Handsful equals five kids
Reports of one person looking after 10 kids

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 27/96) - Jackie Wall has always wanted to work with children.

She cares for six children in her home, operating what is commonly called a day home.

Wallis opened her home to the public two years ago after her son was born. She wanted to stay home to raise her son and care for other people's children at the same time.

Wallis is one of an increasing number of people who are opening alternative mini-daycare centres. There are 20 day homes legally operating in Yellowknife, and three others registered across the Arctic.

But it's homes which aren't registered that early childhood educators are becoming more concerned about. M.J. Patterson, manager of the early childhood program with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, said it's implicit in the NWT Child Day Care Act that such centres be registered.

The GNWT requires all those operating day homes with five or more children, the majority of whom aren't their own children, to be registered.

Over the past six months, she has received reports of three unregistered homes in the city.

In the past, Patterson said she has received reports where one person is looking after eight or 10 children.

"When we get a report of a home operating illegally, we work with the operator to become licensed," said Patterson.

While there are costs associated with getting some homes up to health department standards, there is financial assistance available.

Each day home also has to be registered with the city of Yellowknife as a business.

Patterson said these costs are minimal compared to the advantages of becoming a registered day home. The standard of care is regulated by the Health Department, Fire Department and the Mackenzie Health Board.

This, Patterson said, improves the standard of care.

Wallis agrees.

"As a parent looking for care, I would make sure the ratio is low," Wallis said. "I know when the ratio is high, they can't give the level of care that's necessary."

Choosing a day home that's registered is one way to ensure the ratio is low, she added.

While Wallis said there are unregistered homes that are likely providing good care, she would choose one that is publicly monitored.