A guide for parents in Canada

Ontario

Who’s responsible?

Who to contact

  • Ministry of Education, Early Years Division
  •   Website
  •   (416) 314-8277

In Ontario, the Ministry of Education is responsible for child care and kindergarten overall.

The Early Years Division of the Ministry of Education administers the legislation and is responsible for monitoring and licensing regulated child care.

Ontario is the sole province to provide junior (four year old) kindergarten for all children.  All four and five year olds kindergarten programs in Ontario operate for a full school-day.

Ontario is unique in Canada in the role played by local municipal or regional governments.

In Ontario, 47 local governments are designated Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Services Administration Boards (CMSMs and DSSABs), responsible for planning and managing child care services, administering fee subsidies and allocating additional resources to families and centres providing care to children with a disability. In addition, some of these also provide municipal/regionally-operated (public) child care in centres or through family child care agencies.

Finding child care

Parents are responsible for finding and obtaining a child care space for their child(ren); there is no entitlement.

A licensed child care search tool is available through the Ministry of Education. This tool allows users to find licensed child care providers by city, postal code, type of program (i.e., centre vs. home care), age group and/or name of centre. It also provides some information about the centre's compliance with provincial regulation. In most of Ontario, parents are required to contact the program directly to place their child on the waiting list.

Facts and figures

  • There is a regulated space for 17.7% of children aged 0 – 12 yrs. (2014)
  • There is a regulated full or part-time centre-based space for 23% of children aged 0 – 5 yrs. (2014)
  • 24% of childcare is owned by private, for-profit organizations. (2014)
  • Ontario is unique in that municipal and regional governments operate an estimated 6% of regulated spaces.

Toronto has its own child care finder.This tool allows users to search for centre-based and home child care by area, alphabetically, and/or specialty program (i.e., francophone, aboriginal). There is also an online subsidy application.

The Child Care Finder also provides quality information based on quality ratings derived from a unique City of Toronto quality assessment tool.  All centres in the City of Toronto with service contracts to provide subsidized child care are part of the City’s quality rating program; this comprises about 80% of licensed spaces.

Ottawa has an online centralized waiting list that allows parents to place their name on waiting lists for multiple child care centres and/or home child care agencies within the City of Ottawa.

Other Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSM) or District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSAB) in Ontario are likely to have their own local information including lists of child care services and—in some instances—quality information. Contact information for your local CMSM/DSSAB can be found online.

Paying for child care

Parents are responsible for paying child care fees. Based on a 2012 national survey, Ontario (median) monthly fees were $1,152 for an infant, $925 for a toddler, and $835 for a preschooler.

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 inculdes the cities of Windsor, London, Kitchener, Hamilton, Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Toronto, Markham and Ottawa. 

Toddler with purse

Subsidies

The Ontario Child Care Subsidy Program, which is administered by your local Consolidated Municipal Service Manager (CMSM) or District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) may provide families with a partial or full subsidy based on a province-wide income test.

In Ontario, subsidies can be used in either non-profit or for-profit regulated child care. However, not all regulated child care services have service contracts with the local municipality to provide subsidized child care, so it’s important for parents who may be income-eligible for a subsidy to check this with each service being considered. 

In Ontario, separate applications must be made by parents for licensed spaces (usually to the centre or agency) and for subsidies (the local municipality). There are often (usually) long municipal waiting lists for subsidies. Parents do NOT need to have secured a space in child care to apply for a subsidy but cannot use the subsidy without securing a regulated space.

Do not hesitate — put your name on the waiting list for a subsidy when you put your name on a wait list for a child care space. It is important to do both of these well before child care is actually needed. Thus, you should consider putting your infant on the subsidy waiting list as soon as you learn you are pregnant, which is allowed in some municipalities at least (Toronto and Ottawa, for example) as well as on centre wait lists.

Accessing subsidies

Contact your local consolidated municipal service manager (CMSM) or district social services administration board (DSSAB) to find out how to apply for a subsidy or get on a subsidy waitlist.

