National Context

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing warns that only 1 in 4 Canadian children aged 0 to 5 have access to regulated, centre-based child care, even though the rate more than doubled in the past 20 years (11.5% in 1994 to 24.1% by 2014).  This ‘seriously inadequate’ shortage is critical because early childhood education contributes to later educational achievement, provides a foundation for lifelong learning, and improves overall health.  

Source:  2016 CIW (Canadian Index of Wellbeing) National Report: How are Canadians Really Doing?
Retrieved From:

Early Childhood Community Development Centre

The Early Childhood Community Development Centre (ECCDC) offers thought leadership, cutting edge training, innovative resources, and coaching services highlighting best practices and emerging trends in early learning and child care.

ECCDC provides Parent Direct Niagara, an online directory to help parents find information and links to programs, services, and resources for children and families in Niagara. Parent Direct Niagara includes a directory of the 25 Ontario Early Years Centres in Niagara; 14 Family Resource Programs; and 5 Parenting & Family Literacy Programs in Niagara. Search the directory at:  

Source:  Early Childhood Community Development Centre (ECCDC)
Retrieved From:

This measure is also included in the Learning and Education Sector of this report.

Infant Mental Health in Niagara

The Niagara Infant Mental Health Committee is raising awareness about early childhood mental health among professionals working with very young children. This includes registered early childhood educators, home visitors, child welfare workers, public health nurses, and social workers. It is important that these professionals understand the impact of a young child’s experiences on their mental health and emerging sense of self.

Source: Niagara Infant Mental Health Pilot Project Advisory Committee
Retrieved from:

Child Care Spaces in Niagara

Niagara Region Children’s Services provides Child Care Profiles by local municipality in Niagara.

Child Care Profiles – Niagara Region Children’s Services, by municipality

(all figures as of 2015)

Fort Erie 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 224 208 234
Children Registered 54
Child Care Spaces 664 624 658
Grimsby 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 262 216 289
Children Registered 149
Child Care Spaces 788 855 939
Lincoln 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 182 214 214
Children Registered 66
Child Care Spaces 488 585 646
Niagara Falls 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 727 747 719
Children Registered 198
Child Care Spaces 1695 1949 2002
Niagara-on-the-Lake 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 102 103 95
Children Registered 26
Child Care Spaces 242 242 202
Pelham 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 96 108 99
Children Registered 26
Child Care Spaces 462 513 518
Port Colborne 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 127 132 134
Children Registered 37
Child Care Spaces 274 278 283
St. Catharines 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 1169 1207 1188
Children Registered 502
Child Care Spaces 3524 3752 3924
Thorold 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 148 164 167
Children Registered 59
Child Care Spaces 346 336 336
Wainfleet 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 34 31 41
Children Registered 5
Child Care Spaces 47 31 51
Welland 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 437 478 481
Children Registered 174
Child Care Spaces 989 1048 1179
West Lincoln 2013 2014 2015
Live Births 169 174 166
Children Registered 19
Child Care Spaces 137 120 120

Source:  Niagara Region Community Services Child Care Profiles
Retrieved from:

Child Care Fee Subsidy

There is no local waitlist for child care fee subsidy in Niagara. Since 2013, Niagara has not had a waitlist for parents applying for financial assistance with child care costs, unlike a number of communities across the province.

Source: Niagara Region Community Services
Retrieved from:

Before-and-After-School Programs For Children 4 to 12 Years Old

As of September, 2017, the provincial government began requiring school boards to offer before-and-after-school programs (for children 4 to 12 years old) where there is sufficient demand from parents and families. School boards, or third-party providers can operate these programs, for students ranging from kindergarten to grade 6.

Before-and-after-school programs run by third-party providers are offered at many elementary schools in Niagara.

Source: Ontario Ministry of Education
Retrieved from: and

Licensed Child Care Expansion in Niagara

In 2016 and 2017, a total of $6.8 million in federal and provincial funds are being invested in Niagara, to support expansion of the local licensed child care system.

