A new portrait of the youngest Quebecers from the Early Childhood Observatory: Ongoing issues of concern and inequality
Montréal, November 19, 2019 – This morning, to coincide with Early Childhood Week, the Early Childhood Observatory (Observatoire des tout-petits) made public its most recent portrait of young children in Québec, entitled What kind of environments are Québec’s youngest children growing up in? Although it includes some good news, this year’s portrait also contains some worrying information on young children’s situations in their families, neighbourhoods and early childcare facilities. In certain cases, these situations can create inequalities and have negative repercussions on early childhood development.
Living conditions are a determining factor in development
In 2018, there were 530,091 children between the ages of 0 and 5 living in Québec. A little more than one out of four children enrolled in kindergarten at that time showed signs of developmental vulnerability. In disadvantaged neighbourhoods, this figure was one out of three. “The conditions in which very young children are growing up have a deciding influence on their development. For example, at age 3, children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods know 600 fewer words than their counterparts in more privileged communities. Such developmental gaps can have an influence on their academic results in primary school and high school—even in studies at an adult age,” explained Fannie Dagenais, Director of the Early Childhood Observatory.
Issues of concern and inequalities
“As a society, it is essential that we concern ourselves with the environments in which young children are growing up,” she added. Although there has been improvement in several indicators, the 2019 portrait shows that one family out of ten with at least one young child is still experiencing food insecurity. In addition, 13.9% of children—75,000 of them—between 0 and 5 are living in low-income families. The level of stress experienced by their parents in connection with work-family balance is also cause for concern, particularly among mothers (39% as compared to 23% among fathers). Finally, many very young children are attending educational daycare facilities that still do not comply with government requirements in terms of qualified personnel.
To learn more about the 2019 portrait indicators, please consult this fact sheet
Possibilities for collective action
In addition to painting a rigorous picture of young children’s living conditions in Québec, the Observatory’s portrait offers solutions drawn from scientific literature and experience on the ground. “Here in Québec, we have many possibilities for collective action that could improve young children’s living conditions in the province. All sectors of society can take action!” said Fannie Dagenais.
Economic conditions and food insecurity
Action can be taken to improve the unfavourable economic conditions of some young children’s families by providing financial support for financially disadvantaged families, focusing on regions or neighbourhoods with large populations of low-income households. Investment in affordable housing is another measure that has be shown to be effective in improving young children’s living conditions. Both these measures also fight food insecurity.
Certain measures can also help to reduce parental stress related to reconciling work and family responsibilities: allowing more flexibility in returning to work after parental leave, or offering work-family balance measures to accommodate parents who work atypical hours, for example. Another possibility would be to encourage mothers and fathers to share parental leave, or to adopt strategies to integrate fathers into all policies, services and programs aimed at improving the lives of families with young children.
Quality of educational childcare services
Finally, to ensure there are a sufficient number of qualified personnel in educational childcare facilities, we need to better understand the obstacles to change and support childcare services in looking for solutions. This would help to make sure that two out of every three educators have the required qualifications in all childcare facilities, which is the goal established by the Ministère de la Famille. Recognizing and facilitating educators’ access to training and providing them with the tools they need in their work environment would improve the quality of all educational childcare services.
“If we work together, we can give our youngest Quebecers a better start, but we need all sectors of society on board. Our futures depend on it!” concluded Fannie Dagenais.
ABOUT EARLY CHILDHOOD WEEK (touspourlestoutpetits.com)
Running from November 17-23, 2019, Early Childhood Week provides an opportunity for communicating and inciting dialogue on the subject of early childhood development, highlighting local and regional initiatives that support very young children, and mobilizing Quebec society as a whole. Several activities and events are planned throughout the province during the entire week.
ABOUT THE EARLY CHILDHOOD OBSERVATORY (tout-petits.org)
The mission of the Early Childhood Observatory (Observatoire des tout-petits), a project of the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation, is to help ensure that the development and well-being of Quebec’s very youngest children has a place at the heart of the province’s social priorities. To achieve this, the Observatory compiles the most reliable and relevant data on 0-5 year-olds, which it then disseminates to incite dialogue on possible collective actions in this area.
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Source: Early Childhood Observatory/Observatoire des tout-petits
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