There is a comprehensive system of crèches, playgroups and kindergartens in Belgium for working parents. Here’s a guide on how to enrol your child in childcare in Belgium.
Crèches in Belgium
Some expats may be surprised at the young age Belgian parents enrol their children in crèches (public nursery schools) and playgroups. Choosing one is a serious matter, and knowing that your child is properly looked after will make a big difference to your peace of mind.
It goes without saying that visits to the proposed crèches are important, and there are several factors to consider before making your final decision. Is it clean? Are there plenty of toys? Does the staff look competent?
Are the staffing levels always maintained? What do they feed children for meals? What language does the staff speak? If you are already a multilingual family, might another language be too much? Are the parents you talk to enthusiastic about the staff, and do the parents have a good relationship with them? Are the children responded to quickly if they are upset?
As for the crèche itself, it is advisable to inquire about the status of the crèche: Is it an authoritative, certified or subsidised institution? What programme is on offer? Is there a minimum frequentation period? What does the cost of the crèche cover? Does it include food and nappies? Do they cater for special dietary requirements? What are the financial impacts if your child falls ill?
The crèche should want you to come to visit with your child, giving you an opportunity to see how things are run.
Enrolling in a crèche in Belgium
The most important thing to remember is that crèche places go very quickly, and you should reserve your place well before birth.
There are crèches in excellent state with a fully qualified staff that care for children up to three years old. They usually give priority to children whose parent’s work fulltime. They can be used on a part-time basis if required.
The application process for state crèches should start in the fourth month of pregnancy. An interview is organised to discuss how many days a week the child with attend and the date he or she will start at the crèche. Confirmation is sent in the seventh month of pregnancy. Every case is dealt with in chronological order.
The crèches are open throughout the year, usually from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (depending on local working hours), except on weekends and national holidays. The cost varies according to the family income bracket; owners of private crèches, however, set their own price.
The financial contribution for official crèches in the Flemish system cost between July 2005 and June 2006 between EUR 1.31 and EUR 23.31 per day per child, depending on the net joint income of the married, co-habiting or single parent household. There is a tax deduction of up to EUR 11.20 per day.
In the French-speaking system costs range from EUR 1.99 to EUR 28.04, depending on household income, but tax deductions of up to 70 percent are also available.
At official childcare centres there are also reductions granted to parents placing more than one child in the same crèche.
Several of the English-speaking international schools offer programmes for the pre-school age child, increasingly with an exposure to a second language. There are also privately run pre-schools similar to American nursery schools, but the co-operative nursery school concept has currently not caught on in Belgium.
Full details on all areas of Belgium can be obtained from the organisations that supervise and set the national standards:
In addition, O.N.E. and K&G have a list of accepted baby-minders. These organisations also have a library of books, mainly in French and Dutch but some in English and German, on childcare. They may be borrowed free of charge.
Playgroups in Belgium
They meet two mornings a week and the children are cared for by a trained animatrice/animator with the help of a mother (this job is shared on a rotating basis). There are usually no more than 15 children in each ‘Farandoline’. There is a small charge. For information and addresses contact the head office at:
La Farandoline a.s.b.l.
Avenue de Longueville 16, bte 5
Ph: 02 770 8856
Fax: 03 770 7327
Email: [email protected]
Kindergartens in Belgium
Within the Belgium school system, there are kindergartens (écoles maternelles/kleuterscholen) available for children ages two-and-a-half to six years old. These schools are usually attached to primary schools and are open before and after school hours in many locations. They are cheaper than official childcare centres.
Children start primary school at age six. For those parents who choose not to send their children to school until age six, there are private care providers whose services are supervised by O.N.E./K&G (see contact information under Enrolling in a crèche).
Belgian child benefit
You can claim child benefit in the country you are working. You should claim your child benefit in the country where you work because this is the place where you pay your taxes and where you are socially insured.
If you live in the Netherlands and work in Belgium, you will be entitled to Belgian child benefit. Belgian child benefit is paid each month, and you can get Belgian child benefit until 31 August of the year in which your child turns 18. You can also get child benefit for a child ages 18 to 25 if he or she is in education or only has small income from work or receives a social security benefit.
There are cases in which child benefit will be provided in the country you live in. For example, if you and your partner work in different countries you will get child benefit from the country where you and your partner live. If your partner does not work, or if he/she works in the same country as you, you can only get child benefit from the country where you work.
How much child benefit can you get?
Amount per month:
For your first child (basic amount): EUR 86.77
For your second child (basic amount): EUR 160.55
For your subsequent children: EUR 239.72
In addition to the basic child benefit, you will get an age-related allowance for a starting at age six.
How to claim child benefit
You can also claim child benefit from your Belgian employer’s child benefit fund or from the National Office for Child Benefit for Employees (RKW ).
You can also claim child benefit for adopted children or foster children.
Allowance for a disabled child
There is another case in which you can get extra allowance. If your child is disabled you can apply for TOG allowance. The TOG care allowance is for disabled children living at home, and the amount of the TOG allowance is EUR 211.45 every three months.
You can get a TOG allowance if: the child has a mental or physical handicap, lives at home, he/she is over three and under 18 years old, when you are not paid to take care of the child, and when you do not receive any other compensation that is similar to the TOG allowance.
You can claim a TOG care allowance from the SVB office in Roermond: tel. (0031) 475 36 80 40.