Child­care in France

If you’re plan­ning a move to France with your fam­ily, the good news is that there are plenty of child­care op­tions on of­fer. Kate McNally ex­plains what ben­e­fits you are en­ti­tled to and the choices avail­able

Living France - - Contents -

Your guide to the op­tions avail­able and how to ac­cess them

France is well set up when it comes to child­care and there are nu­mer­ous (and gen­er­ous) fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits avail­able to help par­ents pay for it. French so­ci­ety is founded on so­cial­ist ideals, at the heart of which lies the fam­ily – and the wel­fare sys­tem is geared up to en­cour­ag­ing cou­ples to have chil­dren, rather than fear­ing loss of earn­ings or rev­enue-drain­ing child­care.

The first port of call when con­sid­er­ing child­care op­tions is the CAF (Caisse d’Al­lo­ca­tions Fa­mil­iales, for your area. This is where you can find out ex­actly what ben­e­fits you’re en­ti­tled to and in­for­ma­tion about lo­cal child­min­ders and crèches.

Call into your lo­cal mairie as well, as they will no doubt have con­tact de­tails for your im­me­di­ate area. Another use­ful ad­dress is the Re­lais As­sis­tantes Mater­nelles (RAM) which is a sort of fed­er­a­tion of child­min­ders.


You pay up­front for the child­care, usu­ally on a monthly ba­sis, then de­clare your pay­ments to the CAF who will cal­cu­late the amount that will be re­im­bursed.

The ben­e­fit re­lated to child­care is called the com­plé­ment de li­bre choix du mode de garde (CMG) and is avail­able for chil­dren un­der six years. Ev­ery­one is re­quired to pay a min­i­mum of 15% of their child’s care costs in France but there­after the amount re­im­bursed by the state is cal­cu­lated ac­cord­ing to house­hold in­come and the age of the child or chil­dren. The pay­ment dec­la­ra­tions can also be used if ap­ply­ing for any an­nual in­come tax re­bates. (To ap­ply for this ben­e­fit, con­tact the CAF or the Mu­tu­al­ité So­ciale Agri­cole, MSA.)

If you opt for an in­de­pen­dent child­min­der, there are also em­ployer charges so­ciales (sim­i­lar to em­ployer NI con­tri­bu­tions) to pay, how­ever, in most cases, at least 50% of these charges are paid by the CAF.


Group child­care ( Ac­cueil col­lec­tif) As in the UK, France has var­i­ous types of ‘ ac­cueil col­lec­tif’ of­fer­ing group child­care for ba­bies and in­fants up to three years old (when they go to nurs­ery school, called école mater­nelle), as well as for chil­dren up to six years old out­side reg­u­lar nurs­ery school hours. Within this form of group pro­vi­sion, you have: • crèches col­lec­tives (nurs­eries or crèches) • crèches d’en­treprises (work­place nurs­eries) • haltes-garderies (usu­ally pro­vid­ing be­fore- and af­ter-school care only) • jardins d’en­fants (kinder­gartens) • mi­cro crèches (mini nurs­eries al­lowed a max­i­mum in­take of 10 in­fants)

These fa­cil­i­ties may be run by a lo­cal com­mu­nity au­thor­ity, an as­so­ci­a­tion, a pri­vate com­pany or a busi­ness. Staff mem­bers must have a min­i­mum ba­sic child­care qual­i­fi­ca­tion and reg­u­la­tions state that each em­ployee is per­mit­ted to care for up to eight in­fants or up to five if they are not yet walk­ing. In ad­di­tion, the es­tab­lish­ment is gen­er­ally headed by a di­rec­tor spe­cialised in child health and/or ed­u­ca­tion.

Most of these crèches and nurs­eries of­fer reg­u­lar places from a half-day up to five days a week, de­pend­ing on avail­abil­ity. Many are also will­ing to ac­cept chil­dren for a few hours a day, in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing an ‘out-of-school-hours care’ ser­vice. In gen­eral, they close only on pub­lic hol­i­days and for around three weeks in Au­gust.

Par­ent-run crèches ( Ac­cueil parental)

Ac­cueils parentaux are groups set up and man­aged by a par­ents’ as­so­ci­a­tion. They are lim­ited to 20 in­fants, oc­ca­sion­ally 25

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