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Introduction to childcare in The Netherlands

In the last 4 years my children have been cared for in two different daycare centers and one preschool (peuterspeelzaal), and I’ve got only good things to say about them. Children in The Netherlands start going to school at 4 years of age and there are a few options for childcare before that time comes. They are meant to suit different types of families according to their preference, time and budget.

Types of daycare

Daycare (Kinderdagverblijf) is a private form of childcare in which children can stay usually from 8.00 to 18.00, some centers offer extended hours from 06.00 to 19.00. Daycares will have groups of maximum 16 children, and they have rules for the maximum number of children per worker. The downside is that daycares are expensive for a family in which one parent is staying at home with the children because the childcare benefit from the government doesn’t apply. Depending on your area, there may be waiting lists, so be sure to start looking for a daycare with several months in advance. They differ a lot in their methodologies, some offer flexible contracts, some offer a warm meal and others only botterham (sandwich), some divide the children by age, some are bilingual, etc. You can arrange a visit easily to ask all your questions and feel the environment as they usually invite you during a busy day; sometimes they even take your child to play with the others while you have a look around. I visited around 6 places before choosing for one, so take your time and enjoy the process.

Childminders (Gastouderopvang) is a private form of daycare in which a person takes care of a small group of children (4 to 6, depending on their ages) at their own house. This is also a quite common form of daycare in The Netherlands and I’ve heard really good things about it, the children get a ‘family’ feeling and they become really close to the each other. Childminders need to be approved and certified, and so does the house in which they keep the children, so it’s quite well regulated for your child’s safety and well-being.

Preschool (Peuterspeelzaal) is a public form of daycare that is heavily subsidized by the municipality, each city has their own preschools and rates. Children are allowed to go from 2 to 4 years of age for a limited number of hours per week, in Delft this is usually 10 to 15 hours depending on the place. Preschools are meant for families in which there is a stay-at-home parent so the children can get ready for school, learn to be in a group, follow instructions, go to the toilet without help, put their jackets on, cut and paste, draw within the lines… you get the idea. Your child will join a group of around 15 children and will assist 2 or 3 mornings per week, the learning methodology is very structured and they focus on language development.

When your child is around 2 years-old, the consultatiebureau (the center in which they check your child’s physical and cognitive development) will evaluate your child’s language skills. If your child needs a boost, they will give you a VVE reference which is a letter that you can give to the preschool administration and they will apply a fixed price for your child instead of basing the rate on your family’s income. The VVE reference is usually given to families in which none of the parents speaks Dutch so the children are obviously not very good at it, unless they have been going to daycare for a long time. However, there’s the possibility that you get the VVE letter even when one of the parents speaks Dutch; many DelftMamas are married to dutchies and staying-at-home which means their children have a major exposure to a foreign language (which is awesome, but they’ll need some input from the other side too). If you don’t get the offer of the VVE at the 2 years-old check-up, don’t hesitate to ask for it directly, tell them your concerns with your child’s language development and they’ll most likely help you.

Last remark about preschool, there are LONG waiting lists, so be sure to subscribe your child when s/he is around 1 year-old so s/he gets a place on time. I was working when my son was 1 year-old and when my contract didn’t get renewed, he was already 2, we had to wait 7 months for a place at the preschool!! My guilty recommendation is: even if both parents work and your children go to private daycare, subscribe them to the preschool anyways, you will receive a ‘placing’ letter with an offer in due time (around 2 months before they can start) and if you are still working then you can just turn it down and it will go to the next child in line.

Preschools are priced differently depending on the family situation:

  1. If you have a partner and only one of you earns a salary, or study; or if you are an only-parent and you don’t earn a salary, then the price per month is calculated according to the family income and varies between 16,00 and 215,00 euros. You can download the table with rates here.
  2. If you have a partner and both of you earn a salary, or study; or if you are an only-parent and you earn a salary, then the price per hour is the same price as you would pay at a private daycare, which is around 7,18 euros. This is because you’ll be able to apply for childcare benefit and get some of it back.
  3. If you get a VVE reference and you don’t have a right to get childcare benefit, then the price per month is fixed and it’s around 16,06 euros.

I’ve created the following table to visualize the details and costs in an easier way.

Childcare

Type

Open

Minimum age

Maximum age

Price

Childcare benefit

Daycare Private All year around, some daycares close between Christmas and New Year Usually 12 week-old but some centers allow babies from 6 weeks of age 4 years-old Around 7,18 euros per hour Yes*
Childminders Private Usually same as daycare Same as daycare Same as daycare Around 5,75 euros per hour Yes*
Preschool Public Follow school holidays, so closed several weeks per year 2 years 4 years Depends on the family situation, see above Yes*, also when there is a VVE reference. See above.

*Providing you are eligible for childcare benefit

Childcare benefit (kinderopvangtoeslag)

Last but not least, government will provide a childcare benefit so parents can actually have some salary left after paying for those crazy daycare fees. The amount you get back from the government (Belastingdienst) is calculated according to your family’s income, the working hours per week of the parent who works the least, the amount of hours your kids go to daycare, and the hourly rate of the daycare center. You can receive childcare benefit if:

  1. You and your partner have a job. Or you follow a reintegration program, a civic integration course or a training program. Or you are an only-parent with a job.
  2. The child care center or childminding agency is registered . In case of childminding services, the childminder and the location of the childminding services must be registered as well.
  3. You concluded a contract with the child care center or childminding agency.
  4. You pay the costs of the child care.
  5. You have the nationality of an EU country, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland. If you are from another country, you need a valid residence permit or work permit.

Most daycares and gastouders are registered, but make sure you ask this when you visit them. Something to keep in mind is that you have to apply for the benefit yourself, and you have to do it within 3 months that your child started going to daycare.

Let’s say you will start working on March 1st 2017, your partner already has a full-time job and you will be working 4 days per week. You choose a registered daycare and your child starts on March 1st. Before June 1st 2017, you must apply for childcare benefit here. Keep in mind you will start receiving the benefit several weeks after you apply and until then you’ll have to cover the full cost of daycare, which for 4 days a week for one child is around 1 120 euros, if you have 2 children under 4 years of age, then you’ll have to double that!! Don’t worry, you’ll get a lot of that money back, but for the first 2 months you may need to use some savings because your salary will be coming in way after you need to pay one or two daycare invoices. Tricky, isn’t it?

A bonus for you! As I mentioned before, at some point my contract wasn’t renewed, my child was going to daycare and I was getting the childcare benefit month by month. So what to do? I was suddenly without a job but wanting to look for one. If I took my child out of daycare then, when would I have the time to prepare a CV, receive calls, apply for jobs, go to interviews, etc? Well, I found out that once you’re receiving childcare benefit, if one of you loses his/her job, you’re entitled to 6 more months of childcare benefit so your children can continue going to daycare and you can try to find a new job.

Hopefully this answers some questions, here are some other useful links:

  1. Calculate childcare benefit your family is entitled to get  (Dutch)
  2. Apply for childcare benefit (Dutch)
  3. Some more details on childcare benefit (English)
  4. ALL AVAILABLE details on childcare benefit (Dutch)
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Sandra Ivonne Treviño Barbosa

Sandra is a mother, a wife and an engineer. She came to The Netherlands to study a Masters degree with the initial plan of returning to her home country, Mexico, after the 2 years program. However, love stood on her way and she has been here ever since. As a mom of two, she spends most of her time with her children and considers Delft MaMa a building block in her adult life. She also works part time as a business intelligence specialist. In her free time, she enjoys connecting with other Delft mamas, crafting and learning all kinds of stuff.

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