Moving to Canada and starting a new life is exciting! If you’re a newcomer with kids, child care is probably at the top of your mind. The desire to balance cost, service quality, convenience, and availability can, at times, make finding an appropriate child care arrangement challenging, especially for newcomer parents.
In this article, we will explore the various child care options that are available in Canada, outline costs and subsidies to help you plan and budget better. We’ll also share some tips to help you find a suitable child care service.
Child care options in Canada
In Canada, options for child care are varied and range from nannies, daycare centres, home daycares, preschool programs, to before and after school services. Child care services may be regulated or unregulated.
Regulated child care services include centre-based full-day child care, home child care, school-aged child care, and in most provinces, nursery schools and preschools. These are monitored, licensed, and regulated by provincial and territorial authorities.
Unregulated child care services are provided either in a family child care home (a caregiver’s home) or in the child’s own home. If using this service, as a parent, it is your sole responsibility to assess the quality of child care provided, manage the relationship with the provider, and to find a new provider if there’s any issue with the arrangement.
Budgeting and planning for child care costs
In Canada, finding affordable child care can be a real challenge, primarily because of limited availability. Being aware of the costs and planning your finances accordingly is essential to settle in smoothly.
- Infant: Children under two years of age.
- Toddler: Children between 18 months to three years of age.
- Preschool-age: Children between two-and-a-half years to kindergarten age (age four or five, depending on the province).
Is child care free in Canada?
Child care is considered to be expensive in Canada and varies by province. A couple of provinces such as Quebec and Manitoba have provincially-set fees and hence are more affordable than the others.
How much does child care cost in Canada?
Monthly costs for child care range from $179 to $1,934 CAD, depending on the province.
Key highlights for child care costs in Canada
- There are four provinces where at least half of the child care spaces are at a provincially-set fee: Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
- Infant, toddler, and preschool-age child care in Toronto is the most expensive, with a monthly median cost of $1,774, $1,457, and $1,207 CAD, respectively.
- Markham, Mississauga, Oakville, Richmond Hill and Vaughan, all cities in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) follow with the highest median fees for infant care. The cities with the lowest fees for infant care are in Quebec (Gatineau, Laval, Montreal, Longueuil, and Quebec City), where the median fee is the provincially-set fee of $179 CAD a month.
- Winnipeg is the next most affordable city – an infant space there is at a provincially-set fee of $651 CAD a month.
Child care waitlists and waitlist fees
In most cases, since the availability of child care spots is limited, many centres across the nation have a waitlist – which is usually very lengthy. Due to long waiting times, many families get on the waitlist even before the child is born. In many places, these waitlists may require parents to pay a fee (ranging between $50 to $200 CAD or higher) to have their child placed on the waitlist. Since each centre has its own list, parents may have to pay multiple waitlist fees while waiting for a spot to become available.
Tips for planning for child care costs
- Budget your expenses: List your monthly costs and have a fair estimate of your expenses. Use the Arrive monthly expenses calculator to plan your finances and be prepared.
- Apply for grants: For families with children, the federal government offers a grant called the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). This grant provides a tax-free monthly payment to all eligible families living in Canada to assist with the cost of raising children under age 18. There is an additional grant for children who qualify for the disability credit.
- Consider subsidies: Each province has different criteria, limits, and care options for child care subsidies. Reach out to your nearest newcomer settlement centre, and they will be able to guide you.
- Evaluate the cost of private care versus a full-time daycare: While both options are expensive, private care (e.g. hiring a nanny) may prove to be slightly more cost-effective if you have two or more kids.
How to find a child care option that works for your unique situation
- Start with your city’s website and the province’s Ministry of Education website (search for Child Care Services). Both websites will provide a list of licensed centres in your neighbourhood. For informal, unlicensed daycares, check community centre bulletin boards or talk to other parents or community leaders.
- Consider the location (close to your home, work, or school) and take into account the days and times when you’ll need child care. Inquire about the hours of operation.
- Evaluate the environment – is it welcoming, safe, and child friendly?
- Inquire about the number of children they care for.
- Ask if the provider is licensed, regulated, and/or monitored by the government. Check their qualifications.
- Check if the staff is trained in providing emergency first aid.
- Confirm if they provide receipts for payments made.
- Ask about fees.
Finding a child care option that works for your unique situation takes a lot of effort and demands financial readiness. Being aware of how the child care system works in Canada and educating yourself about the available options and their costs will ensure you are well-prepared to find an option that’s a good match for you and your kids.
Arrive is powered by RBC Ventures Inc, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. In collaboration with RBC, Arrive is dedicated to helping newcomers achieve their life, career, and financial goals in Canada. An important part of establishing your financial life in Canada is finding the right partner to invest in your financial success. RBC is the largest bank in Canada* and here to be your partner in all of your financial needs.
Clem Leveau-Vallier Head of Marketing
Clem Leveau-Vallier is a marketing professional with corporate and start-ups experience and a passionate supporter of newcomers to Canada.