Most parents considering child care are familiar with child care centres and nannies, fewer have heard of family day care. For parents hoping to avoid centre based care, family day care can provide a great alternative by offering a range of stimulating activities in a regulated home-based environment.
What is family day care?
Family day care is a quality, home based early childhood education and care service for children aged from six weeks through to 12 years.
Family day care accounts for 12 percent of Australia's entire early childhood education and care sector with more than 17,000 educators helping to grow and shape the lives of more than 125,000 children around the country.
The core elements of family day care are well aligned with the National Quality Framework, the National Quality Standard and the Early Years Learning Framework, all of which are part of the national legislation introduced in January 2012.
One of the most important differences between family day care and child care centres is the very low child to carer ratios, which allow family day care educators and children to develop very strong bonds. In addition, family day care is the only type of approved service offering 24/7 child care providing working Australian families with flexible full-time, part-time, weekend or overnight care depending on the requirements of the parents.
Educators are normally available on week days, but family day also supports parents with unusual circumstances for example shift workers or people with jobs which require travel.Family day care is also a great option for children with disabilities or special needs and according to the FDCA 30 per cent of family day care educators have cared for children with disabilities.
Sue needed family day care to suit her busy schedule. 'I needed care for my child outside the normal hours and was able to access this with family day care rather than a child care centre, all of whom seemed to close at 6pm at the latest.'
See a summary of how family day care compares with other types of child care in our child care comparison table.
Who provides family day care?
Most family day care services are established and operated by community groups or local government authorities, such as a church or council. Some private for-profit organisations also provide family day care.
The scheme or coordination unit also helps parents choose a suitable educator and is there to constantly monitor children's wellbeing, progress and learning. The scheme / coordination unit can also manage relief care if a family's usual educator is unwell or plans to take leave.
The coordination unit works in a close partnership with educators to ensure they uphold organisational values and meet requirements set by Government legislation under the National Quality Framework. The schemes / units also manage distribution of child care subsidies such as the Child Care Benefit. The Australian Government provides funding to the schemes / coordination units to support the network of educators across the country.
Some educator's are visited regularly by trained fieldworkers who run additional play sessions and offer toy library services to ensure that children have a variety of stimulating play experiences.
How much does family day care cost?
Fees for family day care vary according to location, the educator's qualifications, the hours of care and the age of the child. However, the typical fee range is $6.00 to $10.00 an hour. Some educators provide food, nappies and transport, and these costs will be added to the hourly rates.
In its recent Childcare Costs survey, consumer group Choice revealed that family day care is the most affordable child care option for families with an average daily cost of $57, compared to long day care which has an average daily cost of $80.
For Tina, mother of Chloe, family day care suits her budget: 'Family day care is a cheaper option without compromising on the level of care and attention.'
Financial support is available to families using approved family day care educators through the Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate.
Quality and accreditation of family day care services
All family day care educators operate under the same government framework as all other forms of child care including centre based care. Under the National Quality Framework, family day care educators also have the same formal qualifications requirements as educators working in centre based care settings.
All educators must also pass a police or criminal history check prior to commencing work in family day care and must be fully insured, have a current first aid certificate and maintain a safe environment.
The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is responsible for ensuring family day care services meet the requirements of the National Quality Framework and local coordination units work with individual family day carer educators to ensure high standards across the co-ordination unit or scheme.
What will my child do at family day care?
Depending on the educator and the age of the children, a typical day in family day care may involve:
- Playing with toys and the other children
- Visiting the local park and playground
- Art and craft activities
- Going to playgroup
- Trips to the library or shops
- Listening to music
- Singing songs and reading stories
- Completing homework.
The children will also have meals and time for rest or naps as needed.
How do I find and choose a family day care educator?
When choosing a family day care, think about:
- When you need care. What days and times do you need care?
- Where you need care. How will your child get to and from the educator's house?
- Your budget
- Your child's needs. Are there any special requirements for language, diet, behaviour or development?
- Your values and parenting philosophy.
Contact your local family day care co-ordination unit /scheme to discuss the type of family day care you require. The family day care coordination unit will help you find the right educator to suit you and your child. You can also use our child care search to find family day care and in-home care in your state or territory.
Arrange to visit the family day care educator's in their home to see how they interact with the other children. Take a look around the home and see if the environment feels right to you. Ask to see references from other parents. We have created a family day care checklist with points to consider when choosing a carer.
Family day care can provide a safe, familiar home environment for your child, with flexible routines and quality care. Strong relationships can be built between the child and educator and parents.
‘When I drop my daughter at Family Day Care she gives her educator a big smile and I feel comfortable leaving her,' says Tina.
With thousands of experienced family day care educators in the Australian family day care system, it's definitely a type of child care worth exploring.For further information regarding family day care visit Family Day Care Australia's website.