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Child care

3-minute read

Child care helps you balance family life with work, study or family needs. Selecting the right type of child care for your family is an important decision.

What is child care?

The term child care covers a diverse range of informal and formal providers of care for children from birth to 12 years of age:

  • Family day care, in which your child goes to the home of an approved provider. Benefits include smaller groups and flexible hours
  • Centre-based care offers child care for pre-school aged children or care outside of school hours. You can get short or long-day care, and occasional and holiday care.
  • Informal child care by family members or people who aren’t related, such as a family friend.

Many families use a combination of formal and informal care. This approach can help families when work hours and care hours don’t match or during those unexpected times, like illness.

What should I look for in a child care provider?

When choosing a provider some of the things to think about are:

  • do they have appropriate experience, qualifications and accreditation (if required)?
  • accessibility — is it close to home or to work or school?
  • affordability — what does it cost? Are there any extra expenses?
  • learning activities and educational outcomes
  • adult-to-child ratios and group sizes — more adults and smaller groups should mean your child gets more attention
  • flexible hours
  • accessibility for children with disabilities

It's a good idea to start looking for child care early, as many facilities have waiting lists. You can go to check them out. Some providers are accredited. This means they have met national standards, which are monitored by the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority.

Others are registered, but not accredited. Registered providers are still expected to meet certain state or territory requirements of working with children.

What help can I get to pay for the cost of child care?

Child care can be expensive for families on limited incomes. Currently the Australian Government offers the Child Care Subsidy, which is not means tested. It can help you met the costs of child care at approved centres. Some families can also get the additional child care subsidy, which provides extra help with the cost of approved child care.

These payments will only apply for approved child care, such as:

  • centre-based care, including long day care and occasional care
  • family day care
  • outside school hours care, including before and after school care and vacation care
  • in-home care

Families using informal child care, such as a grandparent, might be eligible for financial assistance if their care provider is registered.

How do I prepare my child for child care?

Starting child care can be an emotional experience for parents and children. With some preparation, and support from child care providers, it can be a positive experience.

Points to consider:

  • start slowly with fewer hours or days in care
  • share a brief activity with your child before leaving them
  • let care providers know how your child likes to be comforted
  • clearly tell your child you will return, and say goodbye in a positive manner

Read more about separation anxiety.

How can I find a child care facility?

Here are some helpful websites that will help you find child care services:

Where can I find more information?

  • Child Care Finder — Australia's online child care portal
  • My Time, Our Place — provides information and documents relating to the Framework for School Age Care
  • Starting Blocks — resources to help you find a child care service and prepare for child care

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2020

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This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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