This policy brief aims to assist municipalities in Brazil in improving their childcare systems by strategically addressing their current capabilities, understanding child vulnerability comprehensively, and acknowledging that this reorganisation is a fundamental initial step in addressing childcare access challenges. The findings highlight the variation of enrolment systems in the analysed municipalities, going from examples with no centralised enrolment system in place to those with an enrolment system implemented with prioritisation criteria for the most vulnerable children.

In the less structured contexts, there were transparency issues, potentially opening space for external influence and privileged access for better-informed families. In places where there were prioritisation criteria, the lack of systematisation poses challenges, leading to potential inconsistency, and cultural barriers combined with limited accessibility to the system could diminish its effectiveness in reaching first those most in need. The study also identified diverse systems’ methodologies, with variation on how to order criteria, apply scores, use tie-breaker criteria, and allocate children in education units.

The study outlines policy recommendations covering the external relationships and internal organisation of these systems. Regarding external relations, for the most vulnerable children to access childcare, every education department must build a collaborative approach with other municipal executive sectors, especially health and social protection, as well as with the legislative and the judiciary. Additionally, exchanging experiences with other municipalities and mapping the reasons why families do not search for childcare locally are essential tasks, the learning of which should permeate the whole childcare policy structure.