Study Overview

An Atkinson Centre research team led the evaluation and analysis of the Toronto First Duty (TFD) early childhood demonstration project. TFD is a universal early learning and care program model for every child that simultaneously:

  • meets the developmental needs of children to ensure they reach their full potential
  • supports parents to work or study
  • supports parents in their parenting role

The TFD model brings together kindergarten, child care and parenting supports into a single program. Through TFD parents are able to access the full range of child and family supports available in their community.

Toronto First Duty Phase 3 Report - October 2012

Toronto First Duty (TFD) began over a decade ago with an ambition to showcase the directives from the first Early Years Study, authored by the late Dr. Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain. It began with a simple but compelling assumption: it is only through public policy that permanent and sustainable change takes place. The third and final report on Toronto First Duty was the story of how scientific evidence was turned into community action and ultimately public policy. Mustard and McCain told us why early education is a must for every child. Toronto First Duty showed us how it can be accomplished.

Study Findings/Reports

Integration & Parent Involvement

Parent involvement is a core element of Toronto First Duty. There is a significant body of evidence indicating that parent participation in their child’s education—reading to the child, talking to the child about school, and meeting with staff to assess student progress—is related to school success. To assess parent involvement, we surveyed a sample of parents of kindergarten-aged children in all five TFD sites. To provide a comparison, parents were also surveyed in comparable schools where only kindergarten was offered, or kindergarten and either a parent child centre or family support program were offered.

Integration & Family Life

Do seamless services improve everyday family life and children’s experiences, beyond the direct experience in early childhood programs? There is little academic research on this topic, but survey evidence from TFD1 suggested a high level of “client satisfaction” with the new service array. In TFD2 we systematically studied the impact of integrated services consisting of kindergarten, child care and family support programs on the daily lives of parents and their kindergarten-aged children.

Integrated Early Childhood Program Participation

The study examined predictors of program participation and, in turn, the effects of participation 'dosage' on child development in five school sites offering integrated preschool services as part of the Toronto First Duty (TFD) project.

Policy Impact

Toronto First Duty has influenced public policy in Toronto and elsewhere. In Toronto, TFD has informed the implementation of the new Ontario Best Start initiative (Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, 2007), a 10 year plan to re-organize early childhood programs into a more coherent system. The Toronto Best Start Network (2006) states that "Toronto First Duty will inform the development of service integration" (p. 8). An important part of this role is providing understanding and concrete indicators of how the complex goals of integration can be implemented in areas such as staff teams and learning environments. At a provincial and national level, the Toronto First Duty model is highlighted in a re-issue of an influential early years policy document, the Early Years Study 2 (McCain, Mustard, & Shanker, 2007) as an example of integrated early childhood programming central to an integrated system. The report uses TFD findings to propose specific public policies necessary to move from fragmented program delivery to a coherent early years system in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada.

Reports & Publications

Arimura, T. (2007). Daily routines, parenting hassles, and social support: The role that early childhood services play in parents' and children's daily life. Unpublished M.A.thesis, University of Toronto.

Corter, C., Patel, S., Pelletier, J. & Bertrand, J. (2008). The Early Development Instrument as an evaluation and improvement tool for school-based, integrated services for young children and parents: the Toronto First Duty Project. Early Education and Development. In press.

Corter, C., Bertrand, J., Pelletier, J., Griffin, T., McKay, D., Patel, S, Ioannone, P, with McQuaig, K. (2006). Toronto First Duty Phase 1 Summary Report: Evidence-based understanding of integrated foundations for early childhood.

Corter, C. (2006). Early Identification and Early Childhood Programs to Reduce Risk. Invited panel presentation to A National Dialogue on Students at Risk. Vancouver, B.C., 28 February.

Corter, C., & Pelletier, J. (2005). Parent and community involvement in schools: Policy panacea or pandemic? In N. Bascia, A. Cumming, A. Datnow, K. Leithwood & D. Livingstone (Eds.), International handbook of educational policy. (pp. 295-327). Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer.

Corter, C. (2004, November). Evaluating Integration: The case of Toronto First Duty. Invited presentation to Ontario Children's Summit, Toronto, Ontario.

Corter, C., Bertrand, J., Endler, M., Griffin, T., Pelletier, J., McKay, D. (2002). Toronto First Duty Starting Gate Report: Implementing Integrated Foundations for Early Childhood.

Ioannone, P., & Corter, C. (2005, April). Early Childhood Professionals' Experiences With Collaboration in Integrated Care and Education. Poster presentation at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Atlanta.

Patel, S. & Corter, C. (2006). Parent-school involvement, diversity, and school-based preschool service hubs. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, 9 April.

Patel, S., & Corter, C. (2005, April). Parents, Preschool Services, and Engagement with Schools. Poster presentation at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Atlanta.

Pelletier, J., & Corter, C. (2005). Toronto First Duty: Integrating Kindergarten, Childcare and Parenting Supports to help Diverse Families Connect to Schools. [Special Issue on Families and Multicultural Education.] The Multicultural Education Journal. 15 (1), 89-116.