Regulated child care

In Ontario, child care centres (sometimes referred to as “day nurseries”), nursery schools, before/after school programs and regulated family child care must operate in accordance with the regulations set out in the Child Care Modernization Act, 2014 which recently replaced the Day Nurseries Act. The Child Care Modernization Act will seek to update the current legislation and improve on areas such as quality and safety.

A licensed centre is required to post its license in a place where parents and staff can easily see it. Licensed centres are monitored by provincial government personnel (“program advisors”) on at least an annual basis.

Family child care (“supervised private home day care” or “home child care”) in Ontario is provided to children under age 10 in a caregiver’s private residence. Child care homes are monitored by licensed agencies responsible for multiple family child care homes that operate under the regulations. Ontario family child care agency personnel (home visitors) make regular visits to the homes they are responsible for and may provide caregiver training, equipment and backup. 

The Child Care Modernization Act and its regulations address a wide range of standards - from window size to attendance taking to outdoor time.  A number of regulations related to program quality are highlighted below.

  • Centre supervisors must have a two year diploma in early childhood education (ECE), at least two years experience working in a day nursery and be registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario.
  • In centres, one staff person with each group of children must have a two year early childhood education diploma and be registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario.
  • There are no training requirements for regulated family child care providers, although  agencies may provide training.
  • 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

Staff:child ratios and max group size
Age of childStaff:child ratioMax group size
Infants (<18  mos) 3:10 10
Toddlers (18 – 30 mos) 1:5 15
Preschool (2 – 2.5 yrs) 1:8 16
JK/SK (44 mos – 67 mos) 1:10 20
SK (56 mos – 67 mos) 1:12 24
Grade 1+ (68 mos – 12 years) 1:15 30

Regulated family child care homes

  • a maximum of five children 0 – 6 years of age including the caregiver’s own children under age six;
  • not more than two of these may be under two years or three under three years and no more than two can be special needs children;
  • if the caregiver’s own children are under six years, there may be five school-age children who are more than six years.

Child care centres are required to provide meals that meet specified nutritional standards.

Menus must be posted in an accessible place for parents to see.

  • Children 2.5 years and older in full-day child care are required to have at least two hours outdoor time per day (weather permitting).
  • In child care centres, the play area is required to be at ground level, adjacent to the premises, have “appropriate fencing” and allot 5.6 square metres per child.

Centres and family child care providers are required to have their own “written policies and procedures with respect to discipline, punishment and any isolation measures to be used in the day nursery” that are reviewed by the provider every year.  

“Corporal punishment”, “deliberate harsh or degrading measures”, and “deprivation of a child of basic needs including food, shelter, clothing or bedding” is prohibited in all regulated child care settings.

Each centre and family child care agency must have a written statement regarding parent involvement but the type and amount of parental involvement is not specified.

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

  • Have a written procedure for emergency evacuation.
  • Daily written record summarizing incidents affecting health, safety, or well-being of staff or children.
  • Have a written anaphylactic policy.
  • Have medications stored in a locked place, written permission obtained before staff can administer medications to children.
  • Have a centre-specific written policy and procedure regarding serious occurrences (i.e., injury, death).

The regulations do not address all aspects of quality. For example, health and safety elements (such as diaper changing practices) are not regulated. There are no regulations addressing curriculum or pedagogy in child care in Ontario although there is an optional and widely-used curriculum framework,Early Learning for Every Child Today: A Framework for Ontario Early Childhood Settings (ELECT). .


Unregulated child care

A family child care home is not required to be regulated if it has five or fewer children less than 10 years old; this does not include the caregiver’s own children.

It is not legal to operate a nursery school or child care centre without a license.

Children with disabilities

The Ontario government encourages “inclusion of children with special needs into community child care services”.

Children with special needs up to the age of 18 who are in a regulated child care program (either family child care or a child care centre) may be eligible for a subsidy.

The local Consolidated Municipal Service Manager (CMSM) may also provide additional funds to providers to help support the inclusion of children with special needs in their program. Providers are responsible for applying for this extra support.

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.