A guide for parents in Canada

British Columbia

Who’s responsible?

Who to contact

  • Ministry of Children & Family Development (child care services)
  •   Website
  •   (250) 356-6501
  • Ministry of Education (kindergarten)
  •   Website
  •   (888) 879-1166

In British Columbia, the Ministry of Children and Family Development is responsible for child care. Kindergarten is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and is a full school-day.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development is responsible for administering child care fee subsidies and funding for service providers, registering early childhood educators and funding local child care resource and referral programs. Unique to British Columbia, monitoring and licensing regulated child care is the responsibility of Ministry of Health.

Child Care Resource and Referral (CCRR) programs provide support, resources and referral services for parents and child care providers in communities across British Columbia.

Finding child care

Facts and figures

  • There is a regulated space for 18.7% of children age 0-12. (2014)
  • There is a regulated full or part-time centre-based space for 22.7% of children age 0-5 years. (2014)
  • Full-day child care programs are approximately 47% for-profit. (2014)
  • There is no public child care.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development has established a child care map that allows parents to search ministry-funded licensed child care by city, address and licence type.

In BC, the term "license not required" refers to a family child care home that is not regulated but is permitted.There are two types of license-not-required child care: license not required (LNR) and registered license not required (RLNR), which is registered with a Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.

Parents may contact their local CCRR service for referrals to local child care providers including RLNR homes, and for free consultation, support  and access to professional help.

A booklet called Parents’ guide to selecting and monitoring child care in BC describes the different types of child care in BC and provides information for parents. 

A child care help line is available across the province at 1 888 338-6622; in Victoria, call 250 356-6501.

Paying for child care

Parents are responsible for paying child care fees. According to the provincial government, median monthly child care fees were $907 for two year olds, though fees can be much higher in some locales.

See 2015 data on child care fees from the 27 largest cities in Canada for a more detailed look at the breakdown of child care costs nationally. This data includes the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey. The median full time toddler fee in Vancouver is $1,180/month.

baby with cardboard box

Subsidies

The Ministry of Children and Family Development administers child care subsidies. Subsidies are paid directly to service providers on behalf of parents and may be used in for-profit or non-profit, licensed or unlicensed child care.

Child care providers may (and often do) charge parents more than the maximum subsidy rate.

BC is unique in that it offers subsidy funding to parents who hire a non-familial caregiver to care for the child in their own home.

Parents must secure a child care space before applying for a subsidy.

Eligibility is based on income, family size, age of children and type of care.

Accessing subsidies

The BC maximum subsidy rate table [pdf] specifies how much money a parent receiving a full subsidy would get depending on the age of the child and the type of care. 

Subsidized BC parents may have to pay a substancial fee even if they are fully subsidized. For example, a parent with a two year old in a centre could receive a maximum subsidy of $635 per month but as the median cost of fulltime child care for a toddler is $850 a month (and could be as much as $1600 a month or even more), even parents who receive a full subsidy  still incur significant child care costs.

A subsidy application checklist and forms can be found online.

Regulated child care

In BC, child care centres (referred to as “group child care”), preschools, and family child care must operate in accordance with the regulations set out in the Community Care and Assisted Living Act. This document is not specific to child care, though there are certain regulations only relevant to child care (i.e., certification of educators of young children) and to child care subsidies. Many of the regulations apply to other community care venues also (i.e., nursing homes).

Licensing and monitoring of child care facilities is the responsibility of the Ministry of Heath. A Medical Health Officer oversees the issuing of licenses, inspecting licensed facilities and investigating complaints that an unlicensed facility is being operated. These duties are carried out by licensing officers on a daily basis.

Licenses must be placed in a prominent place in the centre or home.

The Community Care and Assisted Living Act and its child care regulations address a range of standards.  A number of regulations related to program quality are highlighted below.

British Columbia has four categories or levels of certification for Early Childhood Educators (ECE).

Standard ECE training requires over 900 hours of instruction and 500 of supervised work experience. Staff may also hold an early childhood educator assistance (ECA) certificate. ECA training is the same as above except it excludes the 500 hours of work experience.

There are additional categories for Infant and Toddler ECEs and Special Needs ECEs. Both of these specializations require 250 hours of additional training and 200 hours of practicum pertaining to their specialization.

