No matter how much time and effort parents put in to finding a child care service, it is almost inevitable that problems will arise at some stage. Dealing with these concerns as soon as they come to hand is the best way of ensuring a satisfactory outcome for you, your child and the care provider.
In Australia child care services are required to develop and follow grievance and/or complaints handling procedures, however, many parents are unaware of this and are unsure about the most effective way of dealing with their concerns.
Make a point of asking your service about its complaints handling procedures before you enrol your child. Where possible you should follow the established procedures when you have a concern.
The issues parents have in relation to their service can usually be divided into two categories. The first group of concerns are personal and relate to individual worries about the care given to a particular child, or differences in belief about the best ways to care for a child.
Some common examples of these kinds of complaints are carers letting children get dirty during the day or not giving children enough to eat. These concerns are best dealt with through direct communication with your care provider or the director of the service your child attends and can often be dealt with through a simple chat when the matter first comes to hand.
The second category of issues regularly identified by parents are to do with child care services which break the rules and regulations governing how they are supposed to operate.
Some examples of rule violations are child care services which care for more children than they are licensed for, the use of inappropriate discipline and leaving children unattended.
The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is the new national body working to ensure that child care services stick to the established rules and provide high quality early childhood education under the new National Quality Framework.
However, the State and Territory Governments are responsible for dealing with concerns and complaints about individual services so if you have spoken to your service about your concerns and feel they are not responding or following the complaints/grievance procedure you can contact the relevant regulatory authority in your State or Territory to complain. Click here to identify who you should contact.
The Importance of Communication
Good communication is a key part of avoiding or reducing complaints and ideally should begin before your child enters the care service. An easy-to-read written agreement outlining how the care arrangement will operate will serve as a reminder of each party's obligations. This agreement should be reviewed regularly to take in to account any changes in the relationship.
Both parents and carers have an obligation to stick to the guidelines set out in this agreement and should work on changing rules which aren't working. Successful compromises can often be worked out when the parents and carers like and trust each other and ultimately this will be in the best interests of your child.
Dealing With Problems
Talking with your care provider as soon as a problem emerges will help you resolve your concerns quickly and effectively, consider the following points before you have the conversation:
- Clearly identify your concerns and know how you would like to resolve them – adopt a problem solving approach to the conversation.
- Be very clear about where you stand on the issue and think about what you would be willing to compromise on and what, in your opinion, is non-negotiable in the development of a solution.
- Be sure to choose an appropriate time and location to explain your concerns. It may not be constructive to hold the discussion in front of your child or other parents.
- Adopt a tactful non-accusatory manner and be sure to cover positives as well as negatives. This will help to reassure the carer that the concern isn't personal.
- Take time to listen to the carer's point of view and make sure you clarify facts and feelings until you arrive at a common understanding of the problem.
- Try to finish the conversation with an understanding about how the situation will be progressed, even if you agree to disagree and decide to move your child to another service.
- Let your care provider know if, in your opinion, the situation improves and if it doesn't either contact your State authority or explore the possibility of moving your child in to another service.
Having regular informal chats with your care provider will help you build a positive, open relationship which should make it easier for you to avoid issues before they arise and address any concerns which do come up.
Remember that maintaining a successful child care arrangement is a two-way partnership that requires your constant involvement. Despite the excellent care available in Australia you may never feel completely satisfied with the arrangement and it is important to establish a comfort level so that you are able to leave your child at the service each day without worrying!