A guide for parents in Canada

Northwest Territories

Who’s responsible?

Who to contact

  • Department of Education, Culture and Employment
  •   Website
  •   (867) 767-9351
  •   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment is responsible for child care overall and for kindergarten. The department administers the legislation and is responsible for monitoring and licensing programs.

The child care assistance program is administered by the Northwest Territories Income Security Division and is accessed through application for income security.

Questions or concerns regarding licensing in child care centres and family child care homes can be directed to regional early childhood consultants.

Finding child care

Facts and figures

  • There is a regulated space for 23.3% of children aged 0 – 12 yrs. (2019)
  • There is a regulated full or part-time centre-based space for 21% of children aged 0 – 5 yrs. (2019)
  • All regulated child care is non-profit with several part-day programs operated by school boards (public).

Parents 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 the Northwest Territories.

Paying for child care

Parents are responsible for paying child care fees. According to the territorial government, the average monthly parent fee for full-time centre-based care is $1093 for an infant and $990 for a toddler and $890 for a preschooler. In regulated family day homes the average monthly parent fee is $1000 for an infant and $900 for a preschooler.

There is no stand alone child care subsidy program. Parents must qualify for the territorial Income Assistance Program (IA) under the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment. Fee subsidies can be used in both license and unlicensed child care.

Toddler in dinosaur costume

Subsidies are paid directly to the parents unless the parent requests that the regulated child care service is paid directly. Parents must be attending school or work outside the home.

Accessing subsidies

In order to access child care subsidies, families/individuals must apply for the income security program. During the in-person application process (visit your local Education, Culture and Employment Centre) individuals can select whether they require a child care subsidy. 

Regulated child care

In the Northwest Territories, day care centres, nursery schools, after-school care and regulated family day homes operate in accordance with the regulations set out in the Child Day Care Act, RSNWT (Nu) 2011, c C-5.

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.

There are no minimum training requirements in any child care settings in the NWT.

Caregivers in all regulated settings must be at least 19 years of age and have a first-aid certificate and a clear criminal record with regard to offences respecting a child.

  • 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

Maximum ratios and group sizes in regulated centre-based care
Maximum ratios and group sizes in regulated centre-based care
Age of childStaff:child ratioMax group size
0-12 mos 1:3 6
13-24 mos 1:4 8
25-35 mos 1:6 12
3 years 1:8 16
4 years 1:9 18
5 years 1:10 30
Mixed age group 0-24mos 1:4 8
Mixed age group 2-5years 1:8 16
Mixed age group 5-11 yrs 1:10 30

Family child care homes

Regulated family child care homes can have a maximum of eight children under 12 years, including the provider’s own children with the following restrictions: No more than six of the eight children may be under six years of age, maximum of three children three years and under, and no more than two children may be under two years.

Regulated centres are not required to provide meals. When meals are provided they must be in accordance with the Canada Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

Every operator shall provide daily outdoor play activities for each child and provide safe outdoor play space.  

When the outdoor play space is adjacent to the child day care facility, the operator shall ensure: a minimum of 5 m² of play space is provided for each child; and the space is fenced if the surrounding environment is potentially hazardous to children.

Every operator must develop, post and circulate to staff and to parents/guardians a written discipline policy. An operator shall ensure that no child is subject to any form of physical punishment, verbal or emotional abuse, and/or the denial of any physical necessity.

The legislation requires non-profit programs to have a board of directors with parent involvement.

If there are for-profit programs, they are required to establish and confirm in writing with the Director of Child Day Care Services a plan for involving the parents or guardians of children attending the centre in the operation of the program.

The regulations require that basic health and safety precautions are met. For example, operators are required to:

  • Have a written procedure for emergency evacuation.
  • Have a daily written record summarizing incidents affecting health, safety, or well-being of staff or children.
  • Have a first aid kit and first aid manual available.
  • Have medications stored in a locked place and 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) must be provided.

Northwest Territories uses the Framework for Early Childhood Development in the Northwest Territories. Although, the curriculum framework is not mandatory in child care centres.

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


Unregulated child care

A family child care home is not required to be regulated if it has four or fewer children including the provider’s own children up to 12 years old. It is not legal to operate a nursery school or child care centre without a license.

Children with disabilities

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.

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.