Wait lists for licensed child care programs

What child care centres, home child care agencies, providers and parents need to know about wait lists for licensed child care programs

Can child care centres or home child care agencies charge parents fees in order to place their child on a wait list?

No. As of September 1, 2016, under the authority of Ontario Regulation 137/15, licensed child care centres and home child care agencies may no longer charge parents fees to have their child placed on a wait list.

What is a wait list fee?

A wait list fee is any fee or deposit paid by a parent for an unsecured spot in a child care centre or with a home child care agency. Regardless of whether or not the fee is refundable, child care licensees may no longer accept payment to place a child’s name on a wait list that may or may not lead to the child being offered child care.

Can child care centres still charge enrolment fees?

Yes. Child care centres may charge fees related to the administration of enrolling new children. However, these fees may only be charged once a child has been offered and accepted entrance into the child care centre.

Can licensed home child care agencies still charge parents a fee for placing a child with a home child care provider?

Yes. Parents often contact home child care agencies to find a suitable home-based child care provider within a specific neighborhood. If the home child care agency has available providers that meet the criteria initially presented by the parent seeking child care, a placement or enrolment fee may be charged.

Do child care centres and home child care agencies have to accept children on a first-come/first-served basis?

No. The Ministry of Education recognizes that maintaining a wait list is not a straightforward endeavour and that a first-come/first-served approach may not be viable. For instance, a child care centre may have a policy that prioritizes siblings to help ensure that siblings can be cared for in one location and to support the continued workforce participation of parents. Licensed centres and home child care agencies need the flexibility to manage their admissions fairly, effectively and transparently.

To support transparency, new requirements in section 75.1 of the Ontario Regulation 137/15 will require child care licensees to have a wait list policy that explains how licensees manage wait lists and to include this policy in its parent handbook. Licensed child care centres and home child care agencies must also provide parents with a best approximation of their child’s status on a wait list, when asked. These new requirements will come into effect on January 1, 2017.

Can unlicensed child care providers charge wait list fees?

Yes. The new ban on wait list fees is only applicable to licensed child care centres and home child care agencies.

What should a parent do if a child care centre or home child care agency tries to charge a wait list fee after September 1, 2016?

Anyone who has concerns about licensed child care programs operating in contravention of the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 and its regulations should call the ministry: 1-877-510-5333.