An Overview of Family Day Care

An Overview of Family Day Care

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Many families considering child care are familiar with child care centres and nannies, however some may be less familiar with family day care. 

For families seeking an alternative to centre-based care, family day care is an early childhood education and care option that provides high-quality early learning in an educator’s own home.

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 10 per cent of Australia's entire early childhood education and care sector with more than 14,000 educators helping to grow and shape the lives of some 131,600 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 key components of the national legislation introduced in January 2012.

Like long day care centres, family day care provides early childhood education and care services for children across Australia and parents who choose family day care are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy

The main differences between family day care and child care care centres are:

  • education and care are provided by an individual early childhood professional operating within their own home
  • educators work with small groups of no more than four children under school age* at any one time
  • educators work with an approved service that carries out regular visits to monitor the children’s individual development and provide support

*An educator may care for 3 additional school age children, outside of school hours

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 and availability of the educator.

Educators are normally available on weekdays, but family day care can also support parents with unusual circumstances, for example shift workers or people with jobs which require travel.

It can be a great option for children with disabilities or special needs due to the smaller groups and strong bonds that are often formed with the educator.

See a summary of how family day care compares with other types of care in our 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 available to 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. The Australian Government provides funding to the schemes/coordination units to support the network of educators across the country.

Educators are visited regularly by trained fieldworkers, with many coordination units facilitating play sessions and offering 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 $7-$10 per hour. Some educators provide food, nappies and transport, and these costs will be added to the hourly rates.

Quality and accreditation of family day care services

As mentioned above family day care operates under the National Quality Framework and educators must meet the same 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, hold 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 care educators to ensure high standards across the coordination unit or scheme.

What will my child do at family day care?

Family day care offers a mix of education, care and recreational programs to suit children of different ages. A typical day in family day care may involve:

  • Reading
  • Arts and crafts
  • Excursions
  • Cooking
  • Drama
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Sport
  • Games
  • Completing homework

The home based nature of family day care will provide children with the opportunity to engage in outdoor activities such as sand and water play in the backyard of their educator's home. Educators will also often take children on excursions to local community events, playgrounds, libraries and organised playgroup sessions.

How do I find and choose a family day care educator?

When choosing a family day care, think about:

  • When you need care
  • Where you need care -how will your child travel 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. You can also use our family day care search to find family day care and in-home care in your state or territory.

Before finalising your choice, it’s helpful to visit the educator's home to see how they interact with children and confirm the setting is right. You can also ask to see references from other parents or check parent reviews on the CareforKids.com.au website. Our  family day care checklist  suggests points to consider when choosing your educator.

Family day care can provide a safe, natural home-based environment for your child, with flexible routines and quality care. The smaller setting can also foster strong relationships between the children, educator and parents.

With a strong network of experienced family day care educators in Australia, it's definitely a type of child care worth exploring.

For further information regarding family day care visit Family Day Care Australia.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 02 October 2019

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