In September 2016 the Ontario government announced its Child Care and Expansion Plan (CCEP), with an objective to increase the number of licensed child care spaces by 100,000 in Ontario over the next five years. In the first year of the expansion funding, Niagara Region Children’s Services received approximately $4.3 million with a performance target to increase the local child care system by 460 new licensed spaces for children aged 0-4 years.

A September, 2017, Niagara Region Children’s Services report outlines its plan to achieve these local expansion targets.  The report notes that provision of accessible and quality early learning programs and services supports Niagara Region Council’s focus on economic prosperity.

The report points out that the Canada-Ontario Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) agreement, announced June 16, 2017, aligns with the provincial vision for expansion for licensed child care, and has meant an additional $2.5 million to Children’s Services funding to further support increased access by local residents to licensed childcare.

These investments are intended to increase quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility and inclusivity in the licensed childcare system. This funding is intended to support new child care fee subsidies, expand access to affordable licensed child care spaces (both centre and home-based care) and reduce fee subsidy waitlists to help parents access quality child care, for infants, toddlers and preschoolers aged 0-4.

The local plan focuses on: increasing the number of licensed child care spaces; supporting licensed child care providers to increase their operating capacity to their licensed capacity; and support licensed child care service providers to reduce their per diem costs for all families. Implementation of this plan will begin in the fall of 2017 and carry through into the winter of 2018.

Source: Niagara Region
Retrieved from:

Natural Playground Design at Childcare Centres in Niagara

Benefits of naturalized playgrounds are described by child advocacy expert Richard Louv, who co-founded the Children and Nature Network, and is honorary co-chair of Canada’s Child in Nature Alliance:  Natural outdoor environments that allows for self–directed, unstructured active play contribute to children’s optimal growth and development, allowing children to investigate, imagine, think, create, and solve problems. Research suggests that connecting to the natural world contributes to children’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.  (Louv, 2008)

In 2016, the Early Childhood Community Development Centre (ECCDC) partnered with Binenstock Design and Consulting for a program that provides funding for childcare centres in Niagara to receive a natural playground design, a kit of loose materials to use in the space, and a series of nature-based training sessions. The aim of this program is to bring this generation of children back to nature, as play in a natural environment improves mental and physical health, and encourages creativity and collaboration.

Bethlehem Housing and Support Services completed construction of its naturalized playground in June, 2017.  The playground facilitates participation in Early Learning Centre programs at Bethlehem’s 6-storey apartment building on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines.  The $124,000 cost of playground construction was supported by funding from Wise Guys Charity, Meridian Credit Union and the Niagara Community Foundation. Removal of the previous 27-year-old playground was carried out by a group of volunteer staff from Brock University, and students from the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Bethlehem helps families – men, women and children – in transition from being homeless due to issues of poverty, disability, mental health challenges, domestic violence and family breakdown. Individual help and group support for a wide range of life skills is provided.

Source:  ECCDC
Retrieved from: and
Source: Bethlehem Housing and Support Services
Retrieved from:

New Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres (OEYCFCs) system in Niagara

In February of 2016 the Ontario Ministry of Education announced the provincial plan to proceed with integration and transformation of provincially funded child and family programs across Ontario.  As part of this plan, by 2018, all provincially funded child and family programs (Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, and Family Resource Programs) will be part of an integrated, cohesive system of services and supports for children ages 0-6 years and their families, now known as Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres (OEYCFCs).

Niagara Region, with input from parents and caregivers, children, service providers and community organizations, has been tasked with creating a coordinated plan that informs the planning and implementation of the new OEYCFC system in Niagara.

The provincial objective is to combine all existing child and family programs funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education into one program model, to promote early learning and development; support parents and caregivers; and provide referrals to specialized services.   

