Finding the right childcare for your family that suits your child's needs can prove challenging.
There are lots of different options to choose from, which can make the thought of leaving your little one in someone else's hands quite overwhelming.
After spending time at home with bub on maternity leave, the reality of needing to boost your income (or simply a desire to get back to work) pushes many mums out from their cosy cocoons at home and into a world full of waiting lists and rebate red tape.
For the uninitiated, booking childcare can be a daunting process, but this guide will help you make the right choice for your family and budget.
Which care is right for me?
When deciding on the childcare that works best for your family, ask yourself the following questions:
- How many hours of care do I need a week?
- How much flexibility do I require?
- Do I want my child cared for in a home environment or in a centre?
- What kind of qualifications do I want my child's carers to have?
- What learning and education opportunities do I want my child to have?
- Do I want a preschool program to be available to my child?
- What can I realistically afford?
The most popular choice for Australian kids, long daycare centres are usually run by private companies, local councils and community organisations in buildings or part of a building specifically created for use as a childcare centre.
Typically, these childcare centres are open weekdays from 7am to 6pm and some centres have recently started offering weekend and overnight care to cater to shift workers.
Although the age range varies from place to place, they usually accept babies from as young as six weeks old up to school age.
To find out what's available in your neighbourhood, have a look at websites such as www.careforkids.com.au or talk to friends who have children in long daycare for recommendations.
Ask yourself what's important to you – flexible hours, preschool programs or even just the activities/toys available for little ones.
It's important to visit the centres, too. Take a good look around and see if the kids appear happy.
Do they seem engaged? What does the menu look like? Spaces can be limited, so it's a good idea to put your name down on at least four or five waiting lists once you pass the all-important 12-week mark in your pregnancy.
- Most long daycare centres are highly regulated, have an early education component to their programs and provide kids with structure and routine.
- All staff have childcare qualifications.
- They tend to offer sophisticated indoor and outdoor play areas.
- Kids have a team of carers so they're not affected if one carer is ill.
- Many centres are open 50 weeks a year.
- Although expensive, this option is usually cheaper than hiring a nanny.
- Children get to interact with lots of other families and educators.
- Children are grouped according to age.
- Food and nappies are often provided.
- Children receive less individual attention than in a one-on-one situation.
- It's expensive, particularly in metropolitan areas.
- If you're late picking up your child, there is a fee – by the minute.
- Waiting lists in metropolitan areas can be long, up to 18 months.
- Children are exposed to more illness.
- Drop-offs and pick-ups in peak traffic periods can be stressful for tired bubs.
PRICE: Fees range depending on the centre. You can claim some of the fees back
as a Child Care Rebate.
Defined as a home-based childcare service that cares for babies up to pre-teens, family daycare is an arrangement where there are no more than five kids to a single carer.
Typically mums with young or grown-up children, carers are registered with a local family daycare scheme that is run privately or through a community group or local council.
Carers must also have a Certificate III in Children's Services, first-aid and CPR training, training in the emergency management of asthma and anaphylaxis, appropriate clearances for working with children and public liability insurance.
Carers are also visited regularly by qualified staff from their local family daycare scheme, who monitor the children's progress and provide resources, ongoing training and support to the carers. This ongoing supervision helps to ensure that all family daycare centres are able to offer a similar standard of care.
Unlike long daycare centres, family daycare centres are more flexible and, in addition to the standard working hours, can offer care before and after school, in the school holidays and sometimes overnight and on weekends.
To find a family daycare centre in your area, contact your local council, ask neighbours with kids for recommendations or visit www.familydaycare.com.au.
It's an affordable childcare option.
Most children are more comfortable in a home environment.
Carers usually have their own childrenat home with them.
Smaller groups can mean tighter bonds and less chance of illness spreading.
Flexible hours mean you can arrange care to fit around your schedule.
Kids interact with other kids of varying ages (this can be a negative for some kids).
- Formal qualifications are not required in all states and territories.
- You will need to arrange back-up care if the carer is ill or goes on holiday.
- Education programs may not be as sophisticated as those offered in other centres and children may become bored.
- The range of toys, equipment and activities on offer may be limited.
- You often need to provide your child's own nappies and food.
Nannies are the most flexible childcare option as they look after your little one in your own home – and on your terms.
However, this degree of flexibility can also bring a level of personal responsibility that can prove confusing for both employer and employee.
The specifics of a nanny's duties are completely up to you and ultimately depend on your parenting philosophy.
From the start, you will need to give your nanny clear guidelines regarding activities to undertake, disciplinary measures, TV time, sleep methods, nutrition, health and safety and so forth if your arrangement is to work.
It's also crucial to undertake background checks on your nanny and have a contract of employment that clearly sets out conditions such as salary, benefits, hours of work, main duties and responsibilities, superannuation, illness and holiday entitlements and notice period.
- A flexible arrangement that caters to your family's specific needs.
- You decide exactly how your child spends his days.
- Your child receives one-on-one, consistent care and attention.
- Less contact with other kids means less exposure to common childhood illnesses.
- Routines do not change as your child remains in his home environment.
- No travelling for drop-offs and pick-ups.
- Regular outings such as trips to the library for story time or to local swimming lessons can still take place.
- Nannies usually have relevant childcare qualifications and some perform light household chores.
- Your child misses out on a structured education program.
- Less opportunity for your child to interact socially with other children.
- You need back-up care in place when your nanny is ill or takes holidays.
- There's a risk your nanny may leave without notice.
- If you employ a nanny directly (rather than going through an established agency), you're also responsible for paying her tax, superannuation and workers compensation payments.
- Having someone new in the house can compromise family privacy.
- Can be an expensive option.
WATCH: Toddler Spends 3 Minutes Saying I Love You To Departing Dad. Continues after video …
As the name suggests, this is where two or more families share the one nanny, either in one family's home, alternate homes or perhaps just on alternate days.
This option is also all about flexibility for the parents, but with the added bonus of halved costs and shared responsibilities.
- A flexible arrangement (although not as flexible as having a nanny to yourself).
- Shared responsibility with another family to assist with paperwork/red tape.
- Less expensive than a private nanny.
- You only pay for the time you need.
- Strong friendships can form when two families share a nanny.
- Children will have friends to play with.
- It can take a bit of work to find a compatible family that will also fit around your hours.
- You need to coordinate holidays and any other changes in schedule or routine with the other family.
- Disagreements between the nanny and one family can affect the other family.
In Home Care
In-home care is when a professional carer looks after your child in your home.
This subsidised childcare is suitable for kids who cannot attend the more widely available childcare services because they have an illness or disability, or their parent or siblings have an illness or disability.
In-home care is also suitable for families living in remote areas, shift workers who cannot find suitable childcare, or parents who are caring for three or more children under the age of five.
While similar to nannies, in-home carers are also qualified educators, so are equipped to help your child learn as well as be looked after.
For further information and to find an in-home carer, visit www.nica.org.au.