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Child Care

Every parent has questions and our experts have answers. Read on:

There are 6 questions and answers.


1. Can I allow my 14-year-old daughter to babysit (with pay) her 11-month-old sister at home when I return to work if I do not get a spot in a daycare centre?

Thank you for your question. Under the law in Manitoba, a child must be at least 12-years-old to babysit other children, including younger siblings.

You should also take note that Canada Revenue Agency's website states the following about income tax claims for child care services provided by a relative:

"Since the child care services are being provided by a person under 18 years of age who is related to you, you are not entitled to make a claim for child care expenses.

When child care services are provided by an individual, the individual cannot be the eligible child's father, mother, or a supporting person... or a person under 18 years of age who is related to you."

While your daughter is of legal age to babysit, all decisions about child care must take into account the needs of the children being cared for, as well as the skills and abilities of their babysitter and the risks for that situation. It is also important to remember that all children under the age of 18 years are legally required to attend school – your 14-year-old would not be able to provide child care for you on school days during the school year.

A parent or guardian needs to consider a new babysitter's maturity level and other factors such as:

  • What is the child's comfort and confidence in being left alone?
  • How does the child react to unexpected situations?
  • Is the child independent and does he or she make good decisions?
  • Does the child notice when a situation is getting out of control?
  • Is the child able to initiate contact with someone else if they needed help?

Of course, the babysitter should be able to contact either a parent or guardian, or another trusted person in case of emergency. Parents and guardians should talk with them about how to handle emergencies, as well as who and how to call for help, and an escape plan.

Some children require more care and supervision than a young teenager is able to provide. Some young teenagers are independent and mature enough to babysit for a period of time, but others are not yet ready. There are programs offered in many community centres, agencies and schools that help prepare children prepare for babysitting once they are over 12 years of age. We encourage you to have your older daughter attend a babysitting course. We would also point out that regular, full-time babysitting is big responsibility for anyone – especially for a teenager – so we recommend that you continue to pursue an appropriate child care spot for your baby daughter.

You can contact the Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care office nearest to you to check on child care options in your community. Manitoba Child Care Online resources can be found at: https://direct.gov.mb.ca/cdchtml/html/internet/en/contact.html.

As well, the Online Child Care Registry is available province-wide and can be found at:

ManitobaParentZone acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch in responding to this question.

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2. Is there a legal age that a child can babysit overnight, or do you need an adult to babysit if you are out all night?

There is no legislation in Manitoba that speaks specifically about children being without adult supervision overnight. The Child and Family Services Act (Section 17 (2)(g)) directs that children under the age of 12 must have supervision. However, the Act does not have a reference to overnight care.

All decisions about child care, whether for the day or night, need to take into account the needs of the children being cared for, as well as the skills and abilities of their babysitter and the risks for that situation. Some children require more care and supervision than a 12-year-old or young teenager is able to provide. Some 12-year-olds or young teenagers are independent and mature enough to be left alone or babysit for a period of time, but others are not yet ready.

Overnight care arrangements require extra consideration. For example, many children and youth feeling more anxious at night. One must also consider the possibility of the need for the care-giving child to react to an emergency that occurs when everyone is sleeping. Additionally, it is important to consider the length of time a young person is being asked to be responsible for the well-being of other children and how often this is required of them.

In all babysitting arrangements, it is very important that the babysitter has a safety plan and a way to get in touch with the children's parents or guardians in case of emergency.

If you would like to discuss your particular situation in more detail to ensure it would be seen as a safe and appropriate plan, you can contact your local child and family services intake agency. You can you locate the agency covering your community using the map at this link: www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/dia_intake.html

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Labour's Child Protection Branch in responding to this question.

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3. Our current daycare has told us that they follow a guideline of days that the center is closed. Every year they close on Xmas eve and call it a stat holiday as well as New Year's Eve. And we have to pay a full day for thus at a rate of $46 for each child. We have 2 kids. That's a lot!! I would like to know what guideline days they are following.

Child care centres in receipt of provincial funding and/or who accept subsidized families are provided guidelines on recognized holidays set by the Child Care Subsidy Program. This is because centres in receipt of provincial funding cannot charge different fees to subsidized and unsubsidized families. The list of recognized holidays for purposes of the Child Care Subsidy Program does not generally include Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, except when Christmas Day and/or New Year's Day falls on a day when child care is not normally provided. In this case, another day may be recognized in lieu (such as Christmas Eve and/or New Year's Eve), and the facility can remain closed and still charge fees.

As you are at a centre that charges fees in excess of the maximum regulated fee, your centre is likely a private for-profit facility. This means that these centres may set their own closure days, as it is not in receipt of provincial funding. However, each facility should have these closure days outlined in writing and these closure days should be identified to parents prior to enrolling their child at the centre.

If you have further questions about the regulations, please contact Child Care Information Services at cdcinfo@gov.mb.ca or by phone at (204) 945-0776 and toll-free at 1-888-213-4754.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care in responding to this question.

