Many factors are involved in making this important decision. Break the process down into a few simple steps to help make it easier to choose.
Types of childcare
The first step is to understand your options (see table opposite). Childcare providers are divided into two main types:
Licensed (regulated) providers - If you choose a licensed facility, you know that the province will monitor it to ensure certain standards are met. These centres are inspected regularly to check that staff members are properly trained. A certain ratio of staff compared to the number of children is also required.
Unlicensed (non-regulated) providers – These childcare centres are not inspected. It is your responsibility to make sure that this environment is safe and healthy for your children.
Different alternatives exist for childcare, including group centres, caregiver homes, and even your own home. Licensed non-residential centres include daycares (full-day childcare centres), preschools/nursery schools, and after-school care. These tend to have more children of different ages and a higher number of caregivers.
Daycare centres generally care for children from infancy through to kindergarten age. They may provide care from early morning to the early evening. Preschools provide care for three to five year olds under kindergarten age. Usually this is for half a day, usually in the morning or afternoon.
After-school care is for school aged children before and after school, and may also include care over the lunch hour. Licensed in-home facilities look after six to 12 children, with one or two caregivers. These include family childcare (licensed day homes) and group family care. The children are cared for in the caregiver’s home.
Unlicensed care can include family care homes, nannies and casual babysitters. Caregivers looking after only one or two children, or more children from the same family, may not need a license. The rule depends on the province.
You can also hire a nanny or babysitter to come to your home. You are responsible for interviewing and hiring the caregiver. If you hire a nanny, you are considered an employer. You must make Employment Insurance (EI) and Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) payments for the caregiver.
The type of care that works best for your family will depend on many factors. As different centres have age limits, the age of your children plays a role. You may need part or full-time care, based on your school or work schedule. More flexible care may be best for your family if you work odd hours or shift work. As well, think about where your children might feel most comfortable. Some children do better in larger groups, while others prefer only a handful of playmates. Your ability to easily drop off or pick up your children will depend on the distance between the care centre and your school, home or work. You will also want to consider cost and what you get for your money. Meals may or may not be included in the price. If your child requires extra support because of a learning or physical disability, that will also affect your choice of setting.
Age and Number of Children
(full day care)
|Infants to six years of age; number of children depends on the size of the centre and number of caregivers||Times vary - usually from early morning (about 7 a.m.) until early evening (about 6 p.m.)|
|Three to five years of age (prior to kindergarten); usually about 15 children per class, but number will vary||Supervision for less than four hours per day (morning or afternoon)|
|Out of school/ after school care||Kindergarten to age 12 years; number of children depends on size of centre and number of caregivers||Care may occur before school, after school and during lunch breaks|
|Approved family day homes||Infant to age 12; six to eight children with one caregiver||Times vary, usually 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.|
|Infant to age 12; seven to 12 children with two caregivers||Times vary, usually 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.|
|License-not required care
(unregulated amily care homes)
|Ages vary; care for two children or one sibling group by one caregiver||Depends on caregiver|
(child’s own home)
|Nanny, au pair, babysitter||Age and number of children vary from family to family||Agreed upon by caregiver and the family/employer|
The first contact you have with a potential caregiver will likely be over the phone. Be prepared with a list of questions. Writing down the responses while you are on the phone will help you to review and compare your options later.
The following questions will give you a better sense of the childcare service:
Once you have decided on the type of care setting you prefer, see what is available in your community.
These government websites provide lists of licensed options in your province. You can also ask family and friends what childcare options they use, and whether they are happy with the service. If you are interested in hiring an in-home nanny or babysitter, certain agencies can help you through the process.
British Columbia goo.gl/LJbxgv
After a telephone interview, set up visits and in-person interviews with the places or people you are considering. This allows you to experience the physical setting and the atmosphere of the facility. You will also be able to see how the caregiver interacts with children. Ask about the types of activities provided.
If you are considering hiring a nanny or babysitter, invite the candidates to come for a supervised session, so you can watch how your children respond.
A few different resources can help pay for childcare. All Canadians with children receive the Universal Child Care Benefit. The monthly amount depends on the age of the children. It is $160 per month for each child under age six, and $60 per month for children six to 17. Some families may qualify for provincial subsidies. These subsidies only apply to regulated childcare spots. The subsidy is paid directly to the childcare facility and not to you.
Doing your homework and careful consideration of your options can help you to find the right childcare solution for your family.