Petite Enfance: Early Childcare in France
In France, children are required by law to start school (ecole maternelle) in September of their 3rd year of life. During early childhood (la petite enfance) from birth to age 3 years, there are various childcare options available, both state-funded and private.
Crèches and Daycare Centres in France
Crèches are daycare centres in France that look after children from the ages of 2 months to 3 years within their premises. The staff are qualified paediatric nursing assistants and provide excellent care. All meals (repas), nappies and general care equipment are provided, and children engage in age-appropriate activities and socialization.
Crèches are available for 11 hours a day, Monday to Friday. They are closed on all public holidays and for one month in August.
There are 4 types of crèche in France to consider;
● Crèches collectives
These are state-run establishments that can host up to 60 children, with a minimum ratio of 1 adult to 5 children at all times. Micro crèches take up to 10 children. They are run on the same principles as the larger crèches collectives but, as the name suggests, on a smaller scale.
State-run crèches are funded generously by the government, and the amount you as parents contribute is dependent on your income and family situation. It is also tax-deductible.
● Crèches familial
These crèches are open once or twice a week and are run by private organisations or local authorities. They are a place where qualified childminders who look after up to 4 children, meet to partake in larger group activities.
● Crèches parental
These crèches are run by parents who rotate childcare for up to 25 children.
● Crèches d’enterprises
These are run by organisations for their employers, and cater for up to 60 children.
Crèche places in France are limited, with a national average of 6.3 places per 100 children. Places with a larger population tend to have higher availability, for example in Paris there are currently 23.9 places per 100 children. Still, it is advisable to enrol your child in crèche as soon as your pregnancy has been confirmed for the best chance at getting a spot.
To start the process of enrolling your child in crèche head over to MonEnfant.
Assistantes Maternelles in France
Assistantes maternelles, also known as “nounous”, are comprehensively qualified, state-funded nannies. They look after babies from the age of 2 months old up to school age, and can host up to 4 children at once depending on their ages. Although a little more expensive than crèches, they provide a more personalised experience.
Nounous work either in their own home, your home or less commonly on a premises called a maison d’assistantes maternelles. They are monitored regularly by Protection Maternelle et Infantile (PMI) to ensure your child is in safe hands. You provide nappies, wipes and medications and can choose whether or not you want the nounous to provide lunch and snacks (at a small extra cost) or if you wish to do so yourself.
How to Find a Nounous
Your local mairie (town hall) will provide you with a list of all of the nounous available in your area. You can also lean on the experience of other parents for recommendations. Be quick, the best ones get booked up fast!
How it works:
Once you have met and chosen your assistant maternelle she will draw up the paperwork and inform you of what steps to take next. It can seem complicated at first, but once the initial planning is in place it is simple to navigate.
The first thing you will have to do is register as an employer on URSSAF. Your nounou will declare her hours monthly and URSSAF will produce a payslip for the amount payable by you. You will then be reimbursed a certain amount from that directly back into your bank account, again depending on your income and family situation.
Private Nannies and Au Pairs
This is the most expensive option as if you employ a nanny or live in au pair in France, you will be required to pay their social charges as well as their wage. But they offer the greatest flexibility and one-on-one care for your child/children, and can be shared between families to spread the cost.
You will again have to register as an employer through URSSAF or “Chèque Emploi Service Universal” (CESU) which allows you to legally employ people in your home and earn tax breaks for doing so.
How to find private nannies and au pairs in France
To find nannies and au pairs in your area, look on mairie notice boards, local social media pages and ask around for recommendations of both individuals and agencies.
Jardin d’Enfants and Halte Garderies
These are day care centres in France that work on a part time and ad-hoc basis. They accept children aged 2-6 years, and are great for one-off days here and there. They are not available for full-time care. Contact your local mairie or take a look on the “service public” website for more information.
What To Do if Your Child is Sick in France
Unfortunately, the larger institutions such as crèches and Jardin d’enfants won’t accept your child if they are sick due to the risk to other children in their care. Nounous and private nannies may be more flexible. You are entitled to take 3 days off to take care of your sick child, but it will be unpaid.
In cases where a child is seriously ill, you can apply for extended time off called “congè de presence parentale.” This is available whether you work in the public or private sector and ensures the security of your job for up to 310 days over a period of 3 years. During this time you will not receive a wage, but are entitled to apply for benefits from your family allowance body, “Caisse d’Allocations Familials” (CAF). This is called the “Allocations Journalière de Présence Parentale” (AJPP).
It is also worth noting that if you choose to look after your young child at home yourself, you can also apply to claim some financial support through CAF.
Family Life in France
Whether you’re moving to France with family or planning to raise a family in France, FrenchEntrée is here to help! Our Essential Reading articles cover everything from maternity and childcare to the French education system to caring for elderly relatives.
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By Gemma Corby
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