A guide for parents in Canada

Unregulated child care

Many families in Canada don’t have access to high-quality regulated child care

  • In Canada as a whole, there are only enough regulated (centre-based) spaces for about 20% of the child population aged 0-5 (and not much more for 0-12 year olds)
  • Fees in much of Canada are too high for low, modest or many middle income parents

Many families with parents in the labour force and no close family members who can provide child care use an unregulated arrangement, either in a family child care home (a caregiver’s home) or in the child’s own home. This means parents have sole responsibility for assessing the quality of the child care, managing the relationship with the care provider and are on their own in finding a new provider if the arrangement breaks down or ceases.

Unregulated family (home) child care arrangements

  • Include both caregivers in the child’s own home (may be called a “nanny” or a “sitter”) and unregulated family child care in the provider’s home.
  • Is assumed to provide most of/the majority of the child care available in Canada but no specific figures are available.
  • No provincial/territorial regulations or conditions cover child care provided in the child’s own home.
  • All provinces/territories set a maximum number of children that can be cared for in a legal unregulated caregiver’s home.
  • Unregulated family child caregivers do not need a license, aren’t inspected or monitored, and are not required to meet specified regulations for training, physical space or other features.
  • Some provinces and territories allow unregulated child care in settings other than caregivers' homes.

Guidelines for assessing quality in unregulated child care

When looking for an unregulated child care arrangement it’s advisable to become well informed about health and safety and the elements of high quality child care.

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One way to start is to get to know your province or territory’s requirements for regulated family child care as a starting point and a point of comparison in such areas as

  • Health and safety
  • Programming
  • Maximum numbers of children by age
  • Physical space
  • Caregiver training and support

This approach can provide some basic guidelines for assessing unregulated family child care, since there is no public oversight or monitoring, no support system and no training requirements.

You may want to consider a written contract with an unregulated family child care provider. A contract or agreement should include such things as payment amount and schedule, benefits, hours, sick days and holidays, cancellation and termination of care, etc. A sample contract for the Live-In Caregiver Program may be useful for designing this contract.

Child care in your own home: Terms of employment

When the child care is in your own home, you will need to negotiate the terms of employment with the caregiver.

In the case of in-child’s-home care provided by a caregiver who is part of Immigration Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program, there must be a written contract between the employer (the parent) and the employee (the caregiver). It must include: job duties, hours of work, wages, holiday and sick leave entitlements and termination and resignation terms. A number of the elements included in this program’s sample contract may be useful for families using other varieties of in-child’s-home child care.

More in this category: « Types of child care Who pays? »