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Tuesday November 1st, 2011  
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Quote of the Week
"The primary cause of bear deaths is too much contact between bears and people due to motorized access."
- Wendy Francis  


Photo submitted
Little Bear Dayhome Agency Owner Cheralan O’Donnell (left) and Home Visitor/Early Childhood Education Consultant Alison Sudeyko.
Lethbridge-based Little Bear Dayhome Agency (LBDA) is currently looking into the possibility of opening a series of government-approved, certified day homes in Crowsnest Pass.
The accredited family childcare agency is contracted by the Government of Alberta to provide childcare services to Lethbridge and the surrounding area, and has a total of 12 day homes currently operating under its umbrella – nine in Lethbridge, one in Picture Butte, one in Magrath and one in Coalhurst.
Owner and Operator Cheralan O’Donnell opened the agency in June 2009, in response to a need for this kind of government-approved, subsidized care.
“I saw a need and wanted to address it, and I wanted something for my own children,” said
O’Donnell, who has a Sociology degree and experience in early childhood intervention, facilitating children’s programs, and teaching parenting skills.
“With my background and skills, it seemed like a good area to work into and provide something I thought was needed.”
She noted that many families cannot afford the full cost of childcare, and day home agencies allow for subsidized care, easing the burden on parents, and that this was another driving factor in creating the agency.
“Our goal has always been to work with the outlying areas and surrounding communities, as there is a lack of knowledgeable and subsidized care options there,” she said.
She said LBDA wants to open a series of such day homes in Crowsnest Pass and meet with individuals interested in running them.
LBDA day home operators, known as “providers”, are encouraged not only to care for the child, but to be actively engaged in addressing the child’s interests and needs.
“The basic function of any agency is to ensure government standards are met and the children are receiving a high quality of care focused on early childhood development and what they are interested in,” said
O’Donnell, noting that the agency focuses on the child’s interests in a play-based approach and plan lessons according to that.
“We want our children to learn through play, and that is the focus of all of our day homes.”
LBDA Program Coordinator, Home Visitor and Early Childhood Education Consultant Alison Sudeyko said providers observe the children’s interactions and speak with the children in their care to determine their interests, planning a play area based on that subject.
There are eight main play areas set up in every LBDA day home: sand, water, blocks, art, music, dramatic play and house, manipulative, and literature, as well as outside play.
If a child has an interest in something such as trains, the provider can choose to focus on teaching the child about the broader topic of transportation, Sudeyko said, and set up a play area which teaches the child about airplanes, cars, buses, and concepts such as gravity and how trains move.
“What we try to do is take that child’s interests and really broaden it so they can learn as much as they can from their particular interest,” she said.
She said providers are encouraged to be at the child’s level, down on the ground playing with them, talking, asking open-ended questions, helping them to solve their own problems and encouraging them to interact with other children.

“Our providers must be at the children’s level and encourage them to do things on their own and explore, learn and test their own capabilities,” said Sudeyko.
“It helps to positively encourage the children and build positive self-esteem and self-image in young children and ensures that they know that they have choices and can feel some empowerment.”
O’Donnell said there are also benefits to parents of entering their children into an agency day home as opposed to private care.
“In government approved care, there is always somebody else monitoring that day home to ensure those children are safe and getting high quality care,” said O’Donnell.
She said the support and resources of the agency are also major benefits to providers, themselves.
“It can be a fairly secluded position, but if you have the support of a team behind you, you definitely feel like you have those connections when and if you need them,” said Sudeyko.
For example, she said, if a provider is caring for a child with behavioural issues, they can talk to O’Donnell and Sudeyko, who will help them to resolve any issues and act as a support system for anything and everything the providers come across, and private care does not have that resource.
Day home operators interested in joining the agency must submit
Criminal Record and Child Welfare checks, three non-related references, and a note from their doctor stating they are able to care for children in their home, and submit a resume or application (all necessary forms are available through the agency).
Sudeyko will then arrange an initial home visit to interview the provider and do a home safety check to address any safety areas which may need adjustments, such as ensuring all outlets have plugs, knives are out of reach, and medicine cabinets are locked, in order to ensure the safety and well being of the children.
The next step is to attain appropriate insurance for the provider, and for the provider to get First Aid and CPR certification, before a subsequent home visit and signing of contract can commence.
Upon approval, providers will also be required to obtain a Level 1 child care certificate within the first six months, in order to go over the basics of what they need to know to work in child care.
O’Donnell said experience is also an asset to providers, and will help to determine their rate of pay.
"If you went to college for early childhood education or university for something like Social Work, that will allow for an increased wage,” said O'Donnell.
“We do like our providers to have some experience, but life experience does count as well,” she said.
“If you are a mother and you have spent a lot of time providing child care, that obviously helps you become aware of children’s needs and their natural development level.”
Providers are paid through the agency, and the rate of pay is dependent the rate they set, their certification level, and the age of the children in their care.
For example, if a provider has children enrolled who are under the age of 18 months, the government will provide an infant incentive for the care of that child.
A total of six children between the ages of 0 and 12 years are permitted in each day home, and all children must be enrolled through the agency.
For more information, contact Cheralan at the Little Bear Dayhome Agency at 403-942-1129, email, or visit
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