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  Finding quality and affordable child care remains the number 1 barrier preventing mums & dads from returning to work. mums@work’s child care service can assist you to; explore your care options; source a child care provider and will provide answers to the common child care questions many working parents have.

Child Care Benefit is a payment to help families who use approved and registered child care. All eligible families can receive some Child Care Benefit. If you would like information about approved child care services in your local area, contact the Child Care Access Hotline on 1800 670 305.

 
  how do I choose?  
  Choosing childcare for your baby can be one of the most important decisions you make as a new parent. Therefore, it is important that you thoroughly research your available options. Try discussing the types of childcare you may prefer (and can afford) with your partner or family, as well as what might suit your family’s needs (and that of your baby).

Whoever you choose to care for your child, you must feel comfortable with your decision. The primary goal for most parents is that their child will be cared for in a nurturing, safe and stimulating environment. Planning is the key to a successful placement and you should start this planning well in advance of you needing the care. Many childcare centres and Family Day Care schemes have long waiting lists, and other options such as selecting a nanny can be very time consuming.

Visiting and talking to the carers will be your best chance of finding the perfect place for your child. If possible try to drop into the centre or Family Day care home outside of your appointment time so that you can see how things “really” work and try to visit at a couple of different times of the day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you’re entrusting these people with your baby. For example, ask to see the meal prepared for that day, take a look at the nappy change area and assess its cleanliness, ask to see the baby’s sleep area, ask questions about how the staff would respond to a specific first aid or safety situation.

Here are a few other points to consider when thinking about each option.
 
 
  Do you want individual care for your baby?
  What sort of interactions will my child have with the carer?
  Am I able to drop in unannounced and be made feel welcome?
  Will the carer be able to meet my child’s individual needs?
  Can you be flexible and provide alternative care if your arrangements break down?
  What hours of care will best suit your needs?
  Is cost a factor in your decision?
  What skills does the carer possess? For example, First Aid certificate, qualifications in Childcare.
  What is the policy for when my child is absent?
  What are the health policies and are they adhered to?
  What facilities and resources are available to help my child develop socially, creatively and developmentally?
  What about toilet training?
  How are safety and professional standards monitored?
 
  your choices  
  The most common types of childcare available in Australia are:  
 
  Private arrangements
  Family day care
  Centre based child care or long day care
  Occasional care
  Pre-school
  Nannies, au-pairs, babysitter
  In home care
 
  private arrangements  
  This includes care by family and friends, for fees or otherwise, as well as people who have some children in their home under private arrangements.

For those people with this option, this is often a good starting point for childcare as both parents and child find it more familiar. Depending on the arrangements, this can also be the cheapest option.

There is flexibility in times and generally no paperwork to complete. However, unless the carer registers, you will not be entitled to any Child Care Benefit (CCB) on any fees charged.

 
  family day care  
  Family Day Care is a government regulated and accredited service that provides care for children up to the age of 12 years within the registered carer’s home. Carers are offered support through an established network, either local government, church or a similar community body but are not required to have any formal training. Registered carers are selected & monitored by professional Childcare Coordination Unit Staff. The Family Day Care coordination unit provides both a supportive and a training role for carers to assist them in maintaining quality childcare and ongoing personal and professional development.

The age of the children in care will determine the number of children a Family Day Carer can accept. The maximum number of pre-school aged children is 5. This small number allows for more individual care in a home environment. As there are only a few children the spread of germs is generally less than in a childcare centre.

A benefit of Family Day Care is, depending on your particular carer, you can arrange flexible hours including overnight stays, weekend care, after school hours, part time and holiday care. This is useful for those mums and dads who work shift work.
In most Family Day Care situations you will need to provide all of your child’s food and drinks for the day.

You can receive the Child Care Rebate while using Family Day Care. One disadvantage of Family Day Care is that if your carer is ill you will need to make alternative arrangements for your child’s care. Also you should be aware that as there is only one carer on duty at any time, there is no daily monitoring of performance and standards and there may be short periods of time when your child may be unsupervised while the carer is attending to the needs of the other children.
 
  centre based childcare or long day care  
  Long Day Care centres are facilities that are operated by either private or government bodies and provide care that covers the normal working day for parents. Hours of operation broadly fall into 7.30am to around 6pm (of course each centre will have its own business hours) and most are open 10 hours per day Monday to Friday. They must be licensed by the Department Of Community Services to operate.

Childcare places seem to be few and far between and you may need to place your name on a number of waiting lists (which can be quite long) and this will normally incur a waitlist fee.

Daily fees will vary a great deal between each centre and you will need to establish what is being provided as part of the service. For example:

 
 
  Will all meals be provided?
  Are nappies included in the fee or will I need to provide my own?
  Do I need to provide a sheet set for rest time?
  Be aware, in the event that you are running late at the end of the day most centres will charge a late pick up fee. Find out what their policy is in advance.
 
