Daycare - what? where? when? how much?
If you're going back to work after the birth of your child, then finding good-quality daycare will be high on your agenda. But what are your options? When should you start looking? And how much is it going to cost you?
Belgium is a country of working parents, and there is a comprehensive system in place to look after children from 0 to 6 (when mandatory primary school starts).
All childcare for children aged 0 - 6 is overseen by either the Office de le Naissance et de l'Enfance (ONE) in French-speaking areas or Kind en Gezin in Flemish-speaking areas, and establishments or individuals are regularly reviewed to ensure they meet the necessary standards in terms of training, infrastructure and emotional wellbeing of the children in their care.
Free, state pre-school / kindergarten begins at 2.5 and most parents take advantage of this.
Daycare centre or childminder?
One of the first decisions you might make is whether to place your child in a:
- group environment, such as a daycare centre (either a 'creche' / 'kinderdagverblijf' or a 'pré-gardiennat' / 'peutertuin'); or
- home environment with a registered childminder.
In both cases, you will need to show proof that your child has been vaccinated against certain diseases before he/she can attend daycare. Read more about the mandatory vaccinations.
There are two main types of daycare centre:
- a 'creche' / 'kinderdagverblijf' looks after children from 3 months to 3 years (sometimes from 6 weeks or even from birth)
- a 'pré-gardiennat' / 'peutertuin/kindergarten' looks after children from 18 months to 3 years.
These may be either 'communal' (i.e. managed by the commune) or private. Fees in communal daycare are income-dependent (up to a certain ceiling), while in private daycares it may also be income-dependent or freely fixed, depending on whether the daycare is:
- authorised ('autorisé' / 'gemeld') and accredited ('agrée' / 'erkend') or authorised, accredited and subsidised ('subventionné' / 'gesubsidieerd') by the ONE/Kind en Gezin - in both cases fees are income-dependent; or
- only 'autorisé' / 'gemeld' - in this case the daycare is free to set its own fees
Below you can find some information to help you start your search for a daycare centre. At the bottom of this page you can find a comprehensive list of questions you might ask when you contact/visit a centre.
Creches/pré-gardiennats (whether communal or private) are typically open all year round, except for weekends, public holidays and during certain holiday periods. Many close for one month in the summer.
Opening hours can vary between daycares, but are usually from 7:30 to 18:00.
|How is care organised?||
This varies depending on the daycare. Some large daycares split children into age-groups, while in others, children of all ages are looked after together.
The ratio of children to carer can depend on the kind of daycare, and on whether it is authorised by the ONE or Kind en Gezin.
The price can depend on the status of the daycare:
All childcare costs from daycares that are authorised ('authorisé' / 'gemeld') by the ONE/Kind en Gezin are tax-deductible in Belgium at up to €11.20 per day (amount correct as of November 2013).
|When should I start looking for a place?||
If you know you will be going back to work after your baby is born, start thinking about daycare as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed. Planning your separation from your baby may be the last thing on your mind at this early stage, but demand is high, and you may limit you choice even more if you leave it too late.
Communal creches may have stricter rules about when you can officially request a place, so check in advance with your commune. e.g. you often have to wait until the beginning of the fourth month of pregnancy. Private creches may accept a request as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed. In both cases, the creche should provide a response (place allocated, waiting list or refusal) within one month of your request. If you are placed on a waiting list, you should contact the creche again in the 7th month of pregnancy to confirm your need for a place.
Demand is especially high for subsidised daycare, given the fact that the cost is salary-adjusted and that you only pay when your child attends (e.g. you don't pay if your child is sick and has to stay home). Therefore, you may find yourself on waiting lists in several subsidised daycares.
Private, non-subsidised creches - being free to fix their tariffs - often have spaces available.
|Where can I find contact details of daycares?||
You may be able to find lists of daycare from:
Ask for local recommendations from friends and colleagues, or, if you are a member of the Brussels Childbirth Trust (BCT), find details via their Information Service.
There are two main types of childminder, who look after around 3 children from 0 to 7 years in their own home:
- an independent childminder ('gardienne indépendante') who you may have found by yourself, or via the ONE / Kind en Gezin (who also maintain lists of independent childminders). Independent childminders are free to set their own tariff, and you will sign a contract that states the tariff, hours, what happens if your child is sick etc.
- a 'conventioned' childminder ('gardienne conventionnée') works in collaboration with a private or public service (e.g. CPAS - public social services) or a creche. The childminder's tariff is set by his/her 'employer'.
In some cases, care by a childminder is 'accredited' or subsidised (in the same way as an accredited or subsidised creche), so you would pay according to your income, and would only pay for the time your child is present (i.e. not when sick with a doctor's note).
Between the ages of 2.5 years and 6 years, children can go to state 'école maternelle' / 'kleuterklas', which is free. These are usually part of a primary school, and a full day is usually from 8:30 to 15:30. Many also offer before- and after-school care for a small fee.
In Brussels, access to Dutch-language pre-school ('kleuterklas') is sometimes dependent on having attended a Dutch-language creche, or on having at least one Dutch-speaking parent.
As demand can be high for places in good schools, start thinking about this as soon as possible if you know you will still be living here when your child is eligible to start.
Under Belgian law, vaccination against polio is mandatory. You will need to show proof that your baby has been vaccinated against polio before he/she can attend daycare.
For daycare overseen by the Office de le Naissance et de l'Enfance (ONE), you will also need to show proof that your baby is vaccinated against diphtheria, whooping cough, type b Haemophilus influenzae, measles, rubella (German measles) and mumps.
When you visit a creche or childminder, it's important that you have a good feeling about the location and the staff, but what are some of the questions that you might ask yourself or the staff?
How many children are there in total?
How much space do the children have to play?
What language(s) do the staff speak?
What do the children eat?
How many staff work there?
|Admin||Is the creche certified and subsidised?
What does the monthly cost cover? Food and nappies?
Do you have to pay if your child is sick?
Can you bring washable nappies?