A guide for parents in Canada

Do you have a child with a disability or special need?

Whether one views effective inclusion as an optional add-on to high quality programs or as a more recently recognized dimension of high quality child care, the two concepts are inextricably linked.

—Irwin, Lero & Brophy, 2000

Full inclusion of children with disabilities in regular child care is considered a key part of high quality early childhood education and child care. However, although this is the generally accepted best practice, it is not always the usual action in Canada

Provincial/territorial support and policies

All provinces/territories provide some financial support to assist regulated child care providers to include children with disabilities in their programs:

  • Funds are generally paid directly to child care programs  to help with extra costs (for example, additional staffing, special equipment, resource consultant).
  • Parents must pay regular child care fees or access a subsidy but usually do not pay for additional supports related to including a child with a disability.
  • In some provinces/territories, parents with a child with a disability may be eligible for a  fee subsidy whether or not they are in the labour force.
  • Some provinces/territories have written policies to guide inclusion of children with disabilities in regulated child care.
  • Some provinces/territories or regions use an “itinerant consultant” model whereby a consultant with specialized training works with multiple child care programs to provide support to  children and to  staff.
boy in a power chair

Usually individual child care programs have considerable discretion in deciding how, and if, they will include a child with a disability. The program’s finances, resources and inclination all play a role in determining whether full inclusion is provided or even whether a child with special needs is accepted at all.

Challenges to inclusion

  • Prince Edward Island is the only province that requires some centres (the new more publicly funded and managed Early Years Centres) to accept children with disabilities and/or special needs. In every other case across Canada, children can legally be turned away.
  • None require centre staff or family child care providers to have specialized training in working with children with disabilities.
  • Centres are not required to be physically accessible for children with disabilities.
  • Few centres have specialized in-house resources.

Whether a high quality child care service is able to care for children with disabilities may depend on finding the needed resources to facilitate  inclusion. Parents may find that they have to advocate for their child and take the initiative to secure resources to help ensure full inclusion.

Programs and funding for inclusion of children with disabilities in regulated child care


The child care fee subsidy program enables families to become eligible for a subsidy if their child has been diagnosed with a developmental disability regardless of parents’ employment status.
Each regional office has a Child Care Services Inclusion Consultant available to advise and support licensees and providers on how to include children with special needs.

Supports are available to providers to facilitate inclusion (for example, hire another staff or purchase special equipment). The level of support depends on the specific needs of the child.

A policy manual, Inclusion of Children with Special Needs Policy Manualis available online.


Families may be eligible for a subsidy if they have a child with a disability regardless of parents’ employment status. Prince Edward Island’s requirements for more publicly-managed and funded Early Years Centres is that children with disabilities and/or special needs cannot be refused a place in the program because of their disability or special need.

Centres may apply for a special needs grant on behalf of a child, which may provide up to $11.50/hour for an additional staff person based on their training and experience. The role of these grants is to lower ratios to allow for more successful inclusion into early childhood settings for children with special needs.


The Supported Child Care Grant (SCCG) is a grant-based program that provides funding to licensed full and part-day child care centres to create or sustain inclusive child care programs for children with special needs.

Funding can be used for specialized training and professional development for early childhood educators, additional staff to enhance ratios for the delivery of a facility’s inclusive program, and to purchase educational and resource materials directly related to inclusive programs.

Both the application process and use of SCCG funding are the responsibility of the child care facility.


Children with identified special needs may be referred for Integrated Day Care Services through the Early Childhood Initiatives (ECI) Program. To be identified as special needs, the child must fall into one of three categories: a confirmed diagnosis at birth, developmental issues after birth, or family risk factors.

Facilities providing Integrated Day Care Services to children referred under ECI may receive an average of $3,400/year/child for children aged 2-5 years. The funding may also be used for transportation, materials, equipment and/or additional nutritional needs of the child. Child care providers are responsible for accessing supports through the program on behalf of the child.

New Brunswick has also put in place Community-Based Services for Children with Special Needs (CBSCSN) to work with parents/legal guardians in providing the extra-ordinary care and support required to meet the special developmental needs of their severely disabled child. Access more information and check your eligibility online.

The province also provides services for Autism Spectrum Disorders:  Services for Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.


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 “childcare 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 assistance measure put in place for the inclusion of children with a significant disability.


The Ontario government encourages “inclusion of children with special needs into community child care services” but there is no written policy enforcing or facilitating this. 

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.


Manitoba’s Child Care Inclusion Support Program provides funds to non-profit child care centres, nursery schools, and family and group child care homes to provide the additional support necessary to include children with disabilities into the program. Providers are responsible for applying for this program.

Families in which any member has a disability may be eligible for a subsidy as they are given special consideration in the fee subsidy application process. 


Saskatchewan’s Child Care Inclusion program provides various grants to child care facilities to include children with diverse special needs. Individual Inclusion Grants of between $200-$300 are available to licensed providers in homes or centres. There is also a Centre Inclusion Block Fund that replaces the Individual Inclusion Grant in centres with a high percent of children with special needs. Finally, an Enhanced Accessibility grant of up to $2000/month is available to assist with additional costs of including a child with exceptionally high needs.

Children categorized as having “special needs” must have a referral but not necessarily a diagnosis.

Having a child with special needs is considered in the subsidy selection process. 


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.


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 child care provider has to apply for this extra funding. Contact your local SCD for more information. 


Families in Northwest Territories are eligible for fee subsidy if their child is considered “at risk” and has a referral from a social worker, doctor, or other health professional.

Care providers are funded to provide extra support for children with special needs, through higher operating grants, funded at the infant rate.


Families in Nunavut are eligible for the child care subsidy if their child has a special need and child care is recommended by a recognized health care professional.

Care providers are funded to provide extra support for children with special needs through the daily operating grants, which are based on the age of the child and the area in which the centre is located.


Families in Yukon are eligible for a fee subsidy if their child care is recommended as a child protection service, or approved by the director on the basis of special needs of the family or child, for child development purposes, due to a short-term family crisis, or for parental respite.

Funding may be provided for adaptive equipment, transportation, programming support and additional staff based on the individual need of the child through the Supported Child Care fund.