corporal punishment of a child (e.g. spanking, hitting, shaking, biting etc.);
• Deliberate harsh or degrading measures that would humiliate a child or undermine a child’s self-respect (e.g. shouting, yelling, sarcasm, put downs, force feeding etc.);
• Deprivation of a child’s basic needs including food, shelter, clothing or bedding;
• Being confined in a locked room or area;
• Locking the exits of the home for the purpose of confining a child.
Use of obscene or profane language by childcare providers, parents or children will not be tolerated on the premises of the program.
All concerns and complaints regarding behaviour management practices made by anyone including staff, childcare providers, volunteers, students, parents/guardians and others will be addressed and acted upon by the Executive Director. Serious occurrence procedures will be followed when required.
All records involving the review of the Behaviour Management Policy and Procedures as well as the monitoring of behaviour management practices will be kept on file at the agency for two years.
REPORTING SUSPECTED ABUSE
The Child and Family Services Act contains provisions under “Part III – Child Protection” for reporting a child who is or may be in need of protection. If any person, including a staff, childcare provider, parent, volunteer or student has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection, the act requires that the person report his or her suspicions “forthwith” to a local Children’s Aid Society branch and provide the information on which the suspicions are based. Therefore, staff, childcare providers, volunteers or students who, in the course of performing their professional or official duties, suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection must report this information without delay to their immediate supervisor and the local Children’s Aid Society branch. Parents are encouraged to contact the Natural Connections Childcare Executive Director and the Children’s Aid Society.
SUPERVISION OF VOLUNTEERS AND STUDENTS
All volunteers and students over 18 years of age are required to provide a Criminal Reference-Vulnerable Sector Check before they interact with children in care. Parents and the agency are made aware of any placement of volunteers or students. Volunteers and students are supervised at all times. Childcare provider family members in the home may have limited unsupervised interaction with the children. All family members over the age of 18 supply a Criminal Reference-Vulnerable Sector Check to the agency.
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
Natural Connections Childcare strongly believes in lifelong learning and professional development and as such encourages and supports staff and providers in their professional development goals. We offer access to networking events and workshops, and promote community workshops and events for staff, childcare providers and families.