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Are micro-crèches a “low-cost” type of childcare?

They have bloomed in recent years. Small private for-profit structures welcoming up to 12 children, called “microcrèches”, have opened in the four corners of France. They now represent 12% of crèche places, according to the National Family Allowance Fund (Cnaf), and their number is constantly increasing.

In this context, the recent complaint from a family in the Ile-de-France revealed by the newspaper The Parisian for “abandonment of minors” and “endangering the lives of others” asks: what is really going on behind their doors? Are these low-cost nurseries?

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As soon as they appeared in 2007, microcrèches fed this suspicion, because they are “badly born”, explains sociologist Pierre Moisset, who devoted a study to them in 2021: “They were created by a decree of 2007, taken in a logic of deregulation”, he recalls.

Anyone can become a manager

To open a micro-nursery, there is no need to be a graduate or to have undergone training in early childhood: anyone can become a manager, provided they have the funds. Two different profiles then embark on the adventure. Firstly, “women facing a custody problem for their own children”, as Senator Annick Billon (LR) recalled in a 2015 parliamentary report. On the other hand, private groups very diversely involved in the issue of child well-being: “Today, there are plenty of small networks more or less well intentionedexplains Pierre Moisset. Some are very sincere about the educational quality, others are suspected of seeking above all a profitable investment. »

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Certain safeguards nevertheless exist: for an opening project to be validated, each manager must draft a reception project submitted to the PMI. The latter also has a right to inspect the premises, which must meet the same standards as those of the other crèches. Since last year, the manager must also be assisted by a “technical referent as qualified as the directors of public and associative crèches or to be a childcare assistant with two years of seniority”, argues Elsa Hervy, spokesperson for the National Federation of Crèche Companies.

Actual availability is less

However, there would be a difference from theory to practice, replies the National Union of Early Childhood Professionals (SNPPE). If, on paper, the supervision rate is the same as in the other nurseries, the real availability of the teams with the little ones is less, according to Véronique Escamas, co-secretary. For example, “Only crèches with more than 25 cradles must recruit a cook and a linen nurse. Not the microcrèches, which only accommodate 12 children. Result: one of the two professionals must also cook and take care of the laundry”.

However, this takes a lot of time, in a highly regulated sector: “You have to double-check the temperature of food before serving food to children, disinfect the kitchen, list Véronique Escamas. In short, the professional who cooks can intervene in an emergency when a child falls, for example, but cannot be fully available. »

Younger children?

Another difficulty: the children welcomed in micro-crèches are, in some places, younger than in other crèches. “In fact, all parents want a place in a public crèche for their child, because these structures have a very good reputation and because they cost them less, advances one of them. They arrive at the microcrèche by default and leave it as soon as a place has become available in the public. » Employees are therefore entrusted with many newborns, who require more time and attention than the others.

All these particularities combined would lead to the tension on the teams being sometimes significant, argues the SNPPE. “For my part, I worked on the satisfaction of micro-nursery employees and my results were different, shade Pierre Moisset. Many felt that they found a form of significant fulfillment there. » A large-scale independent study would be necessary to shed light on the practices.


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