Choosing Child Care


Choosing the right child care can be a difficult decision for families. Your decision will depend on your family’s needs and the environment you and your child will feel most comfortable with.

As well as providing care, child care services provide an opportunity for your child to develop social, emotional and learning skills. When deciding on the type of care that is best for your child, you may want to ask yourself: • How many hours of care do I need? The whole day? Just mornings? Just afternoons? Just a few hours a week? Or just occasionally, like when I have an appointment and need someone to look after my children? • Do I want my child cared for in a home environment or in a centre? • What kind of qualifications and experience do staff members have? • Does the centre offer a pre-school program? • What is the carer-to-child ratio? • Can I claim Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate if I choose a certain child care centre? Below is a quick description of the different types of child care to help you make your decision.

Long day care

Long day care is sometimes referred to as centre-based care and is generally provided in a building or part of a building that has been created specifically for use as a child care centre. Centres usually operate between 7:30 am and 6:00 pm and offer professional care for children aged 0-6. Children are usually grouped in rooms according to age and developmental stage. Child care is usually available for all day or part of the day at a centre. Some centres offer morning or afternoon sessions.

Family day care

Family day care is where a professional carer looks after your child in the carer’s home. This type of care is sometimes known as home-based care. Carers work mainly with children aged 0-6 who are not yet at school, but can also provide care for older school-aged children. The number of children each carer can have in their home is determined by state and territory government laws. Some carers may offer care overnight or on weekends. This may suit parents who are ‘on call’ or work shifts. Some carers are self-employed but work in partnership with a family day care scheme.

In home care

In home care is similar to family day care but the professional carer looks after the child in your child’s home. However, it is not widely available and usually only an option where other forms of care are not suitable. In home care services are for families with children who cannot be cared for by other child care centres or whose circumstances mean that an existing child care centre cannot meet their needs.

Outside school hours care

Outside school hours care centres provide care for primary school aged children, before and after school (7:30 am -9:00 am and 3:00 pm -6:00 pm), during school holidays and on pupil-free days. Vacation care is a type of outside school hours care that includes indoor and outdoor activities. These centres are sometimes run by the same organisation that runs before and after-school care. Centres are usually located on primary school sites in the school hall and/or playground. Some centres are located in a child care centre, community facility or outside-school hours care centre near the primary school. Many centres offer a snack as well as the Active After-school Communities exercise program.

Kindergarten programs

Kindergarten programs provide a world of carefully constructed play that early childhood experts agree develops children’s abilities and helps prepare them for school. By participating in play, art, music and movement and interacting with others, children develop their social and language skills as well as their physical abilities. Kindergarten services typically operate during school terms, with varying opening hours.

Child care waiting lists

There may be situations where there are no vacancies at a child care centre you wish to use. Some child care centres have waiting lists to help determine the next placement. However, the Australian Government has Priority of Access Guidelines to ensure there is a fair child care system. The system ensures that, where there are vacancies or a waiting list for child care centres, places are allocated to families with the greatest need for child care. These guidelines apply to approved, long day care, family day care, in home care and outside school hours care centres.

Child Care Rebate

The majority of child care centres are approved child care services. This means that families using the service may be eligible for Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate. Approved services must also show that they are meeting certain quality standards. The Child Care Rebate is not means tested but to get it you must first claim for Child Care Benefit. The rebate is paid to you automatically if you are eligible for Child Care Benefit for approved child care.


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