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Caring for kids

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Long daycare

What is it? Long daycare services cater for children from six weeks to six years of age and are generally open for 10 or more hours each day, five days a week. Some centres remain open year-round, while others close for up to four weeks over the Christmas period.

Long daycare services can be privately operated, sponsored by a community organisation, managed by a parent committee, or work-based for employees. Others are attached to government bodies such as educational institutions. They must be licensed by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.

Staff: Under NSW law, long daycare centres must have one staff member for every four children aged from birth to two years. one for every eight children aged two to three, and one for every 10 children aged three to six.

In addition, services must have at least one staff member qualified in early childhood education, and at least one with a current. approved first aid qualification on the premises at all times.

Cost: Up to $160 per day. The government's means-tested Child Care Benefit (CCB) applies, covering 50 per cent of the out-of-pocket cost of approved childcare up to a maximum amount per child per year. Benefits: "There have been all kinds of research done that shows how beneficial long daycare is for a child’s learning and development. Many children in long daycare excel with their language and cognitive development, as well as physical and motor skills development," explains Professor Jennifer Bowes, an honorary associate of Macquarie University’s Institute of Early Childhood. Dee why mother Nikki Nixon says her two-year-old daughter,

Luca, loves the varied program at her long daycare centre, which she has been attending since she was five months old.

"Our centre has a performing arts academy that comes in once a week for an hour-long dance and acting class," she says. "It costs extra, but it’s such a great idea to break up the long day."

Ms Nixon says the flexibility of long daycare hours is a key advantage for her family.

Family daycare

What is it? Family daycare is provided by registered carers in their own homes. Carers operate alone with the support of the NSW government-licensed Family Day Care Scheme.

Carers can take up to five children - from babies up to under six years of age — as well as two school-aged children who need before and after school or vacation care.

Staff: In NSW, family day carers are not required to have formal childcare training, but must demonstrate adequate knowledge of children and families. They must have a first aid certificate.

Cost: Family day carers set their own fees, which usually range from $6-$15 per hour. CCB applies.

Benefits: What family daycare operators may lack in formal early childhood development qualifications, they often more than make up for in nurturing terms.

"A lot of people prefer to use family daycare when their children are babies because it has the advantage of offering more time for one-on-one interaction with the children. It's a more intimate relationship," Professor Bowes tells Peninsula Living.

Mum of two Rachel Clarke from Avalon chose a local family daycare service for her nine-month-old son, Hugh, after struggling to find long daycare availability.

"I am incredibly happy with Hugh's family daycare. It's a beautiful centre with lovely carers and a great atmosphere. I'm so happy he's there," she tells Peninsula Living.


What is it? Preschools are similar to long daycare services, but many have a greater focus on 'school readiness' and offer structured educational programs. Most take children aged three years to school age, although some may be licensed to take children from two years of age.

Preschools can be operated by individuals, community organisations, churches, or local councils, or may be managed by a committee of parents. Some are attached to other government bodies such as schools, hospitals and educational institutions.

Many non-government schools also have preschools.

Staff: Preschools must have one staff member for every eight children aged two to three years, and one for every 10 children aged three to six years. At least one staff member must be trained in early childhood and there must be one with a current first aid qualification on the premises at all times.

Cost: Preschool fees vary between services. Currently, the average preschool rate in metropolitan NSW is $40 per day.

Benefits: As with long daycare, the major advantage of preschool programs is they're run by highly-skilled staff.

"Children get the benefits of being cared for by people with early childhood education and development qualifications," Professor Bowes explains. "Other types of childcare might be more focused on nurturing the children, but not necessarily on trying to encourage their social and educational development. °

Private care

What is it? Private childcare arrangements may include nannies, babysitters or au pairs. Care is usually provided in the child's own home, or at the home of a relative.

Payment is negotiated by the parents and carer, as are hours, days and holidays. Some private carers also perform home duties such as cleaning. Au pairs usually live with the family, with room and board included in their remuneration package. Staff: Private childcare is often one-to-one, although 'nanny share' schemes - where one nanny cares for two or more children whose families share the cost - are becoming more popular as waiting times for long daycare and family daycare services increase.

There is no legal requirement for private nannies, babysitters, au pairs or family carers to be registered or licensed, or to have early childhood or first aid qualifications.

Cost: Around $0 to $25 per hour. The CCB is usually not available to families using a nanny or babysitter because it only applies to 'approved care', which generally means formal centres and services such as long daycare.

While private carers do not have to be registered or licensed, some families may be able to claim tax benefits if their carer meets certain requirements and is registered with the Family Assistance Office.

Benefits: For Collaroy Plateau's Catherine Jones and her 14-month-old son, Miles, a reciprocal babysitting arrangement works perfectly. While Ms Jones works on Mondays and Tuesdays, Miles is cared for in his home by Ms Jones' friend, Lisa. When Lisa works on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Ms Jones looks after Lisa's son, Lewis.

"We are both first-time mums and were a bit anxious about leaving our babies," Catherine says. "It's reassuring knowing your child is with a good friend and that there is a one adult to two baby ratio.

"Another advantage is not paying for childcare - you can pocket all the money you earn."


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