Looking for high quality child care when and where you need it can be like searching for a needle in a haystack… and the challenge is even greater when you work non-standard or extended hours.
The majority of early childhood services operate from 6am-6pm weekdays, however recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the number of people working non-standard/flexible hours is rising, more than one in three people work extra hours or overtime, and more than one in five are usually required to be on call or standby.
To help working parents, an increasing number of early childhood services offer extended hours care, and you can identify these providers on the CareforKids.com.au website by the moon icon next to their listing.
This article describes weekend, occasional and extended hours care in more detail.
What options are available?
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. Many family day care educators are more flexible than long day care centres with their hours of operation and can make special accommodations for families with particular care needs. Overnight care may be available, depending on the service.
Long Day Care (with extended hours) – an increasing number of long day care centres are offering extended hours care, with earlier and later sessions, and this is a great option for families with non-standard start and finish times. Remember to look for the moon icon next to their CareforKids.com.au listing when researching your options.
If your service doesn't currently offer extended hours, think about approaching them to ask why. It could be that they need a minimum number to make it economically viable. Talking to other families and pinning a notice to canvass support among other parents could help you secure the required numbers.
Nannies and Au Pairs – a great option for those with odd working hours, if you can arrange a live-in option. The main disadvantage to nannies and au pairs is that you need extra space in your house to accommodate them on a long-term basis and they can be more expensive than group care arrangements.
Babysitters – although some people are now professional babysitters and pretty much operate the same hours and charge the same fees as nannies, babysitters are usually an ad hoc solution to out of hours care. If you have a great babysitter and would like to use their services on a regular basis, talk to them about a regular commitment and negotiate a rate of pay which works for both of you.
Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care – this is a flexible service which provides high quality child care on an occasional or ad hoc basis from as little as one hour to a full day. Parents only pay for the time their children are in care. Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care centres are family grouped and licensed for children from birth to five years old. A growing number of established long day care are now also offering parents the option to book Occasional, Flexible or Casual Care on an as-needed basis.
In Home Care – this is a flexible form of child care where quality early childhood education and care is provided in the family home by a qualified educator. This type of government-subsidised child care is for families that can't use other mainstream child care options because they:
- Work non-standard or variable hours, or
- Are geographically isolated, or
- Have challenging or complex family needs.
You might be eligible for an In Home Care place if you meet at least one of the above criteria, are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy, and can demonstrate that other types of approved child care services aren't available or appropriate. In Home Care Support Agencies assess families' eligibility and allocate places.
Kid share - another option is to network with colleagues and friends in a similar situation and see if you can negotiate an ongoing kid share arrangement where you take turns minding each other's children. Although these arrangements take time to negotiate and the logistics can be complicated to implement, they are cost-effective and can work very well in the long-term.