Child care options guide

How do you find quality child care that matches your requirements?
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  • Updated:1 Sep 2009

02.Types of childcare and alternatives

What type of child care?

The quest for child care firstly involves matching the most appropriate type of child care with your family’s specific requirements, and then deciding on the best individual service available to you within that child care type.

The main types of formal child care are:

Alternative childcare options are:

Long day care centres – birth to 5 years

Long day care centres—also called day nurseries, day care centres or creches—provide child care for children from birth to 5 years in a group setting. Care is usually available full-time or part-time and extended operation hours provide support for families who work or study.

Care arrangements vary in long day care centres. Children may be organised into small family groupings or, in larger centres, children will be grouped according to their age.

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Family day care – birth to 12 years

Family day care provides home based small group care for children from birth to twelve years, the other children may be older or younger than your child. Care is usually full-time or part-time but may include up to 24-hour care, occasional care, emergency care and before- and after-school care.

Family day care workers are organised and approved by a sponsoring family day care agency—usually a local council. The carers are supported and supervised by regular visits from the co-ordinating unit. The coordination unit puts parents in touch with several family day care workers who they can visit before making a choice. In most schemes carers aren’t employed by the co-ordinating unit; they’re self-employed.

There are regulations governing the number of children a family day care worker can care for, and schemes must comply with safety guidelines and restrictions which apply to the carer’s home.

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In home care

This is care in the child’s home and is targeted at families who cannot use other forms of approved care including families

  • with three or more children under school age
  • who have a child or parent with a disability
  • who work non standard hours
  • in rural or remote areas

The program operates in the same way as family day care. Government support with the cost of care is available for in home care.

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Pre-schools and kindergartens

Pre-schools and kindergartens are the oldest type of child care in Australia, traditionally they’ve provided only shortened day care, which isn’t ideal for many working parents.

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Before and after-school care and vacation care

This type of care is provided for school-age children, often while their parents work or study. Care, including age-appropriate activities, is provided before and after school, on pupil free days and/or in school vacation periods.

Services generally operate in primary schools, community centres or halls.

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Occasional care

This type of child care is provided on an occasional basis in purpose-built centres, neighbourhood houses or parent co-operatives. There are generally restrictions on the number of hours occasional care can be used by any child each week.

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Children with special needs

Supplementary services are available for children with special needs through the provision of a special program, training and/or facilities. Discuss your child’s special needs with your different services and their eligibility for support or funding.

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Informal child care

Having a relative or friend care for your children can be a flexible and inexpensive arrangement. You’re leaving your children with someone both you and your child know and trust—you know exactly how reliable the carer is.

Grandparents are the largest providers of informal care. While grandparents may enjoy this caring role, it has the potential to affect aspects of their lives such as their income, health, or access to free time, particularly if they provide large amounts of care.

Consequently the downside for parents may be guilt and worry about the wellbeing of the the grandparent and anxiety about how long they’ll be able to continue.

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Nanny or babysitter

Employing a nanny is one way of ensuring your child can be cared for at home. Stability and convenience are the major advantages, while finding the right person and the cost are the major disadvantages. One way to reduce costs is to share a nanny with another family.

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How to choose a nanny
  • Ask for a CV and look at the person’s work experience over the last five years. Enquire about any unexplained gaps. Ask for references and speak to the referees directly.
  • Ask in-depth questions, including “Why did they leave your employment?” and “Would you employ them again?”
  • Request a current Criminal History check. In some states you can request a Working with Children Check or Blue card.
Your obligations as an employer include
  • Salary and tax. You have to provide pay advice records and PAYG payment summaries (formerly group certificates) and submit PAYG tax.
  • Superannuation. Domestic workers who work more than 30 hours a week are entitled to super at the specified rate.
  • Holiday leave and sick leave. There are minimum leave entitlements for full-time and part-time employees, which vary from state to state.
  • Insurance. It’s strongly recommended that you have insurance that covers domestic employees in the event of injury in the workplace (your home) or on their way to and from work. For details of what you need regarding insurance go to the WorkCover website for your state.
  • Negotiate and document these details in an employment contract or agreement, along with details such as roles and responsibilities required and notice period.

Nanny agency services

A good nanny agency can make the process faster and easier, as well as provide peace of mind. However, it’s an unregulated industry, so it pays to do your research.

Choosing an agency checklist 
  • How long have you been in business and how much experience in the industry have you?
  • Where/how do you source your nannies?
  • What child care qualifications and/or experience do nannies have? Do they have first aid certificates?
  • Do you provide your nannies with training?
  • Do you insure the nannies on your books (WorkCover and/or public liability)?
  • How detailed is your screening process (Checking of references and qualifications, police checks)?
  • How do you go about matching nannies to families?
  • What support will I get during the recruitment process?
  • Do you assist with drawing up the employment contract between family and nanny? Can you give advice about employment law and my responsibilities and risks as an employer?
  • What ongoing support do you provide families? Do you offer back-up support if a nanny gets sick or fails to show up?
  • What costs are involved and what do they cover? Usually this includes a registration fee and /or a placement fee. The agency may have an arrangement where you pay the placement fee in two instalments — the first when you accept the nanny and the outstanding amount payable once a trial period has passed.

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