Picking the perfect child care option for your little one is like finding a needle in a brightly coloured, sensory overloaded haystack. Child care options in Australia are mostly about daycare centres but these don’t work for all families. Choosing the types of child care is the first step… then comes choosing the child care provider. It’s not simple because these people will be responsible for nurturing that little mind… unsupervised.
Everything may look okay on first glance, but how do you truly know if your child will be safe and happy in their new environment? Amanda Nicholls shares some tips on how to find the right care arrangement for your family.
What are my child care options?
There are a few different types of daycare available for Australian parents. The two most commonly used are Long Day Care and Family Day Care. Of course there are other available options which can be a better fit for different families, including Nannies, Au Pairs and family members. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. Here’s what you need to know about each type of child care so you can choose the best child care option for you little person.
Long Day Care – AKA Child Care Centre
Long Day Care is also known as a day care centre or child care centre. Child care centres all adhere to the Early Years Learning Framework and provide set curriculum as part of their daily schedule. Your child will be in a ‘ toddler class room‘ style situation where the learning is play based. Child care centres can be government owned or private and operate from 7a.m. until 6p.m. and depending on the services offered (i.e. provision of meals, nappies etc.) the cost varies from $70-$175 per day. To find a Long Day Care centre in your area, click here.
Benefits of choosing a child care centre
- Child will be in a large class where they are able to develop social skills with kids of their choice
- They are run by qualified early childhood professionals or educators with a qualified assistant in each room (meaning your child is rarely alone with one adult)
- They are heavily regulated and constantly audited for quality of care
- Developmental skills such as toilet training, writing and motor skill development are worked into the curriculum
- They are well stocked with play equipment, books and other “fun stuff” so your child is likely to develop new interests and have fun
- They will track your child’s development and provide you with materials and reports to show you where your child is excelling
- The staff are trained to identify any developmental issues and assist with those in conjunction with your health care provider.
- Most childcare centres have extremely cute graduation nights which you think will be silly but are actually the highlight of your year. They also do Christmas shows and other “getting up in front of people’ events to help your child build confidence.
Disadvantages of a child care centre
- They’re germy! For most of the attendees, a child care centre is their first chance to get out into the world of new germs. With no immune system, child care kids tend to catch EVERY DAMN GERM. On the plus side, this means they’ve got immune systems of steel when they get to school!
- They’re inconsistent. Child care centres tend to have high staff turn over. If your child is the type to get attached to an adult easily, and isn’t fond of change, child care centres can make for a more anxious little person.
- They’re daunting. For an only child or a kid who is used to a quiet life, a child care centre can be a sensory overload.
- Your child will get hit, bit and probably peed on at some point. Don’t lose your mind. It’s standard. There’s always a biter in the toddler room. Hopefully your child care centre is responsive and acts upon the behaviour.
- The ratio of educator to child is highest in a child care centre of all child care options. It varies from state to state but your child will get less individual attention in a child care centre than with other childcare options.
Family Day Care
Family Day Care is care that is run by an educator from their own home. Family Day Care operates under the same quality and qualification standards as day care. Carers can accommodate no more than four children under school age in their care during school hours. Parents of children attending Family Day Care are eligible for the government funded Childcare Rebate and the cost ranges from $5.50-$16.80 per hour. For more info click here.
Benefits of choosing family day care
- Child will be in a small group, usually with the same kids every time
- They are run by qualified early childhood professionals or educators
- They have overseeing organisations that you can approach if there’s a problem
- They are usually run by “mothers with qualifications” rather than 17 year olds with a certificate 3. So the care provided will be more “motherly”.
- Smaller groups made up of the same core group of kids means fewer germs, not no germs, but fewer than a giant centre full of kids!
- The smaller group means that busy parents are less likely to send their kid on the brink of a hand, foot and mouth break out to family day care. The family day carer WILL notice where the busy child care centre worker may not.
- Your family day care mum will become an extended part of your family if you find the right one!
Disadvantages of family day care
- Everyone has bad days. Your family day carer is not immune from having a day when the kids drive her nuts. Unlike a child care centre, she can’t ask to be put on “craft supplies” duty for the day. It’s all on her.
- When she’s sick, you’re stuck. There’s no back up plan.
- If your child attends on the same day as a kid they don’t like, there’s no way around it. Your child will not want to go which makes for a very hard time getting ready in the morning.
- Unlike child care centres, your child may be in a group of kids that aren’t close in age. For a four year old, being in a group with three babies is not a good day out!
- There are limited family day care options around, if you can’t find the mum you want, you may have to pick from who is available. Because it’s a close relationship, this can lead to problems down the track.
Nannys are represented by agencies and offer services from full time childcare to more flexible hours depending on their client’s needs. They can negotiate before school hours, during school hours, after school care and evenings. Nanny’s can be expected to accompany children on excursions agreed upon by the family, do school drop off and pick up, and care for the child in the child’s own home. When recruiting the right nanny for your family, meet with the agency and make sure the agency has stringent checks in place for their staff. Interviewing the potential candidates for the position is a must and be sure to get references. Finally, organise a meet and greet with your children to make sure they are happy. The cost is approximately $15-$35 per hour plus an agency fee. To search for a nanny, click here.
Au Pairs are typically young people from abroad who are looking to live with an Australian family in exchange for child care duties and light house keeping. Au Pairs are represented by agencies and must have a police background check done to qualify and they cost approximately $80-$120 pocket money per week (for 40 hours work) plus live in expenses plus a one off agency fee. It should be noted that Au Pairs don’t have any formal training and aren’t recommended for babies younger than 12 months. For further information on Au Pairs, click here.
Demi Pairs are free au pairs and go through similar agencies and checks. They provide 25 hours per week in child care and light housework in exchange for room and board. Usually your demi pair will also get a part time job. Like au pairs, their level of experience and qualifications differ greatly from individual to individual so be sure to choose an agency that can find you the right candidate and then arrange Skype hook ups to chat and get to know her.
Grandparents are a viable option for some families to provide care for their children. The Government has recognised that there’s been a significant increase in parents turning to their parents or in laws to watch their children. Financial arrangements are subject to agreement between both the parent and the caregiving grandparent, however some grandparents may be eligible for Government support with the Grandparent Child Care Benefit. For more information click here.
Child Care Checklist
Your registered child care provider will be required to be compliant with child care laws in Australia. Your nanny or au pair won’t know what those even are. When sending your child out of the home, check that the government is doing their job and that you get a good “feel” for the provider:
- Clean and safe environment
- Friendly and personable staff
- Low staff turnover
- Discuss discipline policies
- Discuss your child’s needs and idiosyncrasies and how they’ll deal with those
- Discuss policies on items like dummies, bottles and potties
- Experienced staff in each room (not all under 20s)
- Education guidelines suitable for your child
- Staff to child ratio is adhered to
- Policies and ethics that reflect your own
- Cost is economical and peripheral services you need are provided (lunch, nappies etc)
- First aid is up to date
- Amenities are suitable for your child
About the Author: Amanda is a magazine editor and an author of children’s books whose secret guilty mummy pleasure is binging on back to back episodes of anything from Gossip Girl to Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead. While writing is her passion, being a mum to her two beautiful girls is what she does best. Amanda’s husband constantly complains that her stories are never ending, a trait which she has almost certainly passed onto her three year old who not only looks just like her mum, but can talk underwater like her too. Hailing from the Blue Mountains in NSW, Amanda is currently loving life as a family of four and spending every minute she can spoiling her girls. Any spare time she has after that is spent playing Candy Crush.
Which childcare option do you use and why? Comment below