In our articles and on our website, we sometimes mention that we are a “licensed” daycare in B.C. We also may talk about government resources for daycare, and qualifiers for these resources, which can depend on the type of child care involved. We discuss “preschool and daycare” a lot too. We also talk about “early childhood educators” at our “daycares.”
But are all of these terms referring to the same thing? Can there be a difference between say, daycare and preschool? Or licensed and unlicensed child care? What about legalities? Are licensed child care centres the only legal type of child care? Does the government just not ‘look’ at other types of childcare, or let them go unnoticed?
So in this article, we thought we’d give our own break down and descriptive definitions of the types of daycare in B.C. This glossary of terms surrounding laws in our province can be useful for parents looking at the different options they can seek when pursuing a child care or preschool for their child.
Much of what we’re providing below is based on this resource on the government of B.C. website.
The main differences between the types of daycare in B.C
Differences between the types of daycare in B.C. are based on some core parameters that form their definitions. These are, for the most part, regarding the following characteristics of care:
- Whether or not the child care provider is monitored and inspected by the government, and thus required to meet certain standards.
- Whether or not the child care provider maintains a license to operate, or is simply registered with the government, to undergo the above-mentioned regulations.
- How many children are in the care of an adult, or the ratio of children-to-adults in a home or care facility.
- The age of the children being cared for, and the mix of ages being cared for at one time, in the same facility (and presumably by the same care providers).
- The training and background of the adult giving the care to children.
- Whether or not the care provider is related to the children in their care.
- The physical location where child care services are being provided (i.e. whether they are in-home or out-of-home for child involved).
- The educational components of the child care service, if any.
If you keep the above factors in mind, it can help when understanding where boundaries lie with regards to the types of daycare in B.C. It can also help to differentiate between two types of child care that may sound similar, but are actually different, based on one of those definitive boundaries. And of course, knowing where these differences lie can help a parent understand the ‘why’ behind the rules the government has created for this aspect of society. Ultimately, these rules are designed to keep children in safe hands, while being care for by those other than their parents.
Glossary of terms for types of daycare, preschool and child care in B.C.
Licensed Child Care
This type of child care is the most monitored and regularly inspected. This defines a service that is not just ‘watching’ children. It must include other qualities, including for programming and staff training. The safety and adequacy of the facility to house children during the day is also regulated. There even must be enough outdoor play space for children, according to government rules. This is the type of child care service we provide at Rainforest Learning Centres.
The main points to know with licensed child care are:
- Facilities must meet certain criteria to keep children safe and comfortable (i.e. it can’t be too crowded).
- Employees must have completed an early childhood education course at a recognized institution, to be considered an educator or an assistant. The employee may also have specialization in working with special needs children, or infants and toddlers. Certificates for early childhood educational training must be renewed every 5 years.
- All staff must undergo a criminal record check, and be personally interviewed by the owner. They also must be immunized and checked for tuberculosis.
- The company operating the licensed daycare must have emergency preparedness and first-aid protocols in place. At least one person on site must have a CPR certificate, for example.
- The daycare should provide an educational curriculum as part of its programming.
- Physical or emotional punishment of children is not tolerated (as most would expect).
- Records must be kept for each child. This includes health conditions.
- Class or group sizes must meet certain staff-to-child ratios, and can’t exceed certain numbers of pupils. This depends on the type of licensed child care, explained below.
The types of licensed child care include:
Group child care for 0 – 36 months (birth to 3 years old) – a maximum of 12 infants and toddlers are allowed in this group. One caregiver per 4 children is required, in a community facility. An Infant Toddler Educator Certificate is required for most caregivers, depending on the group size.
Group child care for 30 months to school age (kindergarten) – a maximum of 25 children can be in this group, but only 2 can be under 3 years old. Roughly one adult per 8 children must be present, in a community facility. A Early Childhood Educator Certificate or Assistant Certificate must be obtained by the care providers, depending on the group size.
Group child care for school age children (before and after school care) – the maximum group size for this license is worded as, “24 children from Kindergarten and Grade 1 OR 30 children from Grade 2 and older with no Kindergarten or Grade 1 children present” on the B.C. government’s website. One adult per 12 children is needed, and this takes place in a community facility. The caregivers must be responsible, have 20 hours of child care work experience, a criminal background check done, and obtain a first-aid certificate.
[In-home] multi-age child care for birth to 12 years old – a maximum of 8 children can be in this group. Only one caregiver for all 8 children is needed, as long as they have an Early Childhood Educator Certificate. However, only one infant under 12 months is allowed, and only 3 children 36 months and younger are allowed. This takes place in a community facility or the home of the early childhood educator, who, in the latter scenario, is also the license holder.
