Daycare

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 education starts). 

All childcare for children aged 0 – 6, whether in a daycare centre or with a childminder, is overseen by either:

Establishments or individuals need to be ‘authorised’ by the ONE/Kind en Gezin and are regularly reviewed to ensure they meet the necessary standards in terms of training, infrastructure and emotional wellbeing of the children in their care.

Pre-school

Free, government-funded pre-school begins at age 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’ / ‘kribbe’ 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.


Daycare centres

There are two main types of daycare centre:

  • a ‘creche’ / ‘kribbe’ that looks after children from 3 months to 3 years (sometimes from 6 weeks or even from birth);

  • a ‘creche’ / ‘kribbe’ that looks after children from 18 months to 3 years. This type of creche can also be called a ‘pré-gardiennat’ / ‘peutertuin’.

These may be either public (including those managed by the communes) or private.

Childminders

There are two main types of childminder, who look after around 4 children from 0 to 7 years in their own home:

  • 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).
  • 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. 

Both types of childminder are, or should be, overseen by the Office de le Naissance et de l’Enfance (ONE) or Kind en Gezin. If you are unsure if this is the case, ask the childminder.


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 childcare 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 income-dependent 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 and childminders – being free to fix their tariffs – often have spaces available.


How do I find a daycare centre or childminder?

In Brussels, many communes have group enrolments for their French-language communal creches – check with your commune. In non-communal French-language creches, you need to enrol directly with the creche.

For Dutch-language childcare in Brussels, there is a central enrolments website for both daycare centres and childminders, with priority for parents with B1-level Dutch.

Other places to find lists of daycare centres and/or childminders are:


How much does childcare cost?

How childcare costs are determined depends on the type of daycare centre / childminder.

If the daycare centre / childminder is:

  • accredited (‘agrée’/ ‘erkend’) by the ONE/Kind en Gezin, or
  • accredited and subsidised (‘subventionné’ / ‘gesubsidieerd’) by the ONE/Kind en Gezin,

you pay according to your household’s net income. The current minimum is EUR 2.56 per day; the maximum is EUR 32.60 per day.

If the daycare centre / childminder is only authorised by the ONE/Kind en Gezin (and not accredited or subsidised), the daycare is free to set its own fees. These can rise to around EUR 800 per month for private daycare.

What happens if my child is sick, or we go on holidays?

If your child is cared for in an establishments or by an individual that is authorised and accredited, or authorised, accredited and subsidised, you only pay when your child attends (e.g. you don’t pay if your child is sick and has a doctor’s note, or for an agreed number of days while you are on holiday).

If the daycare / childminder is private, and not accredited (‘agrée’ / ‘erkend’), it is free to set its own tariffs, and you pay whether or not your child attends. In some private daycares you continue to pay even when the daycare closes for its annual holidays.

Tax deductions

All childcare costs from daycare centre and childminders 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 March 2018).

Reductions for large families

Some daycares adjust their rates for ‘large families’ (families with three or more children) and if you have more than one child attending at the same time. While some private daycares offer reduced rates for a second child, this is not always the case.


How many other children and carers will there be?

This obviously depends on whether you choose to put your child in a daycare centre, or with a childminder, but also, whether the care environment is overseen by the ONE or Kind en Gezin.

In environments overseen by:

  • the ONE, a daycare centre typically has more than 8 children, and must have at least one adult for every 6 or 7 children.

    Childminders can have a maximum of the equivalent of 4 children full-time – they can have maximum 5 present at the same time, and maximum 8 registered in total.
  • Kind en Gezin, a daycare centre has at least 9 children, with maximum 18 children in one section. Each supervisor has a maximum of 9 children.

    Childminders typically have around 4 children, sometimes with more at peak times, but this cannot exceed 8 children.

What are typical opening / working hours?

Creches 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 typical opening hours are from 7:30 to 18:30.

Childminders may offer more flexible opening hours, in agreement with parents. This may be useful if e.g. you work shifts, or do night work.


Questions to ask when looking for childcare

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?

OrganisationHow many children are there in total?
Are children split into age groups or all together?
FacilitiesHow much space do the children have to play?
Is there an outside space?
Are there enough toys and activities?
Where do the children sleep?
Can babies nap when they are tired, or do they have to follow a schedule?
InteractionWhat language(s) do the staff speak?
How do the staff react when a child is upset?
FoodWhat do the children eat?
Will you see a menu in advance?
What about special dietary requirements?
Can you bring expressed breast milk?
StaffWhat do the children eat?
Will you see a menu in advance?
What about special dietary requirements?
Can you bring expressed breast milk?
AdminIs 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?

Pre-school

Between the ages of 2.5 years and 6 years, children can go to government-funded pre-school (‘école maternelle’ / ‘kleuterschool’ / ‘kindergarten’), 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.  

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.

For Dutch-language education in Brussels, priority is given to students whose parents speak at least B2 level Dutch (see below).

Read more about government-funded pre-school here


Dutch proficiency tests

If you need to prove your proficiency in Dutch, and you have not followed full-time secondary education or higher education in Dutch, you can take at test at Het Huis Van het Nederlands or another of the recognised Dutch proficiency tests, such as the ITNA test or the CNaVT test.


What if I only need childcare occasionally?

If you only need childcare occasionally, you might be interested in finding a ‘halte garderie’, a flexible day care centre where you can leave your child in professional care for a few hours, e.g. if you need to attend a job interview, go to a medical appointment etc.

You can find a list of halte garderies from your commune.


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