Principal Investigator

Kathryn Underwood

Kathryn Underwood is an Associate Professor in the School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University. Dr. Underwood’s research interests are in inclusive education practice and ableism in education and care contexts. Her recent research has focused on parent perspectives of early childhood services, family support and literacy programs, and kindergarten. Dr. Underwood has extensive experience in conducting research through community-university partnerships.


Kathleen Brophy

Kathleen Brophy is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. Dr. Brophy’s research interests in the evaluation of early childhood education and care programs has focused on at risk children and their families and the provision of quality programs. She has worked with the Better Beginnings Better Futures provincial initiative and the Reaching In Reaching Out research project to develop models for training ECEs and young children in resilient thinking skills.  She is currently involved in a project investigating the transition of children with special needs from child care to the school system.

Elaine Frankel

Elaine Frankel is a Professor in the School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University. Her teaching and research interests are in the fields of early intervention and inclusion for young children with disabilities, educational system change, and interpersonal communication. Recently Dr. Frankel was a co-investigator in the Health, Education, and Learning Partnerships Promoting Social Inclusion of Children with Developmental Delays and Disabilities (HELPS Inc) project which explores the inclusion of young children with disabilities as they transition from early childhood intervention, learning and care services to kindergarten.

Martha Friendly

Martha Friendly is the Executive Director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU). Before founding the CRRU in the early 1980s at the University of Toronto, Ms. Friendly worked on one of the first evaluations of the US Head Start programme and on child care research at the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto. Ms. Friendly has authored two books on progressive child care policy and many articles, chapters and reports on various aspects of child care. She participates in a number of child care advocacy groups and is a frequent public commentator on child care policy.

Arlene Haché

Arlene Haché is a Program Developer with the Temiskaming Native Women’s Support Group and liaison for the District of Temiskaming Elders Council in Northeastern Ontario. Ms. Haché founded and was Executive Director of a family resource centre in Yellowknife, NT for over 20 years.  Ms. Haché has participated in several territorial and national collaborations and research initiatives focused on community health and wellbeing. As a result of her work and leadership in the North, Ms. Haché was awarded the Order of Canada in 2009 and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Magdalena Janus

Magdalena Janus is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University and member the Offord Centre for Child Studies. Alongside Dr. Dan Offord, Dr. Janus co-developed the Early Development Instrument (EDI) as a measure of children’s developmental health at school entry. Dr. Janus’ current research focuses on the social determinants of health and development trajectories for typically developing children and children with special needs.

Donna Lero

Donna Lero is a Professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition and holds the Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work at the University of Guelph. Since 1974, Dr. Lero has been involved in Canadian research and policy analysis on work and family issues in a variety of areas including child care and support for parents of children with disabilities. Dr. Lero is an active advocate for high quality, inclusive child care.


Kathryn Church

Kathryn Church is Director and Associate Professor in the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University. Dr. Church uses cultural forms –most recently public exhibits — to link social science inquiry to public education. With Drs. Frazee and Panitch, she curated “Out from Under: Disability, History and Things to Remember” an award-winning exhibit with installations at the Royal Ontario Museum (2008) and the Cultural Olympiad of the Paralympic Games (2010). She specializes in disability theory, qualitative data analysis and early childhood assessment

Wendy Freeman

Wendy Freeman is an Associate Professor and the Graduate Program Director in the School of Professional Communication, Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson University. Dr. Freeman is an expert in information and communication technology and her research interests involve the use of technology to improve learning environments. She has investigated aspects of community and culture as they affect and are affected by new technologies such as blogs and social media.

Melanie Panitch

Melanie Panitch is an Associate Professor in the School of Disability Studies, and Leader of Social Innovation and Strategic Outreach in the Faculty of Community Services at Ryerson University. Dr. Panitch has over 30 years’ experience as an activist, advocate, researcher and educator in the disability rights movement. Her current research interests lie in the new disability theory history and the cultivation of activist disability oral history.

Henry Parada

Henry Parada is an Associate Professor and the Graduate Program Director of the School of Social Work at Ryerson University. Dr. Parada’s research interests focus on child protection, family violence and children’s rights in Canada and Latin America. His current research program involves a $2.1 million CIDA project to build the capacity of the civil society of the Dominican Republic to deal with the human trafficking of children.

Karen Spalding

Karen Spalding is an Associate Professor in the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing at Ryerson University. Dr. Spalding has over 15 years of experience as a pediatric nurse and in nursing leadership with the Hospital for SickKids. Dr. Spalding’s doctoral thesis focused on health policy and examined the roles of government in health care and the consequences of health systems changes for providers, consumers and governments themselves. Dr. Spalding specializes in research that examines the role of government in community health systems change.

Tricia van Rhijn

Tricia van Rhijn is an Assistant Professor of Family Relations and Human Development in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph and a Registered Early Childhood Educator. Dr. van Rhijn is an interdisciplinary social scientist and founder and moderator of a social support network for student parents. Her research interests not only lie in ECEC but also the experiences of mature students and student parents in formal post-secondary education. She is currently involved in a project investigating peer play in inclusive childcare settings.

Past Contributors

Taunya Paquette
Past Collaborator

Taunya Paquette is a Registered Early Childhood Educator and an Indigenous Consultant with the IECSS Project. Ms. Paquette has worked in Aboriginal-specific child and family services for the past 20 years. In the past she served as Associate Executive Director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto and Executive Director of Niwasa Aboriginal Education Programs in Hamilton. Her research interests include cultural competency in service delivery for Aboriginal-specific early childhood education and care programs.

Marion Trent-Kratz
Past Principal Knowledge User

Marion Trent-Kratz is an experienced researcher and evaluator and member of the Best Start Network in Hamilton. Ms. Trent- Kratz and Dr. Underwood have collaborated on several projects related to family engagement in early childhood services, and systems level needs for professional development to enhance integration of services. Ms. Trent-Kratz’s knowledge of service integration, as well as extensive research experience in the Hamilton community, were instrumental in the development of the research design and partnerships of the IECSS Project.