Family child care for birth to 12 years old – a maximum of 7 children can be cared for by 1 licensee in this group, who is at least 19 years old. However, the wording for age allowances is specifically written in the law document as, “having no more than 3 children younger than 48 months old and, of those 3, no more than one child younger than 12 months old.” Or, if there is no child in their care that is under one, then they can care for up to 4 four-year-olds, or 2 two-year-olds and 2 four-year-olds. That is, of course, in addition to the older kids, but keeping the total number at a max of 7 kids. The licensee must have a criminal background check, 20 hours of childcare experience and a first aid certificate (like the school-age child care providers mentioned above).
Note: for family and in-home multi-age care, a child over 12 years old who is related to the licensee can be present for the child care service, and not considered part of the group maximum. If they are under 12 years old, they are included in the group limit.
Preschool for 2.5 years old to school age (kindergarten) – a maximum of 20 preschoolers can be in this classroom setting, which is in a community facility. One adult per 10 kids is required. At least one caregiver in the group must have an Early Childhood Educator Certificate, and the second must have an Early Childhood Educator Assistant Certificate, unless a medical officer has allowed otherwise. The program runs from one to four hours a day.
So yes, that means that in B.C., the official standard for the definition “preschool” does not last more than 4 hours per day. BUT – licensed daycare providers offering an educational component to their programs can use the word “preschool” to describe their service also. Since these are considered child care programs, they last a full day (but not more than 13 hours). So the term “full day preschool” can also be used.
What about licensed overnight child care?
Can an overnight daycare be licensed in B.C.? Yes, they can be, under certain licenses. However, before giving overnight care, they must report to their medical officer. They also must provide adequate sleeping quarters for the children, with fire safety standards. Preschools, occasional care and child minding licensees can’t provide overnight care.
Registered Licence-Not-Required Child Care
This type of childcare is not considered licensed, but is registered. This means that a care provider over the age of 19 has submitted to the government their criminal background check, and have taken some child training, even if that is not an Early Childhood Educator or Assistant Certificate. They have 20 hours of childcare work experience and a first aid certificate. They are eligible for group liability insurance. Their home, which is the place of care, has also passed certain safety inspections.
But, this type of child care is only eligible to be responsible for 2 children of a sibling group, if they are not related to the adult providing the care.
The age range for this type of care is from birth to 12 years old.
Licence-Not-Required Child Care
This type of scenario is similar to registered child care, but with the exception that no government inspection has taken place, and no qualifications are required. It is up to the parents to make sure their child is safe while in the care of an unlicensed provider.
The point at which unlicensed care becomes illegal is when more than 2 children unrelated to the care provider are being watched.
This scenario is similar to the license-not-required child care, except that it takes place in the home of the children, and not where the care provider lives.
This type of child care becomes illegal when children of other families are cared for by the same caregiver, in the home does not belong to the caregiver. Remember, as noted above, an unlicensed child care provider shouldn’t be offering care to more than 2 children at a time, if they are not related to them.
Parents also need to know that when they are hiring someone to care for children on their own premises, they are considered employers, and the care provider is not considered self-employed. They must follow laws surrounding hiring an employee, and pay applicable taxes, too.
However, this rule does not apply to relatives who are taking on the role of a nanny for children, while being cared for in their own home. That said, this type of family-related care may also be exempt from certain government subsidies for child care. See this article on our blog for more information.
The best type of child care for you can depend on your needs and personal comfort level
As we can see from the above, there are multiple options for parents looking for child care. It’s not a ‘free for all’ when it comes to finding a daycare or preschool provider, or even a nanny. An in-home caregiver is still recognized by law, and a private arrangement like that must still follow some rules.
While some forms of child care are considered “licensed,” “registered” or “unregistered”, that does not mean that there are types of child care in B.C. that don’t have to follow rules. There is simply a ‘scale’ of the degree to which a child care provider must go through certain legal processes. The most involved and advanced type of care, in this regard of legalities, would be licensed daycares and preschools.
In truth, it can be expensive and time consuming to set up a fully licensed daycare centre. It involves staff training, proper reporting, plus the day-to-day running of an actual business. We operate as one of these licensed centres in three different cities. And to maintain our centres, we not only need to provide an attractive, modern, educational program to parents who would want our services. We also must go so far as to do emergency preparedness planning, and other tasks to ensure our kids are safe in our care.
But, the government recognizes that licensed daycare is not a fitting option for everyone. So, parents are allowed to make other arrangements. For example, an unrelated adult can care for children, or children can be watched in the home of a person who also watches children from other families.
What is the best type of child care for you? Well, that’s up to you! Everyone will have to weigh the pros and cons of each child care option. For example, if language is very important to you, your main priority may be finding a care provider who speaks a certain language to your children. For others, they may like the idea of an in-home nanny who is comes to them, instead of driving children to a facility. And still, others may appreciate the group setting in a daycare like ours, where there are always multiple caregivers on site, which can provide some accountability to the quality of care. The educational component, scheduling or environment may also be determining factors.
In the end, the B.C. government gives options to parents. So you can choose!