No matter if you’re new to Geneva or have lived here for several years, when you start looking at childcare system it can give you a headache. In some cases childcare here is quite similar to a preschool Castle Rock childcare system where you are probably from, but there are some differences that you should get to grips with. I certainly got one or two headaches while preparing to write this guide. With a help of glass of wine here and there, I finally understand what is what.
You have two choices now, either grab a bottle of wine, start googling and gain the knowledge on your own or save some time and read this guide (wine or no wine).
L’Accueil Familial de Jour – AFJ, also known as « maman du jour » (a day-mum).
It’s a semi-official day care usually provided by a stay at home mum, who accepts other children of different ages. The commune assures the training and the salary of « day-mums ». The city of Geneva and communes of Geneva Canton each have their own associations that unite the « mamans du jours » working in their area. It is a very popular form of childcare as it combines a cosy home-like environment and company of other children. For prices and availability check appropriate association of your commune.
Nurseries (public and private).
The crèche, as they are called in French, are destined for children aged 0-4. In general children can start attending at the end of mom’s maternity leave up to the age of 4 or school age.
The algorithm used to assign the places is a well-guarded secret of the authorities. What we know is that you have best chances to get in if:
- you enrol at the beginning of your pregnancy,
- if both parents work, if both parents live and work in the same commune of the canton.
- The priority is normally given to families living in the area of the crèche, not to those working in the neighbourhood.
For public crèche in the City of Geneva you apply through BIP (Bureau d’Information Petite Enfance). Most of the nurseries are attached to a certain area (a sector) and provide care only for children living within that area. The few nurseries not belonging to any sectors are for everyone in the City. Don’t be surprised of you’re informed the waiting time is 1 year or more.
Nurseries work Mondays through Fridays, usually 10h a day. You have to register for a minimum of 2 days per week. Prices in public nurseries depend on household income. A minimum price for the full time in public nursery is 1670 CHF.
The rules are more or less the same in communes other than the City of Geneva.
For details check with your local Mairie.
Kindergarten (« Jardin d’Enfant »).
Kindergartens accept from 2 years of age up to school age. It’s very important to remember that your child’s needs to turn 2 before July 31st to be accepted for following September. Children born after July 31st (August-December) will be accepted a year later.
Kindergartens offer half-day care, without nap time or meals, though one snack is offered. You can choose to attend either mornings or afternoons. They are closed between noon and 1:30 pm every day and fully closed on Wednesdays. Minimum attendance is 2 half days.
The application process is exactly the same as for the nurseries, as is the waiting time…
Occasional nursery (halte garderie).
Offers care for children on occasional basis, usually upon reservation. Each halt-garderie has different rules for the age of kids it can host, opening times and reservation procedures.
The most popular one is located in the Old Town of Geneva. The other, « La Zone Bleu » was established to help mothers who are still in school/universities and those looking for a job. Some communes have additional « halte garderies » available for children living within commune’s borders.
Emergency child care
Nanny got sick? Your child got sick and can’t go to nursery but you have this important meeting at work? No problem. There are solutions.
The most popular and trusted one solution is offered by Swiss Red Cross. The other is called « Crèche depannage » (a repair nursery). One of them is located in Champel: Crèche de Dent au Lait, another one is located in Paquis
The least complicated to organize of all possibilities. You can look through agencies, internet groups and boards, friends and even with the Red Cross Geneva (which also has options for urgently needed childcare). Remember to ask your neighbors too. In some instances, more personal help may be available to those who need child care and everything that comes along behind it. An au pair may be the right avenue to go down in this instance, and companies such as Go Au Pair can assist in finding the right fit for you and your family.
L’Accueil Adulte-Enfant, ludotheque
This is not childcare, but can help you maintain sane. These places had been created for parents and children to meet and play. Children must always be accompanied by an adult.