Can't get into a licensed daycare centre? Here are 5 alternatives

The odds are stacked against parents hoping to get a licensed childcare space for their kid before they are even born.

There was only enough room at regulated centres for 28.7 per cent of all Canadian newborns to five year olds in 2016, according to a recent report by the Childcare Resources and Research Unit, and some of those 636,157 openings were only part time.

And for those who do get a space, the cost of regulated childcare in a centre for an infant, the most expensive type of care, can run as much as $22,848 a year, based on 2017 data from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

For parents who don't nab a coveted spot, there are other options such as hiring a nanny, a home daycare, having a relative take care of your child or staying home for either the short or long term.

Some solutions may save you more money than others; however, there may be drawbacks that are not worth the extra dollars in your pocket.

Home daycare, licensed or unlicensed

PRO: Often cheaper than centre-based daycare options

CON: If unregulated, there is no oversight for health and safety standards

About 31 per cent of parents in Canada use a home-based daycare, whether by choice or by necessity, according to a 2011 Statistics Canada report.

For some parents, a home-based daycare is more appealing than a more formal environment because of flexibility on drop-off and pick-up times, as well as the intimacy of a smaller group.

Some home-care providers take the kids to drop-in programs and other larger-scale environments to encourage group social skills, but the degree of involvement can vary.

The cost of home-based care also has a wide range, depending on the child's age, location, and if it is government-regulated.

At the most expensive end of the range, the median monthly fee for an infant at regulated home daycares in Toronto was $1,020, or $12,240 per year, according to the CCPA report.

That's still 46 per cent cheaper than $1,904 median monthly cost at a regulated centre.

Unregulated home care may be available at much lower price points, but such arrangements often go unreported and the information is largely anecdotal, said Martha Friendly, the executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit.

Because unlicensed spots have no government oversight, she said parents are responsible for ensuring appropriate standards, she said.

Nanny

PRO: More flexible, potentially cheaper if costs are shared or taking care of multiple children

CON: More expensive for one child than regulated childcare at a centre or home

Another option for childcare to hire a nanny to live with a family or care for their child during the day. Private care such as a nanny or a family member was used by 28 per cent of families, according to 2011 data from Statistics Canada.

The arrangement offers more flexibility than a regulated childcare centre because parents can set the hours.

A live-in nanny's wage ranges between the provincial minimum wage and as much as $20 per hour according to CanadianNanny.ca.

In larger cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, the pay range is between $14 and $18 per hour, or as much as $20 per hour, according to the platform that matches nannies with potential employers.

If a nanny works 40 hour weeks, four weeks a month, at $20 per hour, that amounts to $3,200 per month. That's 70 per cent more than the median cost of regulated infant child care in a Toronto-based centre, the most expensive end of that range.

And that $3,200 figure doesn't include the employers' employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan contributions, said personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq.

All in, the total annual cost of a nanny could be more than $31,000. Parents will also need to find and potentially pay for alternative care when their nanny goes on vacation, or arrange for their own vacations to coincide, Ahmed-Haq added.

Nanny share

PRO: Cheaper than hiring a nanny on your own

CON: Can be difficult meeting both families' needs

A more budget-friendly nanny option is a nanny-share arrangement, in which two or more families split the cost of hiring someone to care for their kids. If parents opt for this route, they should only pay slightly more than half the cost of a nanny taking care of one child, said Ahmed-Haq.

This option can be cheaper than high-end daycares and can allow nannies to earn a slightly higher salary. But having two families with differing values and needs can lead to disagreements. For example, one family may need care early in the morning while the other child's parents work late nights.

"That person then has two bosses and that can be a difficult dynamic," she said.

It also potentially means working out an arrangement on where the care takes place.

Having a relative help

PRO: Likely unpaid, or minimal cost

CON: Less control over child's care

Some families are lucky to be able to rely on a grandparent or other relative to take care of their children. However, unlike when hiring someone to look after your kid, parents can't dictate they types of activities they engage in, whether that's going to a drop-in program or watching television all morning.

"You're not paying them, so you don't have a right sometimes to tell them exactly how to manage the day," said Ahmed-Haq.

Staying home full-time

PRO: No, or reduced, child care costs

CON: Reduced opportunities or growing future earning power if at home full-time

The option to have one parent stay home with the child or multiple children themselves saves money upfront but limits future earning potential because it takes them out of the workforce.

For example, by the age of 40, mothers who had a career interruption of more than three years were earning 30 per cent less than women who did not, according to 2004 data from Statistics Canada.

Add this in after... "limits future earning potential because it takes them out of the workforce."

Families with a stay-at-home parent accounted for 18 per cent of couple families with children in 2015, according to Statistics Canada.

The parent at home also saves commuting costs, and other work-related expenses such as meals purchased when not packing a lunch, said Ahmed-Haq.

However, depending on the type of career that parent has, being away from the workplace means missed opportunities to boost future earning power.

"When you take yourself out of the workforce, you take yourself away from possible promotion, possible salary increases, and possible job opportunities," she said.

Working part-time, however, can be a good option, allowing parents to maintain a connection to the workforce. But this arrangement may not be available, depending on the employer or type of role.