A guide for parents in Canada


Who’s responsible?

Who to contact

  • Ministère de la Famille et des Aînés (regulated child care)
  •   Website
  •   1 855 336-8568 (French only)
  •   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Ministère de l’Éducation et de l'Enseignement supérieur (services for school-age children and kindergarten)
  •   Website
  •   (866) 747-6626
  •   Email contact form

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 reduced contribution fees of $8.50 (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 (MF) is responsible for responsible for regulated child care for children from birth to the end of elementary school and the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l'Enseignement supérieur (MEES) is responsible for services for school-age children and kindergarten.

Kindergarten for five year-olds is a full school-day in Quebec; it is not mandatory for children to attend. There is part-day or full-school-day kindergarten for some four year olds as well.  

Finding child care

Facts and figures

  • There is a regulated space for 57.4% of children aged 0 – 12 yrs. (2019)
  • There is a full-time centre-based space for 42% of children aged 0 – 5 yrs. (2019)
  • 20% of regulated child care spaces for 0-12 year olds are in for-profit centres. (2019)
  • All school-age centres are publicly-operated (by school boards); there are no publicly-operated centres for 0-4 year olds.

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 centres de la petite enfance (CPEs); there are approximately 950 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 reduced contribution fee child care.
  • 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. Some garderies are publicly funded to provide reduced contribution fee child care. 
  • There are also centres, all for-profit, that do not set municipal funds to provide reduced contribution fees. Parents can recieve a tax credit for their fees in these centres. 
  • School boards, under MEES, 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.
boy with hands on face making glasses

In addition to centre-based programs:

  • Individual home child care providers in Quebec are not licensed. Recognized home child care providers are overseen by Family Child Care Coordinating Offices (CCCO). CCCOs are mostly part of CPEs and occasionally freestanding non-profit organizations.
  • CCCOs, whether CPEs or freestanding, hold permits (licences) issued by MFA to manage family child care homes. CCCOs 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 reduced contribution fee 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 in 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 $8.50. These spaces are referred to as “reduced contribution spaces” or “subsidized spaces”.

The 2019 child care fee survey of the 37 largest cities in Canada shows that Quebec has a median child care fee of $179 for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in 5 of Quebec’s major cities. See In progress: Child care fees in Canada 2019 for a breakdown of child care fees in 37 cities across Canada.

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.

The rebate can reimburse 26% and 75% of fees depending on the family’s income.

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.

  • 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 hold an early childhood first aid certificate and complete a training program of at least 45 hours pertaining to child development, health, safety and diet issues, organization and leadership in a “life environment”. Providers are also required to take a six hour proficiency course once a year.
  • 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.
  • 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 childStaff:child ratio
0-17 mos 1:5
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.

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.

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.

“Childcare providers may not apply degrading or abusive measures, use exaggerated punishment, denigration or threats, or employ abusive or disparaging language that could humiliate or frighten a child or undermine the child’s dignity or self-esteem.” - Educational Childcare Act.

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 or future 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.

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 the 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.

A curriculum framework is available for providers: Accueillir la petite enfance: Le programme éducatif des services de garde du Québec. The curriculum framework is only provided in French. The curriculum framework is not compulsory but all CPEs and garderies and recognized home childcare must provide an educational program.

The Educational Childcare Act does not address all aspects of quality. For example, there are no minimum outdoor time requirements nor is there regulation requiring a particular curricular or pedagogical approach.

Unregulated child care

Home child care service that is not recognized by a Child Care Coordinating Office (CCCO) may care for no more than six children, including the provider’s own children under 9 years of age, with no more than two children under the age of 18 months.

School-age child care provided in public schools may be exempt from licensing.

As of May 1, 2018, persons who are not recognized by a CCCO or who do not hold a permit issued by the Ministère who provide or wish to provide child care services in a family setting must meet certain conditions other than the number of children such as to obtain an attestation stipulating the absence of any impediment for the person providing child care services and for each person living in the home where child care services are provided.

Jardins d’enfants (nursery schools) operating before October 25, 2005 may be exempted from licensing. After that date, day care permit is required.

Haltes-garderie (stop-over centres) providing occasional or temporary child care for parents who are on site are not required to be licensed.

Children with disabilities

The Quebec objectives strongly favour inclusion though admission to a program is at the discretion of the centre or provider.

Admission for a child with special needs to a regular child care program is at the discretion of the CPE, subsidized garderie, or home child care provider.

To support this initiative, the government provides a one-time grant of $2,200 and an additional $43.19/day/child in addition to the regular operating grants for centres including children with a disability. There is also an additional assistance measure put in place for the inclusion of children with a significant disability.

Non publicly funded garderies do not receive funds to support children with disabilities.

For more information visit Childcare services accessible to disabled children.

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.