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Child care options in Ontario

By Amy Fournier

Posted on May 24, 2021

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Finding child care can be a difficult task for parents in Ontario, let alone newcomers. There is a high demand for child care, specifically for kids between the ages of zero and six. As a result, many daycares and after-school programs have waiting lists. Finding the right care can be stressful if you do not plan carefully or weigh your options well before you require the service.

The first thing to note is that there are two types of child care options: regulated and unregulated.

Regulated child care means that the service being offered is recognized by the Ministry of Education and must follow the Ministry guidelines. Regulated child care services are located in public spaces specifically designed to provide that service, such as schools or community centres.

Unregulated child care refers to the caregiving arrangements that are conducted privately without government supervision. Parents, typically, hire someone to take care of their children independently or through a private company. Oftentimes, if regulated programs are full, parents will seek caregivers or nannies on websites such as,, Facebook, or word of mouth.
When choosing whether to use regulated programs or to hire an employee, you may want to consider the hours that you’ll need caregiving services for, where you are located, and your financial situation.

Fees vary depending on whether you need full or part-time care, the age of your child, and the number of children you have. In most cases, providing regulated or unregulated child care is a parent’s financial responsibility. Typically, it is more affordable to hire a caregiver than to enroll your child in daycare or after school programs. (To learn more about after school programs, check this article.) However, regulated child care services require employees to have specific postsecondary education and qualifications, whereas unregulated child care services do not.

Whereas most private care is paid hourly, a lot of regulated programs require registration, which means that parents are paying for days that they may not need care for or for statutory holidays such as Family day and Thanksgiving. “Once your child is enrolled in a program, you have to be prepared to pay for days that your child is not in care in order to keep the spot,” explains Michela Mucciaccio, a Child and Youth Worker for the Simcoe County District School Board. “Another thing to consider, specific to Canada, is snow days. If the buses are cancelled, but schools are still open, the service is still expected to run, and therefore parents will still have to pay,” she says.

Regulated child care programs also have rigid times of operation and many facilities will charge extra if parents are late, past the program’s operating hours, to pick up their child.

There are also many non-profit programs that offer subsidized or free child care to those in need. The Nook Children’s Program an organization located in Toronto that provides support and services for vulnerable children and youth who come from low-income households, single parent families, newcomers, those challenged by mental or physical health issues, or people facing other barriers that prevent them from engaging fully in the community.
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Ontario 211 is a community and social services help line that can assist families who are in desperate need of child care. Simply enter “child care” into the search bar as well as your location, and the website will gather all the child care centres that are around your area.

Every family has different needs, and there are many child care options in Ontario to choose from. With careful planning and budgeting, you can decide which option is best for you.

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