Overview

Every day, parents and families across Alberta rely on licensed child care providers – whether that is in a daycare, preschool or family day home – to support the growth and development of their children. Licensed child care providers and early childhood educators play a crucial role in helping children build the skills they need to support their growth and overall health.

Many families rely on other, non-regulated, child care options including stay-at-home parenting, informal arrangements with friends or family or unlicensed family day homes. Licensed and regulated child care is for children up to age 12 and includes full-time, part-time and out-of-school care.

Child care providers also play an essential role in Alberta’s economy. When parents, including guardians and caregivers, go to work or school, they need to know their children are safe and have what they need to grow and thrive.

Under the authority of the Early Learning and Child Care Act, child care is provided by a mix of non-profit and private (for-profit) programs – with the majority of child care spaces in private programs. Both private and non-profit child care programs range in size from fewer than 10 children to more than 500.

Parents have come to expect a variety of programming that meets their families’ unique needs and preferences, reflecting the diversity of Alberta’s child care landscape. Under the act, licensed child care programs must follow 3 principles in their operations and daily programming:

  1. The safety, security, well being and development of the child is to be supported and preserved.
  2. Flexibility in child care supports choice and accessibility for families.
  3. Engagement of parents and community members in the provision of child care supports the child’s optimal development.

As Alberta’s population grows in size and diversity, the need for high-quality, affordable and accessible licensed and regulated child care is increasing. High-quality early learning and child care plays an important role in promoting the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of young children and can support positive lifelong benefits. Children who have a strong start in life are more likely to be resilient, healthy, and engaged learners and citizens.

Parents have the greatest influence and impact on their child’s well-being, learning and developmental outcomes. However, parents may need to access community-based supports and services, including child care, at some point during their child’s early years.

Affordable and accessible child care empowers parents to pursue post-secondary education or training opportunities. It can also lead to more women being able to participate in or re-enter the workforce. Financial independence for women reduces the gender wage gap, promotes women’s equality and increases their contributions to their families and Alberta’s economy.

Our vision

Alberta families thrive – quality of life increases as families access inclusive, affordable, high-quality early learning and child care options, which support children’s growth and well-being, as well as greater economic prosperity for families and Albertans overall.

Outcomes

Alberta’s transition to a primarily government-funded early learning and child care (ELCC) system brings several immediate, medium and long-term outcomes for children, families and all Albertans. We achieve these by working with other government ministries, families, ELCC partners and the community.

Children

  • Greater potential for positive educational outcomes.
  • Children are set up to enjoy better health and well-being.

Families

  • Parents can pursue employment, education or training and other opportunities to reach their individual potential.
  • Quality of life improves through access to supports and greater income savings or potential.

Society

  • Alberta’s economy grows.
  • Livability for all Albertans improves.

Goals

The ELCC vision identifies 5 goals to support the achievement of the renewed vision for child care in Alberta. These goals are measurable and are monitored through the implementation and completion of initiatives and actions.

1. Affordable

Sustained affordable child care supports families and ultimately Alberta’s economic prosperity.

Parents have the option to participate in training, education and the labour market knowing that they can afford quality child care for their children. Non-profit, public and private operators play an important role in the delivery of high-quality regulated child care programs.

Affordable child care for children up to kindergarten age will be achieved by reducing parent fees to an average $15 per day by March 2024 and $10 per day by 2025-26.

As of September 2023, average child care fees in Alberta were 50% of 2019 fees as a result of affordability supports that were implemented on January 1, 2022.

2. Accessible

Families have options for quality early learning and child care where and when they need it.

Expanding availability of child care options and supporting operators to build spaces where child care is needed by parents is key to achieving the vision. This will be achieved by leveraging partnerships with communities, schools, municipalities, child care operators and other government ministries to support the growth of new licensed child care spaces that represent the diversity of Alberta’s population and target communities with additional barriers to accessing child care.

Families have flexible options for quality child care where and when they need it through a targeted space creation strategy.

Alberta is implementing a variety of initiatives to increase the number of licensed child care spaces by 68,700 spaces by March 31, 2026.

  • November 2021: 103,000 spaces
  • September 2023: 122,600 spaces
  • Progress: 29% Achieved

3. Quality

Early childhood educators deliver high-quality ELCC programs that support children’s well-being and developmental needs.

Trained, qualified and supported early childhood educators (ECEs) have what they need to provide rich early learning and programming experiences for children in safe environments. They do this by building respectful relationships with parents and interacting with children in thoughtful, deliberate ways that support learning outcomes. We will continue working with internal and external partners to support the training, recruitment and retention of our valued educators, who are needed to continue providing high quality child care for Albertan families.

Alberta recognizes the importance of qualifications, competencies and training for the early childhood workforce. We are committed to strengthening the child care sector by encouraging recruitment and retention in the workforce and increasing certification of ECEs.

Alberta is committed to increasing the number of qualified early childhood educators employed in the licensed child care sector.

  • November 2021: 18,100 ECEs
  • September 2023: 26,100 ECEs
  • Progress: 44% increase

4. Inclusive

A connected community of partners supports safe, high-quality and inclusive early learning and child care in Alberta.

It is essential that services and supports for families, including child care, are community based and work well together. This ensures that communities are actively involved in supporting families and that the best services are available to parents.

Alberta strives to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive ELCC system that welcomes and supports every child, removing barriers to access and making diverse and inclusive experiences available for all children.

5. Efficient

Strengthen services for child care through operational and technological improvements.

The Alberta government is committed to streamlining technology systems and processes to reduce red tape and minimize the administrative burden for parents, child care operators and ministry staff across all ELCC services. We’ll achieve this by improving current technology to support monitoring, reporting and data collection processes as part of the overall digital transformation of the ELCC system.

Finding innovative and sustainable approaches to support data collection, reporting processes and monitoring the growth and quality of the ELCC is necessary to build knowledge and information for evidence-based decision making and planning, program and policy development, accountability and responding to system changes.