If you work full-time, you may need to find a daycare solution for your children. Whether you opt for a babysitter or a daycare facility, childcare in Colombia is not very common, and is generally limited to upper and upper-middle classes. Most Colombian couples where both parents work full-time don't need such services, as other family members are often available to help as caregivers for the infant.
However, options exist in the market. You should carefully examine the alternatives before you, and choose the one that most suits your specific circumstances.
Some of the factors to take into account are:
Early childcare centers are called guarderias in Colombia. Some guarderias are public and subsidized, but these are generally limited to low-income families and their level of quality varies. Private nurseries may receive children starting from as early as 5 months old.
Kindergartens, called jardines infantiles, generally accept children from age 3 to 6, and offer pre-school education. Both public and private kindergartens exist, but as in the case of nurseries, in private ones have better trained staff and offer better services.
Demand for bilingual facilities is high. Make sure to research well in advance which daycare center is right for you and your child and start the registration procedures as early as possible.
You can find daycare facility by taking a walk through your neighborhood, researching online. Civico.com is a great resource to search for nurseries and kindergartens in your proximity. LosMejoresJardines is also an excellent resource to research more in-depth the kindergarten options for your neighborhood and price range.
Recommendations from other parents are the best way to find a good and trustworthy childcare facility. You can meet at playgrounds, parks or online forums.
Also, be sure to visit different care facilities, before deciding on which one works best for you.
Prices vary a lot depending on the location of the facility, the qualifications of the staff and the service level. Most daycare centers that you expect to use are private, as state-owned facilities in Colombia are reserved exclusively for the lower social strata.
Prices in a private nursery may start from 200.000 COP a month (60 USD), but bilingual nurseries may charge as much as 2 million COP (600 USD) per child, not including meals.
Babysitters are generally employed for a short time or a specific occasion, for example when both parents are enjoying a week-end or a night out, but full-time and part-time regular baby-sitters also exist. Many times, a relative or a friend is called in to take care of the child, but for longer arrangements or when they are not available, professional babysitters are needed. In some cases, the duties of domestic employees may also include babysitting, if previously agreed.
In Colombia, Babysitters are called cuidadoras de niños a domicilio, or simply niñeras, and they are usually young women who offer their services as a business. It is advisable to select a babysitter with prior experience and certifications. A babysitter should have civil liability insurance and have at least minimum first aid knowledge.
Babysitters generally cost more than what you expect to pay at a nursery. Moreover, fees depend on the number of children to be taken care of, their age and the hours worked. Bilingual nannies also cost more than only Spanish-speaking ones. Expect to pay around 100.000 COP (30 USD) for a full working day for a local nanny.
However, if you employ a babysitter on a domestic employee regime, be aware that legislation exists in Colombia that requires you to pay pension and social security costs, as well as a paid leave.
If you plan to bring a babysitter from outside Colombia, you will also have to cover relocation fees and the visa costs, that may amount to several thousand dollars.
Word-of-mouth is generally the easiest and most reliable way to find a trustworthy and competent babysitter. Let friends and family know that you are looking for a niñera. You may also post on bulletin boards at local grocery stores, community centers, expat cafés and meeting places.
A great on-line resource is to post on expat classified's, like on Easy Expat's babysitter search.
Other resources may include:
For more frequent childcare, you may consider an au pair. Consult the section on "Au Pair" under "Find a Job".