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4. Are there any policies or guidelines in Manitoba regarding age of children for staying home alone? What about length of time or time of day/night?

Section 17 (2) of the Child and Family Services Act states: "a child is in need of protection where the child," subsection (g) "being under the age of 12 years, is left unattended and without reasonable provision being made for the supervision and safety of the child."

This means that police and child and family services agencies consider children under the age of 12 as needing supervision; they cannot legally stay home alone.

After a child is 12 years old, there is no specific policy or legislation that says how long they may be alone, or at what time of day. Parents or guardians need to make those decisions depending on the maturity and skills of each individual child. Some children over the age of 12 years are mature enough to watch other children, while other children over the age of 12 years might still require considerable supervision themselves.

A parent or guardian would need to look at the maturity level and other factors to make the best decision regarding leaving the child home alone:

  • what is the child's comfort and confidence in being left alone?
  • how does the child react to unexpected situations?
  • is the child independent and does he or she make good decisions?
  • does the child notice when a situation is getting out of control?
  • is the child able to initiate contact with someone else if they needed help?

When young people are left alone, they should be able to contact either a parent or guardian, or another trusted person in case of emergency. Parents and guardians should talk with them about how to handle emergencies, as well as who and how to call for help, and an escape plan. They should have all necessary provisions for the length of time they are alone – things like food and clothing – and be in appropriate shelter for the weather. It is the responsibility of parents or guardians to ensure these are all in place.

There are programs offered in many community centres, agencies and schools that help to prepare children for being alone and for babysitting once they are over 12 years of age.

For a more lengthy discussion regarding the age of children for staying home alone, please click on the link below to go to ManitobaParentZone.ca's Middle Years tab concerning Behaviour and Learning Responsibility at Middle Years > Behaviour > Learning Responsibility.

ManitobaParentZone.ca acknowledges the assistance of Family Services and Consumer Affairs in responding to this question.

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5. I was wondering if there is a certain age that kids are allowed to start babysitting at and if it's different in other provinces. We live in Manitoba; our 11year old (12 in December 2014) took her babysitting course and passed. Some people say she has to be 12, others say if she's responsible and ready maturity wise that she can babysit now. I was wondering what's correct.

Thank you for your question.

Under the law in Manitoba, a child must be at least 12 years old to babysit other children, including younger siblings.

All decisions about child care must take into account the needs of the children being cared for, as well as the skills and abilities of their babysitter. Some children require more care and supervision than a young teenager is able to provide. Some young teenagers are independent and mature enough to babysit for a period of time, but others are not yet ready. Therefore, along with the minimum age requirements, it is also important to consider the babysitter's maturity level and other factors such as:

  • What is the child's comfort and confidence in being left alone?
  • How does the child react to unexpected situations?
  • Is the child independent and does he or she make good decisions?
  • Does the child notice when a situation is getting out of control?
  • Is the child able to initiate contact with someone else if they needed help?

Of course, babysitters should be able to contact either a parent or guardian, or another trusted person in case of emergency. But parents and guardians should make it a point to talk with them about how to handle emergencies, who and how to call for help, as well as an escape plan.

To read more on developing a safety plan, visit: Learning Responsibility

Manitoba Parent Zone acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Family Services' Child Protection Branch in responding to this question.

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6. I'm nearing the end of my maternity'/parental leave and exploring options for child care once my child turns 12 months old. Is there an optimal age for a child to be placed in child care? Does "age-of-entry" to child care affect a child's development (positively/negatively)? Would it benefit my child if I (or my husband) stayed home for another 6 months or a full year? Thanks.

The decision to use an early learning and child care facility is unique to each family. As parents, you are your child's first and most important teacher. However, research shows that a high quality early learning and child care program can enhance a child's development and is often a positive complement to the responsibilities of parenting. This can be the case for a child at any age.

In Manitoba, many programs are licensed to care for children as young as 3 months, although families often enrol their children in an infant program around their first birthday. Once a child is two years of age, they can be enrolled in a preschool or nursery school program. Preschools are full-day programs for 2 to 6 year-olds. Nursery schools are part-time programs for 3 and 4 year-olds.

Another option to consider is a licensed home-based facility. Infant, preschool and school-age care is offered in most of these licensed family child care homes. This type of care is preferred by some families looking for a more intimate environment with one caregiver. As with licensed centres, licensed family child care homes are licensed and monitored by the department of Family Services.

You can visit the child care programs you are considering for your child. While licensed facilities must meet provincial standards, each program is distinct in philosophy, goals and daily program. If possible, arrange for a tour during a time of day when children are awake and active. This will allow you to see how the program operates and whether it will meet your child's and family's needs. Don't hesitate to ask questions.

For more information about licensed child care in Manitoba including how to place your name on the centralized online child care registry, visit Manitoba Family Services

ManitobaParentZone acknowledges the assistance of Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care in responding to your question.

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