The regulations also specify that all staff must be of “good character” and in cases where there is no formal ECE training, specify the presence of a “responsible adult”. A “responsible adult” is defined as a person over 19 years of age who is able to provide care and mature guidance to children and completed a 20-hour course relevant to early childhood development.

Staff training requirements are complex and depend on the number of children in a group, the age of the children and the type of care.

For example, regulations stipulate that there must always be an Infant and Toddler Educator with a group of children under three years old  in a child care centre. If there are between 5-8 children in this group, the additional staff must be an ECE. Finally, if there are 9-12 children in the group, the next additional staff must have ECA training. In contrast, children ages 2.5 – 5 years must have one ECE with additional staff being ECAs.

Children in multi-age groupings (home or centre) must always have at least one ECE and there may be no more than three children under 3 years old and/or one child under 12 months.

There are no staff training requirements for school-age child care providers, family child care providers (licensed, RLNR, LNR), occasional childcare providers.

More information about BC’s complex child care training requirements can be found through the Early Childhood Educator Registry.

  • Staff:child ratios address the number of staff required per number of children.
  • Group size is the number of children, usually of one age group, that stay together throughout the day in a defined group – often a room.
  • Family child care homes have a specified number of children by age.

Child care centres

Maximum staff:child ratios and group sizes
Age of childStaff:child ratioMax group size
0-3 years 1:4 12
30 months–school-age 1:8 25
Preschool 1:10 20
School-age 1:12 or 1:15 24-30
Occasional 1:4 or 1:8 16-20
Multi-age 1:8 8

Family child care

If any child younger than 12 months old is present, a responsible adult caring for seven or fewer children in a personal residence can have no more than three children younger than 48 months old and, of those three, no more than one child younger than 12 months.

If no child younger than 12 months old is present, a responsible adult caring for seven or fewer children in a personal residence can have no more than four children younger than 48 months old, and of those four, no more than two children younger than 24 months old.

It is not required to provide meals in regulated child care in British Columbia. If they are provided they must be in accordance with the Canada Food Guide.

Children in child care must be provided with daily outdoor play periods, weather permitting. The duration of these play periods is not specified.

Licensees must have an outdoor play space that is safe, developmentally appropriate and provide 7 m-squared of outdoor space per child.

Licensees must provide a written policy to parents and staff regarding behavior management in addition to the regulations included in the act itself.

Regulations state that a child is not subjected to “emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect”, and/or “corporal punishment, confinement, verbal, physical or emotional degradation”. Deprivation of rest, meals and/or toileting not permitted as punishment. Finally, restraint is permitted but “only by a person who is trained in the use of, and alternatives to the use of, restraints”.

The regulations require some basic health and safety precautions to be met. For example, operators are required to:

  • Accessible emergency contact information, an evacuation plan and reporting of critical accidents or illnesses to licensing authorities.
  • Procedures for accommodating and/or sending home sick children.
  • Guidelines for diapering and handwashing.
  • Protocol for the storage and administration of prescription medication to children.

The regulations do not address all aspects of quality. For example, there are no regulations addressing curriculum or pedagogy in child care in BC. However, a curriculum framework, Early Learning Framework, developed by the provincial government, is available online.


Unregulated child care

There are two categories of legal unregulated home child care in BC; “license-not-required” (RLNR) and “registered license- not- required” (RLNR).  The maximum capacity in a legal unregulated (LNR and RNR) home is two children or one sibling group of any age, not including children related to the caregiver.

RLNRs must be registered with a CCRR and meet registration requirement criteria established by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Child care providers caring for more than two children (or one sibling group) are required to have a license.

Children with disabilities

BC has established the Supported Child Development (SCD) program for children 0-12 with disabilities. This program is free of charge and assists families and child care providers to fully include children needing extra support in typical child care settings.

Services include individualized planning, training, information and resources, referrals to other specialized services and when required, staffing supports. SCDP programs have Local Advisory Committees (LACs) that involve parents and other key community and government partners in program planning, decision-making, and service delivery. 

The program has to apply for this extra funding. Parents are still required to pay regular child care fees or get a subsidy.

Contact your local SCD for more information.

See Do you have a child with a disability or special need? for more information on provincial/territorial supports for children with disabilities in child care.