A guide for parents in Canada


Who’s responsible?

Who to contact

  • Child and Family Services Authorities (CFSAs) offices
  •   Website
  • Ministry of Education (early childhood services and kindergarten)
  •   Website
  •   (780) 427-7219

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

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 16% of children aged 0 – 12 yrs. (2016)
  • There is a regulated full or part-time centre-based space for 21.8% of children aged 0 – 5 yrs. (2016)
  • 58% of childcare is owned by private, for-profit organizations. (2016)
  • Four municipalities operate or support child care and play a role in child care provision and delivery.

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

The Alberta government has developed an online Child Care Look-up tool, which provides the location, age group, served, program capacity, accreditation status 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.

Finally, the Alberta government supports a community agency that provides “accreditation” status to regulated services that meet the accreditation standards. The Ministry of Human Services provides additional operational funding to the 96% of centres and family day home agencies that are either accredited or working towards accreditation. 

The website of the Alberta Association for the Accreditation of Early Learning and Care Services lists all accredited centres, family day home agencies and out-of-school care programs.

Paying for child care

Parents are responsible for paying child care fees. 

 In 2016, a national survey of child care fees in Canada’s large cities included Calgary, found the median monthly parent fee for full-time centre-based and home child care was $1,102/mo for infants, $1,050/mo for toddlers, and $1,010/mo for preschoolers.

See Time Out: Child care fees in Canada 2017 for data of child care fees from the 27 largest cities in Canada for a more detailed look at the breakdown of child care costs nationally. 

Two kids with a tin can telephone


Alberta’s  child care fee subsidy program supplements fees for low income parents. Children enrolled in licensed non-profit and for-profit centres, preschools, group family child care, out-of-school care, approved early child development programs and family day homes are eligible.

The maximum fee subsidy rate for a full-time space ranges from $310 to $1,200 depending on the age of child and type of care*. 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.

The Kin Child Care Funding Program provides funds to non-custodial family members who provide care in the child’s home. If you would like to pay a relative to care for your children, you may do so through the Kin Care Child Care Program. The relative caregiver may not live in your home. Parents may receive a maximum of $400 per month for a child not yet in school (minimum 50 hours of care) and $200 per month for a school-age child (minimum 25 hours of care).

*Fee subsidy rates do not apply to Northeast Alberta region.

Accessing subsidies

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

Regulated child care

In Alberta child care centres, preschools, group family child care and out-of-school care must operate in accordance with the regulations set out in the Child Care Licensing Act and Child Care Licensing Regulation.

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.

Note: Only the standards required for licensing are addressed below. For more information regarding the optional and additional accreditation standards, visit the Alberta Association for the Accreditation of Early Learning and Care Services.

  • Alberta has three certification levels:
    Child Development Assistant: one specified high school or college course or government-sponsored orientation course  or approved family day home provider training course.
    Child Development Worker: 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).
    Child Development Supervisor: 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 four primary staff must hold a Child Development Worker certificate.  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 a Child Development Supervisor certificate. In the extended absence of the Program Supervisor, a person with certification as at least a Child Development Worker 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.  
  • In out-of-school care, staff working directly with children must hold at least a Child Development Assistant certificate.
  • In group family child care, the licence holder and other providers must each hold a Child Development Assistant certificate.
  • No formal child development training is required for providers in family day homes.
  • 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 - < 4 ½ years 1:8 16
4 ½ years - < 6 1:10 12
6+ 1:15 20

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, 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. Not more than 3 may be under 3 years of age, and not more than 2 may be infants.

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 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.

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. However, Alberta has developed a child care curriculum framework called Play, Participation, and Possibilities. This curriculum framework is not mandatory but can be used by early learning and child care professionals as a resource.

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, 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.