  Australian parents should be able to receive the Child Care Rebate through your childcare centre. This can be as a reduced daily amount or as a lump sum at the end of the financial year. For more information about the Child Care Benefit visit the Family Assistance Office website at www.familyassist.gov.au or phone 13 61 50.  
  occasional care  
  Occasional Care is exactly that, it’s for occasional use and available for 0-6 year olds. Many mums use this care for casual appointments, study, and casual work or just for the occasional break from the kids. It is often provided by community groups, churches, or local councils. The staff at an Occasional Care centre are not necessarily trained in childcare and some may be volunteers. Despite the term “occasional”, many such centres require bookings and regular usage whilst some require a booking for up to a week in advance. All centres with booking systems are likely to expect payment whether or not the child attended a booked session.  
  pre-school  
  Pre-school is a preparation for your child before commencing school. There are quite large variations between the states as to the format and timing of starting preschool so for more information you will need to seek clarification from your local government. In general pre-school is available to children between the ages of 3-5 and the hours of operation are either a morning or afternoon session, 5 days per week or a couple of days a week between 9am-3pm.

If your pre-school/private kindergarten is a Registered Carer with the Family Assistance office you may be able to claim Child Care Rebate.
 
  nanny, au-pair or babysitter  
  The arrangements that you make with a nanny or babysitter are a private transaction between you and your chosen carer. They do not have to be licensed or approved by the government and as a result no Child Care rebate is claimable.

This type of care means that your child can be cared for in their own home environment and allows for greater flexibility in the hours you select, although this usually comes at a price with Nanny and Babysitting services charging quite a high premium.

Many people find using an Agency to help select their child’s carer useful. Agencies will have ensured that all of their candidates comply with the conditions of the Working with Children police check, have a current First Aid certificate and will have checked their references. They will also attempt to match all of your requested criteria to a suitable candidate which may possibly reduce the number of people you will have to interview. Some issues you will need to consider when engaging a Nanny:
 
 
  Are you happy to allow your child to travel in a car with the carer?
  Will you provide a car and what are their driving skills like? Go for a drive yourself with them as part of the interview.
  Will the Nanny be prepared to do light housework, meal preparation etc.
  What activities and programs will they engage in with your child?
 
  in home care  
  There is an In Home care scheme available throughout Australia that is coordinated and monitored by a government agency that assists with finding, and monitoring the care for some members of the community. The service was introduced in 2001 and access is still quite limited. To be eligible for this assistance you must fall within one of the following categories:  
 
  You are unable to meet your childcare needs with an existing service.
  A shift worker or rural family who cannot access normal childcare services.
  You are a breastfeeding mother working from home and unable to use regular childcare services.
  You are a working mother after a multiple birth (3 babies or more) and unable to access suitable childcare.
  A family where the parent/s or child has an illness/disability.
 
  Childcare Rebate is available for this service and is income tested. The income test is based on your total household income.

For more information, contact The Childcare Access Hotline 1800 670 305.
 
  tips for drop off  
  The first few times you leave your child in the new childcare situation it will be traumatic for both of you. Rest assured your little one will cope better than you, and will be off playing within minutes of you leaving. Here are a few tips to help you both through the difficult separation.  
 
  Try to set up some time to visit the centre, family day care home or organise a few meetings with the nanny in advance of the big day, this will make it less scary.
  Spend time finding out about the routine that will be followed so that you can talk about it together.
  Be positive, talk positive and act positive when speaking about the new arrangements.
  Make a big deal out of getting a new bag or hat especially for “kindy”.
  Be honest with your child and try to answer their questions about where you will be while they are at “Care” or “kindy”.
  Make sure that all of your child’s things are labeled clearly and that they are aware of what belongs to them.
 
Don’t send a special toy to day care or “kindy” unless this is OK with the carer as these special toys can create problems between the children.
  Make sure that you pack a full change of clothes (or two) into the bag, accidents will happen.
  Try to make the initial visits reasonably short, eg, a couple of hours.
  Use a positive phrase such as, “I’m going to work now, have a great day and I’ll be back soon”.
  Try to have something for yourself to do when you leave your child so that you have something to focus on. Don’t be at all surprised if you cry, it’s normal.
  Give your child some time to settle in and then make a quick phone call; it will help put your mind at ease.
 
  choosing care options and dealing with child seperation  
  For most parents, returning to work means that they require some type of care arrangements for their child(ren). This may include enrolling in family day care and childcare centres, finding an in-home carer, securing after school care or relying on a family carer. The transition to a new carer can be one of the most challenging and anxious experiences for both parents and children alike, so here are some things you can do to prepare yourself and your family.  
  choosing the carer arrangements that suit you and your family  
 
  Consider your child care needs and options well ahead of time.
  Think about what kind of care you might want for your child.
 
Explore different kinds of care options and how they might suit you and your family. If it is a relative or nanny or friend think about how the arrangement might work. If it is a child care centre there may be waiting list and application forms to be completed. Ask your friends for recommendations.
  Select the kind of care arrangement that you believe will be best for both you and your family.
 
  introducing your family to the new carer arrangements before you return to work  
 
  Before you return to work, consider leaving your child(ren) for sometime with your selected carer or childcare centre so both you and your child feel ok about being away from one another.
 
If possible start the care gradually, beginning with a few hours and then increasing this to give your child(ren) time to get to know and adjust to the new arrangements. This way you’ll both get used to it before you are dealing with the transition back to work as well.
 
Build a rapport and relationship with your child(ren)’s carer. Discuss your child(ren)’s needs, likes and dislikes and any concerns you may have upfront.
 
You may choose to introduce or continue using a comfort object (a blanket, a stuffed toy, something of yours) that your child(ren) connects to home and you. Develop routines (special things to do) for the morning when you part and the evenings when you get back together.
 
  where to go for more information:  
 
  Visit the website www.familyassist.gov.au
  Call the Family Assistance Office on 13 61 50
 
 
 
 

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