A guide for parents in Canada

Alberta

Who’s responsible?

Who to contact

In Alberta, responsibility for early learning and child care and kindergarten falls under the Ministry of Education and Alberta Children’s Services.

Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) offer many programs including parent-child development activities and temporary or occasional parent relief. Find the nearest FCSS office to see what services may be offered in your area.

First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children and families receive services from 17 Delegated First Nation Agencies (DFNAs) who have been given delegated authority to deliver services as per the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

The Ministry of Children's Services provides subsidies for child care services.

Finding child care

Facts and figures

  • There is a regulated space for 19.9% of children aged 0 – 12 yrs. (2019)
  • There is a regulated full or part-time centre-based space for 22% of children aged 0 – 5 yrs. (2019)
  • 59% of childcare is owned by private, for-profit organizations. (2019)
  • There is a small number of municipally run child care centres. (2019)

Families are responsible for finding and obtaining a child care space for their child(ren); there is no universal entitlement to a child care space in Alberta.

The Alberta government has developed an online Child Care Look-up tool, which provides the location, age group served, program capacity and recent inspection results of all regulated child care services. Users are able to search by program name and city or postal code, age group and type of care.

This tool provides detailed inspection reports citing not only the number and date of inspections, but also the number and type of non-compliances, complaints and follow-up inspections. This information may be helpful for parents, who can compare different services.

The Alberta government has also created a guide to help parents identify quality in child care, Choosing child care: A guide to licensed and approved child care in Alberta. This guide takes parents through the process of finding and choosing childcare, from defining different types of care to contacting providers to a checklist of questions to ask prospective providers.

Paying for child care

Families are responsible for paying child care fees. 

The 2019 Child Care Fee Survey found the full-day, full-time median monthly infant fee in Calgary was $1,300, and $1,100 for toddlers, and $1075 for preschoolers (including both child care centre and regulated home child care data). See the report for median monthly child care costs in 37 other Canadian cities including Edmonton and Lethbridge.

Two kids with a tin can telephone

Subsidies

Alberta’s child care fee subsidy program supplements fees for low income parents. Children enrolled in licensed non-profit and for-profit centres, facility-based or home-based care are eligible. The subsidy is paid from the provincial government to the service provider.

The maximum fee subsidy is dependent on the income of the family. Up to $741 of the fee subsidy is provided to families that make $0 to $49,000. The subsidy eligibility is capped at an income of $74,999. An online fee subsidy estimator can help parents get an idea of the amount of subsidy they may be eligible for.

There is a two step eligibility process. First parents must demonstrate the need for care (i.e., employment and/or schooling) and then a province-wide income test is applied.

Alberta runs $25/ per day child care pilot at 100 federally funded child care centres across the province.The pilot began in 2018 and is set to end on March 31, 2021.

Accessing subsidies

In Alberta, parents must secure a space before applying for a subsidy. Application forms may be submitted online, by mail or in person (to your local Child and Family Service Authority office).

Regulated child care

In Alberta facility-based (daycare, preschool, and out-of-school care) and home-based childcare will operate in accordance with the regulations set out by the Early Learning and Child Care Act and Regulations

Licensed programs are required to post their license in a place where parents and staff can easily see it.

Another child care option available to parents in Alberta is referred to as the Approved Family Day Home (FDH) program. Contracted family day home agencies and approved providers are required to operate according to ministry standards.

Alberta’s child care licensing regulations address a wide range of standards – from licensing fees to location of the washrooms to discipline procedures. A number of regulations key to program quality are highlighted below.

