Australian families have a wide variety of childcare options available, ranging from home-based care through to specialist care for disabled and vulnerable children.
That being said, it’s not easy for first time parents to make sense of the available choices. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make the right decision for your family.
Home-based childcare is any education or care carried out in the home. This can either be done:
- Informally by parents, family or friends
- Formally by nannies, babysitters, or by certain types of Family Day Care (FDC) or In-Home Care (IHC)
Family Day Care (FDC)
FDC is a flexible form of Early Childhood Education and Care (EDEC) which can be casual, full-time, part-time, overnight, or before and after school, catering to parents who want a more tailored experience for their child.
It’s carried out in the family home by a network of trained and registered early years educators. These are supervised under the Education and Care Services National Regulations.
In-Home Care (IHC)
IHC is similar to FDC, except that it’s provided in the family home rather than in a Family Day Care centre.
Day Care Facilities
Day care facilities provide early education and care for children in a dedicated centre, such as a nursery or a preschool.
Long Day Care
Long Day Care (LDC) takes place in a dedicated centre either as a part-time or a full time option. They offer a range of early years programmes for children.
LDC can also be provided as a “wrap around” childcare option for before and after school as well as during school holidays.
Outside School Hours Care (OSHC)
This is a centre-based childcare programme targeted at primary school age children for before and after school, as well as during the school holidays.
OSHC is usually carried out by private individuals or organisations and typically covers the following times:
- Before school: 7am – 9am
- After school: 3pm – 6pm
- During school holidays: 7am – 6pm
Occasional care is centre-based and can be accessed on an ad hoc basis, making it helpful for parents who work irregular hours.
Preschool (sometimes interchangeably referred to as “Kindergarten” or “Prep school”) is a formal, planned educational programme targeted at children in early years (usually aged between 3 and 5 years old). Preschool can take place in school, a long day care centre, a community centre or even a mobile visiting service.
Preschool usually takes place on weekdays between 9am – 3pm, similar to primary school hours.
Activity Groups and Clubs
This describes the range of other childcare options including playgroups, after-school clubs, and parent and child groups.
Parents of children with disabilities can apply to receive in-home childcare services such as Family Day Care or In-home Childcare.
Early Childhood Inclusion Australia (ECIA) is collaborating with Early Childhood Australia (ECA) to make sure that all children, regardless of their disability, race or gender, have the same opportunities and access to the right childcare.
They work together to support all childcare services to enable them to offer inclusive, safe and high-quality experiences.
To help you find the right childcare programme for your family, first consider your requirements: how many hours you need, available options in your area, your budget, your family values and interests and whether you want your childcare to be at home or in a dedicated childcare setting.
Given the wide range of childcare programmes available to Australian families, you will likely be able to find an option that suits your needs.