An overview of family day care

Published on Monday, 05 December 2016
Last updated on Wednesday, 08 December 2021

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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. 

What is 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.

Family day care provides early childhood education and care for babies and children aged from six weeks through to 12 years.

Government figures show that family day care accounts for 8.2 per cent of Australia's entire early childhood education and care sector, with 107,670 children attending 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 Law and Regulations for children’s education and care.

Like long day care centres, family day care provides early childhood education and care services for children across Australia.

There are three main differences between family day care and child care centres, though.

At family day care:

  • Education and care is 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 are registered with an approved family day care service that carries out regular visits to monitor the children’s individual development and provide support

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

Parents who choose a government-approved family day care, and meet other eligibility criteria, get the Child Care Subsidy. This reduces the fees they pay for both regular and around-the-clock care.

Flexible full-time, part-time, outside school hours, evening, weekend or overnight care is all possible at family day care, depending on the requirements of the parents and availability of the educator.

Educators are normally available on weekdays, and they may also support parents with unusual circumstances, for example, shift workers or people with jobs that require travel.

Family day care can also 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.

You can see a summary of how family day care compares with other types of care in our comparison table.

Who provides family day care?

Each family day care educator registers with an approved family day care service, which guides and supports them as they deliver child care in their home.

The approved service may be established and operated by a community group or local government authority, such as a church or council. Some private for-profit organisations also provide family day care.

The service helps parents choose a suitable educator and it is available to monitor children's wellbeing, progress, and learning. The service can also manage relief care if a family's usual educator is unwell or plans to take leave.

The service works in a close partnership with its educators to ensure they uphold organisational values and meet requirements set by government legislation. Educators are visited regularly by family day care coordinators, and they receive support and opportunities for professional development.

Many services provide access to resources and equipment, and facilitate playgroup sessions, to ensure children have a variety of stimulating learning and 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 $7.50 to $16.80 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 there are qualification requirements for educators, as in centre-based services. Family day care educators must hold or be actively working towards at least an approved Certificate III level in education and care qualification (South Australian educators must hold this).

All educators must maintain a clearance for working with children (including a police/background check) and they must be fully insured. Educators must also hold a current approved first aid qualification and have undertaken anaphylaxis and emergency asthma management training. They need to maintain a safe environment.

The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is responsible for administering the National Quality Framework for children’s education and care, and family day care is assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard.

Coordinators from each family day care service work with individual educators to ensure standards are kept up across the board.

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 service to discuss the type of 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.

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