Tips on choosing the right child care service

By Starting Blocks

Are you an expectant or new parent considering enrolling your child into child care? Choosing the right child care service that suits your child’s and families’ needs can be an overwhelming process, considering there are so many options out there. It is also critical because you would want your child to be both safe and happy when they’re away from your home.

This article from Starting Blocks, a government website, takes you through the step-by-step process of choosing a centre.

Step One

Start with thinking about your child care options before you need them, including the days and hours you might need. 

There are various types of child care services and you can choose the one that suits your lifestyle best:

  • Family day care – for children, birth to 12 years. A good option for parents who want their children to learn and play in small groups, in a homelike environment.
  • Long day care for parents that work long days. It operates for at least 8 hours a day, typically Monday to Friday, and caters for children, from birth to five years old.
  • Kindergarten/preschool caters for children aged three to five years and is perfect for parents with children who are almost ready for primary school.
  • Outside school hours care operates before and after school and/or during school holidays.
  • Occasional child care which operates on a casual basis for short periods of time. For children from birth to five years old, it suits parents who would like or need a temporary service.
  • Mobile services that travel through communities to offer occasional, preschool or long day care services in rural, urban and remote areas.

Most services have a waiting list, so it’s best to sign up for more than one option to improve your chances of finding a service you’re happy with.

You could also consider options like families, friends, babysitters and nannies.

Step Two

After deciding what type of service suits your needs, where do you find it? That’s where Starting Blocks comes in. You can visit StartingBlocks.gov.au to find a government-approved child care centre near you. The website’s ‘Find Child Care’ search will also show you the quality ratings for each centre year you.

The quality ratings shown on the Starting Blocks website are those given by the state and regulatory authorities to all approved child care services. This includes services such as, Long Day Care, Family Day Care, Preschool services and Outside School Hours Care.

These services are rated against the seven quality areas of the National Quality Standard:

  1. Educational program and practice -your child is supported to participate in play and learning
  2. Children’s health and safety - your child is protected from illness and hazards
  3. Physical environment - your child plays in a safe and well maintained environment
  4. 4. Staffing arrangements -there are enough qualified staff to give your child the attention they need
  5. 5. Relationships with children - your child is made to feel supported and welcomed
  6. Collaborative Partnerships withfamilies and communities - local community involvement and respect for the beliefs and values of families
  7. Governance and Leadership - your child is cared for in a positive and well managed environment

For each of the seven areas, most services centres will be rated either:

  • Significant Improvement Required
  • Working Towards NQS
  • Meeting NQS
  • Exceeding NQS

Services can also be given an overall “Excellent” rating when they are rated Exceeding in all 7 quality areas.

Research shows quality early education and care leads to better health, education and employment outcomes later in life. So, it’s really important for you to know if the child care centre your child will be attending has the capabilities to contribute to your child’s growth and development.

You can find more information about the ratings at StartingBlocks.gov.au

Step Three

After finding out the details of the potential child care services in your area, it is beneficial to contact the service, book an appointment and meet the educators.

This is a great opportunity to ask educators any questions you might have.

The following questions can help you work out if the service is a good fit for you and your child:

  • What is the ratio of staff to children? Research shows young children benefit when their educators are suitably qualified and able to provide individual care and attention. Higher educator to child ratios allows educators to create more caring and meaningful relationships with children.
  • What is the children’s daily routine and activities? Is there plenty of variety?
  • Are there opportunities for your child to play outside and learn about the environment?
  • How will you be notified if your child is sick or has an accident?
  • How will you be notified about what happens during your child’s day?
  • What are their policies and procedures around sleep and rest, hygiene, medication and sun protection?

Other practical questions include:

  • What hours they operate and if they close throughout holiday seasons.
  • What the drop-off and pick-up times are.
  • What the fees are and if are there any subsidies.
  • Will you be charged fees for public holidays or when your child is not there?
  • Do they provide things like nappies and meals or should you take them from home?
  • Will you be able to visit your child or call them at any time?

You can refer to Starting Blocks’ resource on what to see and ask for at your service or download a printable sheet with all the questions we recommend you ask at the service.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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