There are is certain number of public services in France designed to support families.
Foreign nationals legally residing in France with minor children are entitled to family benefits.
In order to receive family benefits, you must meet the following conditions in addition to the childcare and means-tested conditions that apply to certain benefits:
- You and and the children for whom you are responsible must reside in France on a regular basis,
- If you are a foreign national who is not not a citizen of the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you must prove the validity of your residence in France and prove the validity of your children’s entry into France if they were born abroad.
The “Caisse d’allocations familiales” (CAF - the Family Branch of the French Social Security System) is the national organization that supports families in their day-to-day lives.
It can be used by families with at least 2 children or parents of children under 3 years. The conditions for eligibility are based on conformity of entry and stay of researchers and their families, the number of children and the level of their past and current earnings.
This allows researchers to get their children recognised by the Caisse d'Allocations Familiales (CAF) and to receive family benefits.
On the other hand, persons holding a Visa D mentioning « Dispense temporaire de Titre de séjour » (Temporary exemption from residence permit) will not be able to benefit from CAF family benefits.
The following services are available:
Monthly allowance for families with more than 2 children below the age of 20
A birth bonus for children born in France
Financial aid for childcare for young children
Price reductions for extra- curricular activities.
In order to receive this finacial help, the parents must carry out certain procedures with his or her Caisse d'allocations familiales (Family Benefits Office, CAF). Family benefits are paid on a monthly basis.
Try to make a simulation using the CAF simulation tool on its website (in French only) or/and contact your EURAXESS Centre for more advice.
There are various child-care solutions available to you if your child is below school age. The use of these services requires the payment of fees, and the cost for the family is calculated on the basis of your income.
Different types of child care also exist for children of school age (after-school activity centres and during the holidays).
For children under 3 years old there are different forms of childcare that are eligible for assistance from the CAF.
Group child care:
- “Crèches” are collective care organizations that often have long opening hours (from 8:00 to 19:00) but have limited places (waiting lists, social criteria). Whether public, private or associative you must prepare in advance in order to obtain a place in a “crèche”.
- Daycare centres sometimes accept (for a few hours on certain days of the week) children under the age of six months in order for the parents to pursue personal or social activities.
Individual child care:
- The other alternative, the most common, is to use a childminder certified by the young children’s service (Departmental Council) and he or she must have undergone training in child care and must meet certain conditions, particularly in relation to child care. They look after 1 to 4 children, under the age of 3 years, in their home. Some group together in “mini-crèches” in order to share facilities and welcome more children. Prices vary but cannot exceed the fixed rate of € 48.05 gross per day.
- It is also possible to hire childminders in your own home at much higher rates.
In addition, the Relais d’assistant(e)s maternel(le)s is a place where you can get information, meet others and talk to staff who serve nannies, parents and childcare specialists.
Schooling in France is compulsory for ages 6 to 16. Education is free in public schools and paid in private schools, but the curricula are the same, as they are established at the national level.
Most schools offer lunchtime catering services for pupils and, in the case of nursery and elementary schools, pre-school or after-school childcare services.
- French education system by age:
> Crèche for babies under 3 years old
> Nursery school from 3 to 5 years old
> Primary school from 5 to 10 years old
> Secondary school from 11 to 14 years old
> High school from 15 to 18 years old.
To understand better, please see the website Service-Public.fr and the bilingual presentation of the French school system.
- Public and private education
In France, education is mainly provided by public establishments or private institutions with a contract with the State. Public establishments are free, not including costs for school meals, child care and extra-curricular activities.
School inscription can be carried out throughout the year even if the child arrives in France outside of the normal school starting period (end of August, beginning of September). Private establishments apply their own rates. There are two types of private establishments: those with a contract with the State and those without a contract, which are rather rare.
Schools are chosen depending on the town and district of residence, and therefore the choice cannot be made before arrival in France.
How to enrol your child in a nursery or primary school?
Enrolment can be done throughout the year even if the child arrives in France after the beginning of the school year (end of August or beginning of September). The school in which your child/children will be enrolled depends on the city and the district of your residence, so the enrolment cannot be made before the arrival to France.
You need to contact the town hall of your place of residence, which will make an appointment for a preliminary interview prior to registration. At the end of this interview, your child/children will have to take tests in their mother tongue or in French if they speak it.
For more information, see this article.
- Extra-curricular care, extra-curricular activities and care/leisure activities
Through local associations most schools offer a childminding service and extra-curricular care after class, in priority for those parents who work. In general they are held from 7:30 until the start of class, then from the end of class until 18:30.
In the same way, children can be looked after for a half day per week, on Wednesday afternoons, for an extra-curricular activity within a school environment.
During the school holidays, children may be looked after on the school premises while partaking in leisure activities. This type of service must be the subject of prior request formally made with the submission of a file.