Objectives and accessibility
Home-based provision is provided by childminders, who can work autonomously, directly hired by parents, or be part of formal groups called family crèches:
1. Childminder – a social service (Decree-Law No 115/2015, 22 June) provided by a person duly licensed by the Institute of Social Security, I.P. (ISS, IP). For payment, childminders care for children up to three years old or until old enough for pre-primary education. This service lasts as long as work hours or inability of parents or those exercising parental responsibilities (family). 2. Family crèche (Ordinance No 232/2015, 6 August) - social service of childminder within an institutional framework, designed for the care of children up to age of three.
Home-based and centre-based care for younger children (under three years old) falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security - MTSSS.
Childminders aim to provide:
- a safe and familiar environment for children.
- the right conditions for the child’s whole development, in an environment that is both physically and emotionally safe.
- adequate care for the child’s needs and well-being.
According to the regulation (Decree-Law No 115/2015, 22 June), the profession of childminder is subject to the following conditions:
a) to meet appropriate conditions of hygiene and safety, in accordance with the provisions of specific legislation.
b) to have separate spaces in the home that allow for play and rest for children, according to their ages.
c) to have prompt and efficient means of communication with families.
There are no top-level regulations on the total amount of the fees of home-based provision and is generally agreed between childminders and families. In the case of formal groups (family creches), run by private non-profit institutions (with cooperation agreements with the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security - MTSSS) there is public support, updated each year.
The Institute of Social Security’s childminder service were recently covered by Law No 2/2022, 3 January, regarding the extension of free crèche and childminder services.
In line with Ordinance No 198/2022, 27 July, from September 2022, creche and childminder services managed by private non-profit institutions (IPSS) or legally equivalent institutions with a cooperation agreement with the MTSSS, will be free for all children born after 1 September 2021. This includes food, hygiene, educational, recreational and motor skills activities, registration, insurance and after-hours care. Similarly, all children in the 1st and 2nd income bracket benefit from free education, regardless of their age.
Similarly, all children in the 1st and 2nd family contribution income bracket, regardless of their age, benefit from free services as long as the child attends the crèche or is cared for by a childminder.
Requirements for childminders and child ratios
Professional requirements to become a childminder are the following:
a) to have a dual certificate qualification included in the National System of Qualifications, which includes National Qualifications Catalogue short-term training courses in children and youth support services; or
b) to have successfully completed National Qualifications Catalogue the short-term training courses in children and youth support services.
Those who have childhood education or childcare training at higher education level are exempt from other training. Those who have proven experience in childcare, acquired in crèches for at least 12 months in the last two years, are also exempt from initial training.
Childminder preparation should cover a period of initial training, completed by periods of continuing professional development (CPD), which is both theoretical and practical. This focusses on socio-pedagogical activity techniques, educational models, children’s hygiene and cleaning, toys and spaces, as well as preparing food in hygienic and safe conditions, providing basic notions of:
a) adult/child relationship, specifically skills training in positive reinforcement of children's activities and use of rules and limits.
b) child development.
c) daily activities, e.g., food, rest and suitability of spaces.
d) playful activities and artistic expression.
e) health and first aid.
f) prevention of accidents in the home.
g) detection and knowledge of referral process regarding abuse, including negligence, as part of the organisation and structures supporting children’s rights and protection.
h) handling of childcare articles and toys, in accordance with Portuguese and European safety standards.
i) family relationships.
Continuing professional development (CPD) applies to all practising professionals and must be undertaken at least every five years.
In addition to the professional requirements, the following requirements must also be met to become a childminder:
a) to be aged 21 or older
b) to have completed compulsory schooling, in accordance with applicable legislation at the time
c) to have proof of necessary good health
d) to be suitable to the duties
e) to demonstrate affection, emotional balance and motivation to be a childminder.
Professional practice requires the organisation of an individual record per child and activity record. The child's individual record has restricted and confidential access containing: a) a registration form; b) the necessary documentation; c) identification of people who can collect the child and who to contact in case of emergency; d) form for updating data and incidents.
The Institute of Social Security is responsible for verifying the various conditions using home visits and interviews, which are included in a report.
Each childminder can care for up to four children (preferably of different ages), for up to five days a week, between four and 12 hours a day (according to Decree-Law No 115/2015, 22 June). The number of children is defined according to the childminder’s personal, family and housing conditions. To determine the maximum number of children admitted, the childminder’s own children or other children being cared for are considered, up to the age when children begin compulsory schooling. No more than one child with disability can be enrolled at the same time.