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by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Having decided your child will go into childcare, you are faced with deciding on the type of care best suited to your circumstances. Following is an introductory list to the various childcare options available in many parts of Australia.

 Private Arrangements

 This includes care by family and friends, for fees or otherwise, as well as people who have some children in their home under private arrangements.

 For those with this option, this is often a good starting point for childcare as both parents and child find it more familiar. Depending on the arrangements, this can also be the cheapest option such as when Grandparent care for the child for free.

 There is flexibility in times and generally no paperwork, so it is easy to set up. However, unless the carer registers, you will not be entitled to any Child Care Benefit (CCB) on any fees charged.

Child Swapping

 No, this isn’t some strange pagan ritual!

 Child swapping is a cheap and convenient means of getting some childcare, especially for SAHMs. Basically, you look after a friend’s child for a particular time and they care for your child at a different time.

 This is a great way to get some time out, go to the gym or supermarket, a meeting or even work. As long as both friends are reliable, it works well; you know your child’s carer beforehand and it is often easier to care for two children of the same age than one.

 It perhaps doesn’t work as well if one child naps during the allotted time and the other doesn’t.

Family Day Care

 Run through local councils, Family Day Care (FDC) involves the care of young children in private homes by selected carers. Each carer is limited to four preschoolers at a time and is monitored by Council Staff.

 Again, there is flexibility in hours and days (depending on the carer’s availability) and the home care is personal. Many carers develop a close relationship with the children and become like extended family. This is also a fairly cheap option – in Victoria, it currently costs $3.70 per hour prior to CCB deductions.

 Each carer is different and there are often waiting lists at the council, so it may take a few weeks or months to find a suitable carer for your needs. Illness or leave by your carer can be disruptive, but often the council will find a substitute carer for the period.

 Most councils also run playgroups for carers to attend so that the children experience larger groups as well.

Nanny/Au Pair

 Although this is not the cheapest option, it has a lot of appeal in some cases. For multiple children, it does become less expensive per child and thus of more interest to some parents.

 There is the convenience of not having to pack up the children and take them anywhere else as the Nanny comes to you – an au pair is even more convenient as she lives with you. The children remain in a comfortable environment and have the same sort of individual care they would have with a parent at home.

 It is particularly useful for parents with unusual working hours or special requirements. Au pairs and some Nannies may also do other chores during the day for you.

 Depending on how you organise things, however, you will also need to take into account holidays, superannuation, liability and sick leave.

Occasional Care

 Genuine occasional care is a short-term arrangement where a number of children are cared for in one centre by a number of staff. Different regulations apply to different locations and age groups, but all centres need to be assessed and monitored by the Department of Humans Services (DHS.)

 Occasional care can be found at gyms, shopping centres, neighbourhood houses/community centres and independent organizations. Prices, hours, inclusions and so forth can vary widely between centres so it can pay to look around.

 Despite the term “occasional”, many such centres require bookings and regular usage (eg book for a term at a time) whilst some require a booking up to a week in advance. All centres with booking systems are likely to expect payment whether or not the child attended a booked session. There are some occasional care centres without bookings that are true to the term “occasional.”

 Some full day centres offer “occasional care” where they will take non-regular children during absences.

 One advantage to centre based care is that illness by the carer is unlikely to prevent the centre being available to you as per usual. It is also valuable for children needing more social interactions and can provide more experiences and activities than would be experienced in many homes.

Full day Centre

 There are now many childcare centres around Australia. Whether your child is booked in for one or five days, it is usually for the whole day. This is a professional arrangement and these centres are businesses. Centres are divided into rooms by age of the child, and staff ratios vary between the rooms.

 These centres will provide meals and nappies for the time the child is in care, as well as supervision and comprehensive programs. Some centres have outside parties come in to teach various activities, so it is up to the parents to decide whether this is an important factor for them.

 As for occasional care centres, there are the advantages of fewer disruptions by staff illness but there are disadvantages of staff leaving and changing. The children get to play with a number of other children and experience different activities.


 If your child is in care and you take holidays, what happens? In most cases, you will still have to pay for the care in order to reserve your spot for after the holidays. This would not apply to some private or child swapping arrangements, nor in genuine occasional care.

 Most childcare arrangements will continue during school holidays, but some small community centres may not.

 School aged children can be cared for in a number of school holiday programs run through schools, recreation centres and various community centres.


Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses in preparing all written documentation and web site content. Tash also writes parenting and business articles for inclusion in newsletter and web sites.
© 2004, Tash Hughes

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