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A caregiver is more than a babysitter for your child. The caregiver will take part in some of your child's earliest development and education. Selecting your child’s caregiver is very important, and can be a very difficult decision indeed.

Childcare can be one of the largest costs of raising a child. According to the Vanier Institute of the Family, parents can expect to spend about $52,000 on childcare for their child (that's based on unsubsidized, licensed daycare, from age 0-11). So it often comes down to finding a balance between the optimal setting in which your child will spend five days a week — and what his/her parents can afford.

Childcare costs vary depending on the availability of extended family to care for children and the type of daycare facilities in the area. The need for childcare services will also differ if there is a parent at home, whether there's more than one child in childcare and if your family is eligible for any childcare subsidies.

  • Daycare Centres

    Daycare centres are a moderately priced option for childcare. You may be lucky enough to be employed by a company that offers an on-site daycare as part of its benefits package. Churches, schools and community centres often offer lower-priced daycare. In any case, the centre should be staffed by trained and licensed daycare professionals.

    Daycare centres are an attractive childcare option because they provide a stimulating environment for children and typically have several caregivers working at any given time. But if your child is sick, he/she won't be allowed into the facility, so you'll have to take the day off, too. Daycare centres also may have stiff monetary penalties for early drop-offs and late pick-ups, so if something unexpected happens, you'll pay for it.

  • Family Daycare

    Family daycare (or home childcare) differs from traditional daycare in that the caregiver is providing care in their own home. Since these operations are run from a residence, they are often located more conveniently than other centres and can be much less expensive. Family daycare is often less structured, so you'll want to make sure the caregiver's ideas on playtime, feeding and napping -- as well as their value system -- are a good fit with your own. You'll also want to inquire about and possibly run a background check on the other people who live in the home, even if they are not caregivers.

  • Nannies and Au Pairs

    While usually the most expensive option, both live-in and live-out nanny and au-pair childcare providers have definite advantages: one-on-one attention, the familiarity and convenience of your own home, a consistent companion for your child. And if you go this route, you don't have to worry about getting your child ready and out to daycare before you leave for work. If you pay enough, light housekeeping chores may be included in the deal, too.

    Keep in mind that you will be an employer, so you are legally obliged to withhold money for taxes from their salary, and to make CPP and EI contributions on behalf of your employee. And nannies and au pairs get sick occasionally, so you'll need to make a contingency plan for those occasions.