Source: Ontario Ministry of Education
Retrieved From:

In September, 2017 Niagara Region released the Ontario Early Years Child & Family Centres Initial Plan for Niagara Region.

Plan highlights include:

  • Niagara Region Children’s Services is designated by the Province of Ontario as the Consolidated Municipal Service Manager (CMSM) and as such, is responsible for service system planning and administration of the early learning and child care system in Niagara. Beginning in January 2018 this portfolio will expand to include the local management of OEYCFCs.
  • Data was gathered to inform local needs assessment included neighbourhood mapping and data analysis.   A neighbourhood identification process yielded 19 neighbourhoods of interest. Of those 19 neighbourhoods, 13 were noted as high priority neighbourhoods of interest (levels 6-8) due to the high number of births, as well as the high vulnerability of children over four implementations of the Early Development Instrument (EDI). There were six secondary priority neighbourhoods (level 5), based on 2016 birth rate and 2005-2015 EDI vulnerability data.

When analysed at the level of a local area municipality, four of the six neighbourhoods in Niagara Falls are in the high priority category, and six of the 19 neighbourhoods in St. Catharines are also in the high priority category. Other secondary priority neighbourhoods are located in Lincoln, West Lincoln, Welland, and Fort Erie, with one each respectively. There are two additional secondary priority neighbourhoods in Port Colborne.

  • The map, Identified OEYCFC Priority Neighbourhoods based on 2016 Live Births and EDI Vulnerability Trends, shows the neighbourhoods of interest overlaid with the current OEYC (Ontario Early Years Centres), PFLC (Parenting and Family Literacy Centres), and FRP (Family Resource Program) sites; the map is shown on page 20 of the document Ontario Early Years Child & Family Centres Initial Plan for Niagara Region (September 2017) at the link below.

The report outlines Niagara’s Plan for the Next Five Years, including the following points:

  • 2018 will be a transition year as Niagara Region Children’s Services rolls out the plan and works toward system transformation while minimizing disruptions to service.
  • Effective January 2018, it is anticipated that there will continue to be nine community agencies who will act as service providers, operating 31 sites across Niagara region.
  • As a means to ensure consistency regarding professional development opportunities, future professional development will be centralized and organized through the professional resource centre, Early Childhood Community Development Centre, effective January 1, 2018.
  • The provision of French language services has been identified as a priority in Niagara.
  • The provision of programs and services that reflect local Indigenous peoples has been identified as a priority in Niagara.
  • An RFP procurement process will be initiated by Niagara Region Children’s Services in Q1 2019 and be awarded in Q2 2019 pending confirmation of provincial funding.
  • New multi-year purchase of service agreements will be awarded and come into effect July 1, 2019 until June 30th 2023.

Source: Niagara Region
Retrieved from:

The above measure is also included in the Learning and Education Sector of this report.

Family and Children’s Services Niagara

In 2017 Family and Children’s Services Niagara released the “Child Welfare Service Performance Indicators Report.”  This report represents a continued commitment to quality improvement and accountability.

Data from 2010 to 2015 suggest that the majority (82 – 83%) of child protection cases closed at the investigation stage do not return for service within 12 months of case closure. A minority of families return to FACS with verified child protection concerns within 12 months.

Source:  Child Welfare Service Performance Indicators report, March 2017, FACS Niagara.
Retrieved From:

A trend analysis of FACS service volumes between 2010 and 2017 indicate that total child protection referrals have demonstrated a graduated increase. Cases which received ongoing child protection services have remained constant during this same period of time.  

The most significant volume shift from 2010 to 2017 is represented in the decline of children in the care of Family and Children’s Services.

Initiatives such as collaborations with the local Indigenous community, the Domestic Violence sector, Law Enforcement and an increased emphasis upon kinship and community based planning tables have strengthened the focus on early intervention.

