Quebec has established its own unique approach to child care provision and services - one that has greater availability and affordability than most of the rest of Canada. A significant amount of public funding has been provided so regulated child care centres and family day homes provide spaces at a flat parent fee of $7/ day (referred to as “reduced contribution spaces”) for infants through school-age children.
Two ministries regulate, oversee and administer child care programs. The ministère de la Famille et des Aînés (MFA) is responsible for services for children 0-4 years and the ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS) is responsible for services for school-age children and is also responsible for kindergarten.
Kindergarten for five year-olds is a full school-day in Quebec; it is not mandatory for children to attend. There is some part-day kindergarten for four year olds, mostly in Montreal as well.
Facts and figures
- There is a regulated space for 37.4% of children aged 0 – 12 yrs.
- There is a full-time centre-based space for 36.3% of children aged 0 – 5 yrs.
- 45% of regulated child care spaces for 0-4 year olds are in garderies, which are primarily for-profit centres.
Finding child care
Quebec provides several types of centre-based and family child care programs for 0-12 year olds:
- Non-profit centres (under MFA) for 0-4 year olds are always part of small networks of non-profit services called centre de la petite enfances (CPEs); there are more than 1000 CPEs in Quebec. CPEs typically include several child care centres and usually regulated family child care as well. All CPEs are publicly funded to provide child care at $7/day for all age groups whether the child’s parents are in the labour force or not.
- There are also centre-based programs for 0-4 year olds called garderies. Garderies are usually for-profit operations, although there are some non-profit organizations that operate garderies. Many garderies are publicly funded to provide $7/day care for 0-4 year olds.
- School authorities, under MELS, are required to provide school-age child care outside regular school hours if there is a “demonstrated need”, which may include children from age 4 to 12 years.
In addition to centre-based programs:
- 165 family child care coordinating offices are either part of CPEs or are (occasionally) freestanding organizations. Family child care agencies, whether CPEs or freestanding, hold permits (licences) to manage family child care homes issued by MFA.
- Individual family child caregivers are not licensed in Quebec. Instead, family coordinating offices are responsible for monitoring individual homes under the regulations on behalf of the MFA. They also coordinate the providers, provide training and equipment, and maintain information for current and prospective parents.
- Quebec also offers group family child care—care in a private home provided by two caregivers—also managed by family child care coordinating offices.
The Childcare Establishment Locator allows parents to search for regulated child care by region, name, and proximity to home or work address. Search results display whether or not the child care centre or home offers the $7/day program, spaces for infants, as well as provides a link to inspection reports.
Finding educational child care for your child provides a list of questions for parents to ask prospective providers over the telephone as well as guidelines for what to look for when visiting a centre.
Paying for child care
Quebec is unique in Canada that the provincial government sets a flat fee for children in most child care centres, family child care homes and child care in schools at $7/day. These spaces are referred to as “reduced contribution spaces”. Child care operated by school boards must only offer reduced contribution spaces on the days school is in session.
See 2014 data of child care fees from the 20 largest cities in Canada for a more detailed look at the breakdown of child care costs nationally.
There are some for-profit centres that are not part of the reduced contribution program; a rebate from the Quebec government is available to parents using these centres.
Important to note…
Meeting the regulations is an important basis for quality but is considered to be a minimum in all provinces/territories.
High quality centres…
- Go above and beyond minimum standards by, for example, increasing the number of staff or hiring staff with more than required early childhood training.
- Incorporate non-required elements into the program such as community involvement or inclusion of children with special needs.
Regulated child care
In Quebec, regulated child care centres and family child care must operate in accordance with the regulations set out in the Educational Child Care Act R.S.Q. cC-8.2. Child care provided through school boards must operate in accordance with the Education Act. R.S.Q., c.1-13.3.
License holders in Quebec are inspected once every five years.
Both sets of regulations address a wide range of standards. Several regulations related to program quality are highlighted below.
Staff and family child care provider training requirements
- In centres, two-thirds of staff are required to have a college or university early childhood education credential. The credential may be a three year Diplôme d’études collégiales (DEC) or a one year Attestation d’études collégiales combined with three years experience.
- Specific training or credentials are not required for centre directors.
- Family child care providers must complete a 45 hour training program pertaining to child development and hold a first-aid certificate.
- The regulations relevant to school-age child care does not stipulate any training requirements. Some school boards may require the lead staff to have an early childhood education diploma.
Ratios and group sizes
- 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 (CPEs and garderies)
Each centre may have a maximum of 80 spaces overall.
Staff: child ratios in centres
|Age of child||Staff:child ratio|
|18 mos - < 4 yrs||1:8|
|4 yrs - < 5 yrs||1:10|
|5 yrs +||1:20|
Family child care
- Providers are permitted to care for up to six children (including the provider’s own children) under 9 years with no more than two under 18 months.
- If the provider is assisted by another adult (group family child care), they may care for nine children (including provider’s own children), with no more than four children under 18 months.
Nutrition and meals
Regulated centres are not required to provide meals. If meals are provided they must be in accordance with the Canada Food Guide to Healthy Eating.
Outdoor space and time
Children in child care centres must be provided with an outdoor play space of 4 metres squared per child no more than 500m from the facility and accessible during operating hours. At least 1/3 of the maximum capacity of the centre must be able to play in the outdoor space at any time and adequate fencing must be in place.
Programs are required to provide outdoor play opportunities on a daily basis.
A non-profit child care centre’s board of directors must be made up of at least seven members, 2/3 of whom (minimum of five) are parent-users of the centre. At least one board member must come from the business, institutional, social, education or community sectors, and no more than two shall be staff at the centre.
A garderie’s licence holder must set up an advisory committee made up of five parents and consult with the parent committee on all aspects of the care the children receive in the centre, particularly with respect to implementation of the educational program, services provided and how complaints are processed.
The composition of the boards of directors of family child care coordinating offices are determined by the type of organization.
Health and safety
The regulations require some basic health and safety precautions to be met.
- In case of a serious illness/accident, necessary medical assistance and parents must immediately be called and the child must be isolated from group (under supervision of an adult).
- Service providers must ensure they have written authorization by a parent before administering medication to a child, medication must be labeled and stored in a reserved place.
- A first aid kit must be available at all times.
What the regulations do not address...
The Act does not address all aspects of quality. For example, there are no behaviour management or minimum outdoor time requirements nor is there regulation requiring a particular curricular or pedagogical approach.However, a curriculum framework, is available for providers:
Unregulated child care
A child care provider in a private home can legally care for a maximum of four children, including their own children under 12 years.
School-age child care provided in public schools may be exempt from licensing.
Children with disabilities
The Quebec objectives strongly favour inclusion though admission to a program is at the discretion of the centre or provider.
Quebec’s curriculum framework suggests “child care establishments welcome children having special needs, such as children with a disability or those who are developmentally delayed”.
To support this initiative, the government provides a one-time grant of $2,200 and an additional $37.30/day/child in addition to the regular operating grants for centres including children with a disability. There is also an additonal assistance measure put in place for the inclusion of children with a significant disability.
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.