All young parents in Quebec face the difficulty of finding a place for their child in day care. The waiting lists are long, and the final decision depends more on availability and location than on the day care itself.
For new arrivals, the situation is even more difficult because it’s hard to anticipate the necessary steps. You have to be prepared to spend several weeks without day care.
The good news is that C&G Relocation by Classe Affaires can help you to optimize your search, to choose a day care, and to minimize time spent on a waiting list.
Before you contact us to benefit from our advice and help, here is some information to help you understand how day care works in Quebec.
It’s very important to understand an inescapable rule: if your child is not 5 years old before September 30th of this year, they are going to day care, not school.
Take advantage of parental leave
In Quebec, the majority of young parents choose to take parental leave. After maternal or paternal leave, parents can each take 6 months of parental leave, taken together or one after the other. Therefore, the “baby break” can last up to a whole year for mothers.
The consequence of this is that babies are between 9 and 12 months old when they first go to day care. This does not preclude the admission of infants, but it’s less frequent and the day care staff are not necessarily used to it.
Before 18 months old, the child is kept in the nursery, a part of the day care dedicated to them. Be aware however that some day cares choose not to have a nursery and only accept children older than 18 months.
For older kids, children are grouped by age except for in some day cares that have multi-age groups. The adult to child ratio is 1 to 5 in nurseries, 1 to 8 starting at 18 months old, and 1 to 10 starting at 4 years old.
Public day care
Despite some budget cuts in recent years, the Quebec government maintains a public system of affordable, subsidized child care.
You will have the choice between collective child care in Centres for Early Childhood (“Centres de la Petite Enfance (CPEs)”), or home child care.
Competitive prices ($8.70/day) and limited places lead to waiting lists that can last for up to two years depending on the age of your child.
The waiting lists are shorter for home child care, but it’s necessary to take the time to find the right person. Home child care agencies are allowed to take up to 6 children, of which 2 may be infants. If they have assistants, they can take up to 9 children.
To register, there is only one site in Quebec: La Place 0-5. Note that you have to have an address and a phone number in Quebec. Unless you know someone in Quebec, you cannot register your child before your arrival.
Private day care
For those parents who want or who are waiting to find a place in public day care, there are private, unsubsidized day cares. These day cares are regulated by and receive accreditation from the Ministry of the Family, but the government does not support them. They are funded by fees paid by parents. The cost is between $30 to $70 per day.
The website magarderie.com collects announcements from day cares with available space. Here you will find ads from both CPEs and home child care. But you cannot register your child here, you contact the day cares directly. Some private day cares have their registrations managed on the site of La Place 0-5.
Tax credits for day care expenses
Tax credits are calculated according to a family’s financial situation. If your child attends an unsubsidized day care, you pay the required fees and then the government pays a partial reimbursement.
On the other hand, if your child attends a subsidized day care that costs you $8,70 per day, the government can reclaim a supplementary fee to be paid with your taxes.
For new arrivals, the tax credit is a single payment made after your first declaration of income. Monthly reimbursements are only available after the declaration of an entire year of income.
Day care routine in Quebec
Day care in Quebec has a classic style, with an emphasis on routine so as to structure the child’s day. Day cares follow the guidelines of the Ministry of the Family.
Day care in Quebec is not subject to the charter of the French language (Loi 101), you have the choice to register your child in an English, French, or bilingual day care.
It’s not uncommon for day cares to be closed during the end of year holiday season.
In winter, the children go outside every day, it’s obligatory! How much time to spend outside is determined according to the temperature, the wind chill, precipitation, and the age of the children.
During the two months at the height of summer, the day cares adopt a rhythm that is more recreational than educational.
The training of day care staff
In every day care in Quebec, at least two out of every three educators must have a degree (early childhood education degree). Every staff member must have a first aid training certificate.
For home child care agencies, the individual in charge must have received 45 hours in training on security, health, and feeding of children. 6 hours of additional training are required each year.
If you don’t need child care regularly, but you would like to have a day of tranquility every so often, there are several solutions available to you. There are drop-in day cares, community centres, nanny agencies, babysitters, or even the YMCA. Inform yourself about your new neighbourhood, there are magnificent resources available!
Focus on 4 year olds
It’s not easy to accept that your child may need to return to day care after they have already started attending school in your home country… Rather than see this a step backwards, here are some ways to see the experience as different and enriching!
This is the “big leagues” of day care: the learning, the rhythm, the organization in general are more academic in the 4 year olds group. The children are as stimulated as in school, but the teacher to student ratio of 1 to 10 is a chance to better handle the emotional aspects of this transition.
At school any way: often in popular neighbourhoods, certain public schools in Montreal offer school for 4 year olds.
Not changing anything: the French high schools in Montreal (the Collège Stanislas and the Collège International Marie-de-France) welcome children starting at the average age.