FACS Niagara Annual Report Statistics 2014-2015 to 2016-2017
2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
Number of child protection referrals 5,630 5,842 5,779
Number of investigations 3, 353 3,156
Number of families receiving services 4,236 4,970
Number of children receiving child protective services 9,626 8,607
Monthly average of children in foster care 520 488 482


On April 1, 2018, the Ontario government will proclaim new child protection legislation. The new “Child Youth and Family Services Act” will raise the age of protection from 16 to 18 years of age effectively extending child protection services for vulnerable youth in unsafe living conditions, placing a renewed emphasis upon early intervention and support consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The new legislation further rearticulates extended supports for First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.

While the new legislation will come into force April, 2018, the jurisdictional provisions of the new law related to services to 16 and 17-year olds will come into force on January 1, 2018.

The “Child Youth and Family Services Act” contains multiple amendments in the areas of Protection and Prevention, Quality Improvement, Information and Privacy, Adoption Services, Detention and Custody and support for First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.

Source:  FACS Niagara Annual Report 2016-2017
Retrieved from:

The above measure is also included in the Crime, Safety and Security Sector of this report.

Presence of School Nutrition Programs in Niagara

Niagara Nutrition Partners is a region-wide initiative providing co-ordinated nutrition programs (breakfast snack and lunch) in elementary and secondary schools, as well as community based programs. NNP is able to offer support to nutritional programs through provincial grant programs and local fundraising efforts.

Niagara Nutrition Partners Numbers of Students Served

Niagara Nutrition Partners - Number of Students Served by Municipality

Source: Niagara Nutrition Partners
Retrieved from:

Early Development Instrument in Niagara

The Early Development Instrument is used across Ontario to measure the developmental health and wellbeing of senior kindergarten children. In the second half of the school year, senior kindergarten teachers complete a questionnaire for each senior kindergarten child in their class. This questionnaire measures developmental health and wellbeing in five general domains:

  1. Physical health and well-being
  2. Social competence
  3. Emotional maturity
  4. Language and cognitive development
  5. Communication and general knowledge

Scores are calculated to determine the ‘vulnerability’ of children in each domain. A child is considered vulnerable if they score below the 10th percentile in a particular domain. The results reflect children’s experiences before entering school and tell users about the supports provided or needed within a particular community, region, municipality or neighbourhood.

Since the Early Development Instrument has been implemented four times over the past 10 years in Niagara, it has allowed Niagara Region Public Health to monitor the developmental health and wellbeing of senior kindergarten children over time.

The charts below summarize the most recent results and compare to other years and to the province. In order to maintain comparability with the provincial averages, children who had identified special needs (diagnosis) were not included in this analysis. Data for children with special needs is available from Niagara Region Public Health, upon request.

percent of vulnerable students

emotional maturity

social competence

language cognitive development

The 2015 EDI data highlights Emotional Maturity as the primary concern for SK children in Niagara. Since 2008, there has been a steady and significant increase in the percentage of children vulnerable in this domain. In 2015, vulnerability increased above the provincial average.

Social Competence is also a concern, as there was a significant increase in vulnerability from 2011 to 2015, and it is also higher than the provincial average.

The vulnerability of SK children in the Language & Cognitive Development domain has not changed significantly over the years, but continued to remain higher than the provincial average in 2015.

Source: Niagara Region Public Health
Retrieved from:

The above measure is also included in the Learning and Education Sector of this report

YMCA of Niagara Region Programs for Children and Youth

The YMCA of Niagara Region offers a range of programs for children and youth in Niagara. The table below shows child/youth program participation from April, 2014 to March, 2016.  

2014-2015 2015-2016
Before and after school YMCA Child Care program attendance 3,324 3,646
YMCA Day Camp program participation 3,531 3,167
Youth Action participants accessing Community Initiatives at their local YMCA, at their school or in their neighbourhood 5,878 5,540
Ontario Early Years Centres attendance – children and parents 6,064 6,529

Source: YMCA of Niagara, Annual Reports and Strategic Plans.
Retrieved from:

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