Raising children and childcare services in Estonia

Updated 2017-11-27 11:03

Remember that recurring joke in American movies and sitcoms, how parents felt they had to enrol their children in a good school from the moment the child was born to be able to get in? Well, it’s not so much of a joke in Estonia. With the country’s statewide services when it comes to parental benefits and childcare processes being top notch, and taking into account the fact that Estonia is still a small country, municipal kindergartens have such long waiting lists that parents put their children’s names in as soon as they’re born. But Estonia has thought of many ways to make your life as a parent easier.

Daycare (pre-school education) in Estonia

In Estonia, kids stay home until they become 18 months old. And why wouldn't they, when Estonia's unique parental benefit system allows parents to take 435 paid days off work? Thanks to this parental package (which is considered to be one of the most generous in the world), one of the parents can stay at home to raise the newborn child. New mothers can stay at home for three years, during which they will receive a total pay of about a year and a half's worth of the average salary. After 18 months, pre-school education can begin, although should you choose, you can keep your child at home until the age of seven when compulsory education begins.

Estonia's pre-school education system consists of a variety of local authorities and private establishments. From 18 months old to three years old, children can go to daycare (sõim), whereas between three to seven years, they can attend kindergarten (lasteaed). Kindergartens can be municipal or private ' in municipal kindergartens, the Estonian Social Insurance Board and the local government provide financial support for education, transport, and any extracurricular activities. You only have to pay a small tuition fee that's about 10.6-12% of the minimum wage (so around 45 euros monthly) and a catering fee for the cost of your kids' meals that is about 1.5-2 euros a day.

As a parent, you can choose freely the kindergarten you think is best suited for your child. Bear in mind that, in most kindergartens, they speak Estonian ' although there are also Russian kindergartens (where Estonian is also taught) and a few private international kindergartens in Tallinn and Tartu, where English is spoken.

Do you qualify for free daycare?

To be able to enrol your kid in one of Estonia's municipal kindergartens, they must be registered to the population registry and have a personal identification code, which you'll acquire for them once you obtain your residence permit or if you're an EU citizen when you register your place of residence. Registering your place of residence is important because the area you will be living in determines which branch of the local government will provide social services for your family. If you don't have a registered place of residence, you may still be able to enrol your kid in a municipal kindergarten with an ID code from the County Government.

Of course, there's always the solution of private kindergartens, which do not require to have a registered place of residence or even an ID code. Fees for private kindergartens vary, so it's better to consult the kindergarten directly for more information. Just bear in mind that this is Estonia, and the state still wants to help you out ' so if your child is registered, your local government will give you a small monthly subsidy (around or over 100 euros).

The adoption process in Estonia

For thousands of Estonians, adoption is a very personal issue. There are about 1,000 children in the country who live with adopted families, approximately 300 families at any given moment that are looking to adopt a child and an estimated 3,500 children from adopted families who are now grown-ups. Thankfully, they have help ' and so do you, should you decide to adopt in Estonia. NPO Oma Pere (see useful links at the end of the article) is an organisation that represents adopting families. They provide anything from internet and phone counselling to mentoring and family evaluation (which will ultimately help the judge decide whether to proceed with your adoption application or not). But the state helps too ' once you've adopted a child, they provide a one-time allowance of 320 euros to help you start your new family!

Useful links
Estonian Education Information System
Find a babysitter
NPO Oma Pere
International Kindergarten
International preschool of Estonia
Tallinn European school

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.