On 9 June 2010 the French Senate passed a new law to mandate the creation of “maisons d’assistants maternels” (centres for child minding assistants) providing child minding services from a single venue. The law aims to increase the availability and flexibility of childcare available to parents.
In France, qualified child minding assistants, or “assistants maternelles” hold a state childcare diploma and are subject to regular inspections. Normally, they can look after children either on their own premises or at the home of the parents and they are allowed to look after a maximum of five children at one time.
Such services are normally available to children up to the age of six. Parents can obtain financial support from the Family Allowance Fund (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales- CAF) or the Social-Agricultural Mutuality (Mutualité sociale agricole - MSA) to cover the costs of payroll taxes for their assistant, as well as up to 85% of the remuneration (dependent on family income).
The new law mandates the opening of centres that would host a maximum of four child minding assistants incorporated in a single room, with each assistant able to care for up to four children. While each child must be assigned to only one assistant, the new system allows parents to authorise temporary custody of the child to another assistant practicing in the same house.
These centres have already been trialled in several French départements over the last ten years. By grouping several assistants in one venue, greater security is assured for the parents.
In addition, the greater flexibility afforded by being able to temporarily delegate responsibility for a child to one of the other assistants means that child minding services can be provided for a greater range of hours. This should benefit parents with long or irregular and unpredictable working hours.
The creation of new centres providing child care will also increase its availability by offering a hosting venue to assistants whose own housing does not comply with the regulations for such services. New child minding services will be made available in areas where low demand has so far made it impractical, such as rural areas that do not have the funds to support a crèche.
Currently, France needs to create between 300,000 and 400,000 child care places to meet the demand. The French government has already given a commitment to invest almost €1.5 billion in order to create nearly 200,000 extra child care places for children aged under three by 2012 (100,000 additional places in crèches and 100,000 with child minders).
Detailed information on child care services throughout the country is available on the web site, mon-enfant.fr, recently launched by the National Family Allowances Fund (Caisse Nationale d’Allocations Familiales - CNAF).