  • Alberta has three certification levels:
    Early Childhood Educator Level 1: One specified high school or college course or government-sponsored orientation course or approved family day home provider training course.
    Early Childhood Educator Level 2: Completion of a one year Early Learning and Child Care certificate program at an Alberta public college or  equivalent level of training (see Educational Equivalencies) and at least one college/university-level English/French course (e.g. communication, composition)  or completion of the Life Experience Equivalency Process (LEEP).
    Early Childhood Educator Level 3: Completion of a two year Early Learning and Child Care diploma program offered by an Alberta public college, or has completed an equivalent level of training (see Child Care Staff Certification for details) and completed at least one college/university-level English/French course (e.g. communication, composition).
  • In child care centres, one of every three primary staff must hold a ELCC certificate or equivalent. All other primary staff working directly with children at any time of day must hold at least a Child Development Assistant certificate.  
  • Program supervisor must hold an Early Childhood Educator Level 3 certification. In the extended absence of the Program Supervisor, a person with certification as at least an Early Childhood Educator Level 2 must be designated to assume the responsibilities of the program supervisor.
  • In preschool programs, all staff working directly with children must hold at least a Child Development Assistant certificate.
  • Staff have 6 months to obtain this certificate, until then the staff person must not have unsupervised access to children  
  • In out-of-school care, staff working directly with children must hold at least Early Childhood Educator Level 1 certification.
  • In approved home-based, no formal child development training is required for providers but home-based agencies must develop appropriate training in described areas.
  • In licensed group family child care homes, the licensee must complete an one year ECE certificate. Assistants must complete 45 hr post-secondary ECE course or other training programs offered by the province and Family Day Home agencies
  • 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 maximum group sizes in centres
Age of childStaff:child ratioMax group size
< 12 mos 1:3 6
12 mos - <19 mos 1:4 8
19 mos - <3 years 1:6 12
3 years and - < 4 year 1:8 16
4 years + 1:10 20
6 years + 1:15 30

Preschools have no maximum group size. In a preschool, children 19 months to less than three years require a staff: child ratio of 1:6. If children are older than three years, the staff:child ratio is 1:12.

Family child care homes

A family day home (one provider) can have a maximum of six children, including the provider’s own child(ren), with no more than three children under 3 years and two children under 2 years.

Group family child care (two providers) can have a maximum of 10 children and minimum of two staff, one of whom is the license holder. No more than three may be under 3 years of age, and no more than two may be under 2 years.

Child care settings are not required to provide meals. If meals are provided, they must meet Canada Food Guide nutrition standards.

Child care settings must have an outdoor play space within “easy” and “safe” walking distance from the program premises that can accommodate half of the children enrolled in the centre at any one time.

There needs to be 2 metres squared space for children under 19 months of age and 4.5 metres squared space for children over 19 months of age.

There is no requirement that children spend time outdoors.

Regulations require that child discipline approaches used by the provider are communicated to staff, parents, and children. Discipline must be “appropriate in circumstances and not: “Inflict physical punishment, verbal or physical degradation or emotional deprivation, “use or permit the use of any form of physical restraint, confinement or isolation”, and/or “deny or threaten to deny any basic necessity”.

An applicant for a license to operate a child care program must describe how parents are to be involved in their program.

Alberta’s regulations require that some basic health and safety precautions be met. Some examples include:

  • Emergency contact information available in the form of a portable record.
  • Clear evacuation plan.
  • Procedures for accommodating and/or sending home sick children.
  • Protocol for reporting critical accidents or illness to licensing authorities.
  • The safe storage and administration of prescription medication to children.
  • Sanitary diapering and hand washing procedures.

Alberta has developed a child care curriculum framework called Flight: Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework. This curriculum framework is not mandatory but can be used by early learning and child care professionals as a resource. It is required to be used in the $25/day pilot program sites.

The regulations do not address all aspects of quality. For example, there are no regulations or standards addressing curriculum or pedagogy in child care in Alberta. 


Unregulated child care

People who offer child care out of their homes, that have not been approved to operate under the provincial family day home category, are considered private babysitters. These programs can offer private babysitting to up to six children under 13 years of age, not including their own, at any given time. These programs are not monitored to help ensure the safety and well-being of the children.

Children with disabilities

Family support for children with disabilities (FSCD) may provide parents with additional funding for child care. An application form and additional information about FSCD are available online.

The Inclusive Child Care Program provides funds to service providers to facilitate the inclusion of children with diverse needs. Programs must apply directly for these funds.

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.