Last week we were giving you parent-to-parent insights on the daycare system in Quebec and how to choose the right type of provider. Today we offer young parents relocating to Montreal step-by-step advice and strategy to help you overcome the shortage of daycare spots and to find just the right provider for your children.
Step 1: Register on waiting lists
The very first thing you have to do as soon as you learn the big news, either your relocation or your pregnancy, is to register on the waiting lists for subsidized daycare, or CPE.
CPE are independent non-profit organizations and their approach may vary a little, but you can safely rely on their quality of service and register for all CPE that are convenient to you (distance from home or work, opening hours, etc.).
In Montreal, all CPE appear on the centralized waiting list at La Place 0-5. You should open an account (for free) and select CPE from the list. Some CPE subscribe to the waiting list: you don’t have anything more to do; you are automatically added to their waiting lists. Others are only registered, so you need to contact them individually to be added on their waiting lists. Don’t worry, the system is very user-friendly and will tell you what to do.
In the rest of Quebec, you have to open an account on Bila, and select the three CPE that correspond best to your needs (by exploring their websites or calling them). Beware, the Bila website is in French only.
There is no way of shortening the waiting lists, which can be up to 2 years in Montreal, except registering very early (even before birth) and paying careful attention when updating your file. Elements such as your address, your employer, your status in Canada, health or social needs in your family, or siblings grouping can give your child priority according to each CPE’s recruiting policy.
Step 2(a): Look up for commercial daycare
Once you are registered on the waiting list, you have to turn to other daycare solutions. You need to choose between commercial daycare centres or family daycare providers.
Commercial daycare centres advertise their empty spots on the Daycare Bear, Ma Garderie in French. You can search by postal code, by type of provider, and/or according to child’s age and price. You then have to contact providers one by one to make your choice among them (see Step 3).
Step 2(b): or look up for family daycare providers
If you choose family daycare, you can look up for a provider on the Daycare Bear, but registered providers also appear on Enfance-Famille. We advise you to choose a registered family daycare provider and tick the box in your Enfance-Famille file. The local Coordinating Office will contact you if one of its providers has an available spot.
Step 3: Select providers
Once you have selected a few providers (commercial or family), we advise you to explore their website and then call them to refine your selection. Criteria we find relevant include:
- Location: close to your home or workplace, access to highways, parking, busy street, proximity to park or playground, library, swimming-pool nearby.
- Environment: cleanliness, space, organization, in-house playground.
- Ratios, ages: adults/children ratios, infants / toddlers.
- Training: references, training in first-aid, or early childhood education.
- Language: no legal requirement. French, English, Yiddish, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese in Montreal. Options other than French very limited in the rest of Quebec. Newcomers who intend to stay in Quebec may do well to choose French, since it is easier for children to learn a new language.
- Price: subsidized daycare in CPE or registered family daycare is $7-$21 a day per child, depending on household income. In commercial daycare, prices vary according to neighbourhood ($50 and more in the central neighbourhoods of Montreal versus $35 a day in the rest of Quebec), quality of services (limited ratios, outings, activities), child’s age (infants pay 5 or 10 dollars more than toddlers). Daycare costs come with tax benefits in Quebec.
- Educational program: the Ministry recommends “Accueillir la petite enfance”, a learn-through-play based and integrated development approach.
- Outings, activities: ask about them.
- Food: Canadian Food Guide, organic, vegetarian, halal, kosher.
Step 4: Sign contract
Once you are satisfied with the approach of a daycare provider, after your interview with the manager, you should really visit the place before signing a contract. Contracts are mandatory in subsidized daycare. You will also be required to fill in the forms for the reduced contribution. We advise you to require a written contract even in commercial and non-registered family daycare.
In general, a contract must specify location of services, hours of services, name of the provider, conditions of termination, payment options and holidays. It is better if it also includes drug-administration policy, food policy, activities and outing policy.
Step 5: Refresh your file on waiting lists
Your file at Enfance-Famille must be refreshed every two months to remain active. Don’t forget to connect regularly to your account and update your situation if necessary. Be patient!
We sincerely hope our advice will help you go through this sometimes stressful step in your relocation; feel free to contact our team at ARIANNE Relocation if you need more personalized and direct support in finding a daycare provider.
To learn more about the issues faced by families moving to Canada with children, check out some of the following articles.
Photo credits: Unsplash