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Choosing Childcare – What Are the Options in Australia?

For some women, the prospect of getting out of the house and resuming your ‘BC Identity’ (Before Kids Identity) is both exciting and daunting. Leaving your baby to be looked after by someone else can be hard to get used to. To make it easier it’s important that you make the best decision for you and your family when choosing childcare.

What are the options in Australia? Here we outline those, and show you how they differ:

Long Day Care

Long day care is provided on the premises of a child care centre or creche and offers care between the hours of 7am and 6pm. Some centres vary opening and closing times by half an hour to an hour either side of these times. It is available for children from birth through to five years old.
Children are split into age groups and are cared for within the rooms that are appropriate for their age.

You can enrol your child for either full time or part time care, but the days that you opt for are fixed. This means the days you choose are the days you are required to pay for, whether your child attends or not. It also means that while you have these days booked and are committed to paying for them, the only reason care would not be provided is because your child is unwell or it’s a public holiday. Families are charged, per child, per day regardless of how many hours they spend at care each day.

Family Day Care

Family Day Care (FDC) is a home-based program run by local councils. Carers look after small groups of children in their own homes and can be provided full time or part time. FDC offers more flexibility than Long Day Care, depending on the agreement with the carer so is a useful alternative for shift workers.

It can also be more affordable as parents pay for hours of care, rather than full days. For example, if you book your child in from 9am to 5pm, you will pay for eight hours. Long Day Care charges a full day rate (which is equivalent to 11 hours of care).

The local council oversees the FDC program, so carers are assessed and managed closely. FDC homes are assessed for safety standards and will not be accepted for care in the FDC program unless the environment is compliant. There is a limit to the number of children they can care for at any one time. For example, it may be four preschool children, and two primary school aged children after school hours.

Pre-school / Kindergarten

While this option is traditionally considered the beginning of a child’s education, it is a viable child care option for the year prior to starting school. Recent changes to the number of minimum hours required for a funded kindergarten program, mean that kindergarten is now a viable child-care option for some parents.

Funded kindergarten programs provide 15 contact hours a week, but it is not available in school holidays or outside the set hours. Most programs deliver the hours in three blocks of five hours. Although this can vary depending on the pre-school providing the program. Fees are by term and are around $500 per term.

Private Nanny

Hiring a private Nanny to come to your house to care for your child at home is the most convenient form of child-care, but it can often be the mostly costly. If you have several children it may be financially worthwhile, as the collective centre-based fees can be equivalent to a Nanny’s wage. It may also be the least disruptive for the child.

Whichever option you choose for your family, it is important to be completely comfortable with your decision. Getting used to your ‘new normal’ will be made so much easier if you are comfortable with the child-care option you have chosen and make sure you ask a lot of questions before you decide.

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