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Ministry of Children
and Youth Services
Overview of the Best Start Initiative
Best Start is a comprehensive, evidence-based
early learning and care strategy designed to
help give Ontario’s children the best possible
start in life and help them achieve success in
Best Start is a major redesign of services in
terms of how children and families are supported
from birth through to Grade 1.
Planning and implementation will be done in
phases at the local/community level.
Impacts for Parents and Children
Best Start is a partnership with parents and families.
Parents will be engaged in their child’s learning and care – which is a
critical factor to children’s success in school and healthy development.
Parents will be included in decision-making and have a say in how and
what is planned for their child.
Services will be brought together in a comprehensive, flexible and
seamless way so children and parents can access them at a familiar
Children will acquire the physical, socio-emotional, language, thinking
and early literacy skills that are required to arrive at school ready and
eager to learn.
Rationale for Best Start
The early years have the most influence of any
time in the life cycle on brain development and
subsequent learning, behaviours and health.
Children who are ready to learn when they start
school are more likely to complete school, find
employment and make positive contributions to
Rationale for Best Start
Society reaps the benefits over many years as
those children develop into healthy, educated,
confident and productive adults.
Investing in children is an investment in
Ontario’s future. Investing in our youngest
children in the first years of their lives leads to
the greatest return on our investment.
Rates of Return to Human Capital Investment
(Carneiro & Heckman, 2003)
Cos t of Funds
Best Start is distinct from other
initiatives in that it:
will help parents and families – regardless of
individual economic or social circumstances
responds to the clear message from communities that
Ontario needs more integrated accessible services for
young children and families
strengthens, enhances, builds on and integrates
existing programs and services – rather than creating
new structures or organizations
asks all existing organizations that provide services
for children from the prenatal stage through to Grade
1 to share their expertise, and plan together.
is community driven:
o the types of services and service targets/outcomes
are set by the provincial government, but the
planning for how those services will be delivered
and integrated will be done by the communities.
Key Features of Best Start
At the community level, key features of Best
Start are childcare expansion and the
establishment of neighbourhood Early Learning
and Care Hubs that provide a range of
integrated services and supports for families with
Screening & Assessment:
Infant Hearing Program
Key Strategies of Best Start
1. Establish Best Start Networks responsible for
planning and implementing Best Start in their
2. Create neighbourhood Early Learning and Care
Hubs that provide integrated services and
supports for families with young children.
3. Support flexible implementation strategies that
make sense for communities.
4. Give communities tools to support the planning
5. Create an integrated early learning and care
program combing preschool, JK and SK with
high quality childcare during non-school hours.
6. Create more licensed childcare spaces and
assist more families in need with childcare costs.
7. Improve the quality of regulated and informal
early learning and care programs.
8. Enhance early identification and intervention
9. Develop and support universal screening of all
children at 18 months.
10. Change policies and practices and remove
Best Start Planning and Implementation
Best Start is funded and led by the Ministry of
Children and Youth Services.
Implementation will take 10+ years and will be
accomplished in phases.
Some Phase 1 components are province-wide.
In Phase 1, each City and District will also
establish a Best Start Network to develop Best
Start implementation plans for local
How are we going to get there?
Phase 1 (over the next 5 years) has two key components:
A major expansion of child care for children enrolled in Junior and Senior
Kindergarten across the province during the non-school hours
Three demonstration projects that will fast-forward the 10+ year vision.
Other components included in Phase 1:
Panel on Early Learning Program
Panel on Quality and Human Resources
Panel on the 18 month well baby check-up
Enhancements for Healthy Babies, Healthy Children
Restored service levels for Pre-School Speech and Language/Infant Hearing
Establishment of the College of Early Childhood Educators
Immediate flexibility and eligibility requirements for child care fee subsidies. This
includes changes to the eligible hours policy and RRSP/RESP policies
Move to a sliding scale income test to determine eligibility for child care
Measurement for progress and results using the Early Development Instrument
Phase 2 will introduce the 10+ year vision across all communities
Schools First Policy
The goal of Best Start is to help children enter
school ready to learn. Hence, schools are seen
as the most appropriate sites for child care and
early learning and care hubs and the first choice
for the expansion of child care space as part of
If it is determined that child care spaces are not
to be located in schools, then the community plan
must provide a rationale as to why and describe
how programmatic linkages to an elementary
school or to a family of schools will be
Northern Regional Vision
In the North Region, MCYS is taking an approach
that will reflect Northern realities and ensure
regional consistency in Best Start
For example, it may not be appropriate or
effective to have Early Learning and Care Hubs
located in every school in every community in the
Role of CMSMs and DSSABs
Expanding and enhancing childcare is the first
critical task of Phase 1 Best Start
Regulated childcare services are the
responsibility of Consolidated Municipal
Services Managers (CMSMs) in cities and of
District Social Services Administration Boards
(DSSABs) in rural areas.
Role of CMSMs and DSSABs:
Given the emphasis on expanding childcare in
Phase 1 of Best Start, CMSMs and DSSABs are
taking the lead in establishing the Best Start
Networks in their areas.
Boundaries for Best Start Networks are
CMSM/DSSAB catchment areas:
In _______(city/district), the
CMSM/DSSAB catchment area includes:
Map of DSSAB/CMSM boundaries.
Best Start Networks
Communities across Ontario, led by CMSMs and
DSSABs, will build Best Start Networks to plan
and implement Best Start at the local level.
Composition of the Networks may vary based on
the distinctiveness of the communities.
Suggested membership includes:
Composition of Best Start Networks
Early identification and intervention programs
District school boards
Health and specialized services
Income and security programs
Early learning and care programs
Phase 1 Implementation Planning
Phase 1 is crucial in laying the foundation for the
full implementation of Best Start.
It involves three tasks at the community level.
Task 1: Best Start Networks
Bring together community partners and parents
to establish Best Start Networks.
Define and approve Terms of Reference for the
Task 2: Childcare Expansion
In consultation with Networks, CMSMs/DSSABs
will take the lead in:
a transition plan to use existing vacant
childcare spaces, to increase the number of childcare
spaces for families with priority for children in JK/SK
and gradual expansion for children aged 0-4.
an infrastructure plan for renovations/new
Task 2: Childcare Service Plan Requirements
Analysis of Gaps/Overloads
Historical Overview of the Local Child Care System
Description of Local Services
Assessment of Local Needs
Three-Year Forecast of Local Child Care Service Needs
Childcare fee subsidies
Special Needs resourcing
Service Management Strategies
Analysis of Financial Impact
Performance Measures/Data Elements
Task 3: Integrated implementation plans
Describe the community’s needs for early
learning and care services.
Develop a plan to implement early learning and
Develop a plan to implement childcare during
non-school hours for children in JK/JK and for
children 0-4 years for 2006-2007 onwards.
Task 3: Integrated implementation plans
Develop an integrated plan to enhance key early
identification and intervention programs.
Set out the longer term vision to implement Best
Identify any challenges and barriers to
implementation and strategies to overcome
Implementation Planning Timelines
Build Best Start Networks
Transition plan to increase licensed
childcare spaces and subsidies in 2005/2006
with priority for children in JK/SK with gradual
expansion of licensed childcare and subsidies
for children aged 0-4.
Develop a Phase 1 Integrated Implementation