Martha Friendly is a tireless advocate for the wellbeing of Canadian children and their families. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Toronto-based Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU) and was its founder. Both as an independent policy research institute, which it is currently, and as part of the University of Toronto for 25 years, CRRU has specialized in early childhood education and child care research, maintaining a circulating resource library, a comprehensive website and a working paper series. As Director and Senior Research Associate at the University of Toronto, Martha has long been engaged in research in the field and has taken an active role in ECEC policy development at local, provincial and national levels.

Martha was born in New York City and educated in the USA, studying psychology in undergraduate and graduate programs. She first became involved with early childhood education as a researcher studying the American Head Start program in the late 1960s. She moved to Canada in 1971 and since that time has been a prolific writer on topics related to early education and child care, most recently co-authoring About Canada: Childcare, an overview of Canadian ECE&C policy published in April 2009 by Fernwood Press. She is also the author of numerous articles, chapters and reports on child care policy including work as the co-author of Canada’s Background Report on ECEC for the OECD (2004). 

One has only to ‘Google’ Martha’s name, however, to appreciate the impact of her work and the depth of her passion for quality early childhood education and care. Her voice is clearly heard at the forefront of Canadian public policy discussions regarding the needs of young children and their families and, perhaps more importantly, in formulating a clear vision of what high quality early education and care could be in our country and how it might be achieved. Martha’s experience in the field comes not only from her scholarly and public policy endeavours. She is the mother of two grown children both of whom attended community-based child care programs from an early age. 

Martha has been actively involved in advocating for progressive social policy for many years and works closely with a variety of community and advocacy groups. These include international organizations such as UNICEF and the OECD, national organizations including the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, Campaign 2000 as well as provincial and local groups such as the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, the Mayor’s (Toronto) Roundtable on Children and Youth, the research committee of the Early Learning Advisory (Ontario) and others who are engaged in scholarly activities, policy making and advocacy related to high quality early childhood education and child care. In addition, Martha teaches a graduate course in ECE&C policy at Ryerson University where she is a member of the school’s early childhood education program advisory committee. In 2007, she was honoured as recipient of the annual Lifetime Award for contribution to the ECEC field by George Brown College. 

Without a doubt, Martha is a friend to all Canadian children and their families and the Canadian Association for Young Children is particularly pleased to present her with the Friends of Children Award in 2009, our 35th Anniversary year. Martha will be presented with her award during the CAYC Annual Meetings in Regina where she is the guest speaker at a public seminar entitled “Early Childhood Education and Care: From Vision to Action”.