Our child care programs, summer camp, and forest school are child-centered and inquiry based.
By Marjorie LePoidevin, Director Communications and Marketing
We are proudly celebrating our 40th anniversary of providing high-quality childcare services in Toronto, York Region, and Simcoe County. It’s a milestone that fills our hearts with gratitude, nostalgia, and pride.
In this blog post, we invite you to join us on a journey down memory lane, reminiscing about our four decades of service, the remarkable people who made it possible, and the lasting impact we’ve had on thousands of families.
The Humble Beginnings (1983-1993):
UCCC started small, under the leadership of Josie and John Harlow combined with a handful of passionate individuals who believed in the transformative power of early childhood education. Our first centre, Fenside Children’s Centre in North York, opened its doors in 1983. It was a time when the importance of quality childcare services was just beginning to be recognized. It was also the Harlows’ goal to support professionals in the childcare industry and inspire respect for their important role in early childhood development.
During this period, we focused on creating a warm and nurturing environment for the children in our care. We strived to make our centres feel like a home away from home, where children could learn, play, and grow in a safe and supportive setting.
Expanding Our Horizons (1993-2010):
This decade saw us expand our services to multiple locations in Toronto, from Markham, to Vaughan, and north into Simcoe County, enabling us to reach thousands of families and provide them with valuable childcare options. This growth was driven primarily by the implementation of full-day kindergarten in Ontario as well as the tremendous population boom in York Region.
We continued to evolve our curriculum and our dedicated employees, played a pivotal role in growing and shaping our organization and responding to significant changes in childcare legislation.
In 1994, the Day Nurseries Act underwent a comprehensive overhaul, leading to the introduction of the Early Childhood Educators Act in 1997. These legislative changes emphasized the importance of early childhood education and set higher standards for childcare providers.
The 2000s and 2010s brought further legislative changes aimed at improving childcare in Ontario. In 2007, the province introduced the Early Learning for Every Child Today framework, emphasizing the importance of early childhood development. This sparked continued emphasis on professional development within our workforce and resulted in an annual Upper Canada Child Care professional development conference that continues to this day.
As our centres continued to grow, we were quick to embrace these new standards, recognizing that they aligned perfectly with our mission to provide high-quality childcare services. We supported the continued professional development of our staff, ensuring they were well-equipped to provide the best possible early education and care to the children entrusted to us.
Reorganization and Renewal (2010-2020):
Reflection is an important part of our educators’ daily practice. They often ask themselves, what went well and what could be done differently to enhance the learning experiences of the children? Similarly, the organization’s leadership began the same exercise.
They examined what was working well, what wasn’t, and how we can improve not only service delivery and client experience, but also how our organization functions and our employees’ work environment.
The end of this decade marked significant investment in the form of specialized employees to support our programs in the areas of Inclusion, Outdoor Education, Camp Programs, Quality Assurance and Licensing, and Training and Development. We also brought on board a partner to support family engagement with our programs through a convenient software application.
Our Child Care Programs department developed our Program Statement and the refinement of our Upper Canada Child Care Learning Model. We also revamped our Vision and Mission Statements. After a period of such growth, going from 20 employees to well over 700, it was time to check-in and make sure we were on track to achieve our goals.
Play-based learning, inquiry, and prioritizing time spent outdoors is central to all Upper Canada Child Care Programs.
We value the outdoors so much that we opened a Forest School in 2020 which is providing a recreational program for children aged 3 to 8 years during the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons.
White Pines Forest School also provides our childcare centres and their employees, opportunity to explore and experience forest school programming several times a year, and we are proud that we can provide that experience to our clients at no extra charge.
The COVID-19 Challenge (2020-2021):
Our journey through the decades has been marked by highs and lows, but perhaps none more significant than the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, the world faced an unprecedented crisis, and we were not exempt from its impact.
During this time, we remained steadfast in our commitment to the families we serve. We implemented strict health and safety protocols to protect children, staff, and their families. We also embraced technology to ensure that children could continue their education and stay connected with their peers during lockdowns and provided emergency care to essential workers at several sites.
Moreover, we provided much-needed support to families who were navigating the complexities of remote work and remote learning. Our dedicated team of educators and staff went above and beyond to create a sense of normalcy and stability.
As we look back on this period, we are humbled by the resilience and strength of our community. The pandemic underscored the importance of quality childcare services, and we were honoured to stand by our families during their times of need.
Celebrating Our Remarkable Employees:
We also want to take a moment to celebrate the heart and soul of our organization: our incredible employees. Their unwavering dedication, passion, and hard work have brought us to where we are today.
Today and Beyond:
As we stand on the threshold of our 40th year, we want to acknowledge how far we’ve come. Our centres are vibrant communities where children thrive, families feel supported, and educators find purpose.
We’ve not only developed our educational practices but also stayed true to our foundational principles. Our belief in the power of play, the importance of diverse and inclusive environments, and our commitment to the well-being of every child remains as strong as ever.
None of this would have been possible without the support of many families, the dedication of our staff, and the trust placed in us by the community.
As we celebrate this milestone, we are excited about the future. We look forward to continuing to serve the community and shaping the lives of generations to come.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” These words by Peter Drucker sum up our journey perfectly. Over the past 40 years, we’ve created a legacy of excellence in childcare services, and we’re determined to keep creating a brighter future for our employees and all the families we serve. Thank you again, for being a part of our journey, and here’s to many more years of nurturing, educating, and inspiring the next generation!