Whether you're new to childcare or an old hat, you can't help but be confused by the different titles given to child care services these days. Here's a guide to help you work out what your options are.
Long Day Care
Long day care is just that - child care that is available from early in the morning to early evening, breakfast to dinner. The best option for parents who work the typical nine to five, long day care usually services children from around six weeks to six years, and tend to provide meals, nappies as well as developmental and school readiness programs for the children. Centres remain open during school holidays.
Long day care centres are predominantly approved child care, so parents whose children attend are eligible for the child care benefit. Centres can be run by communities, local councils, private operators and occasionally even employers and companies looking to make their business more family-friendly.
Family Day Care
Family Day Carers look after a smaller number of children in their own home. As a part of a network of caregivers carefully monitored by a family day care scheme, they provide care and developmental activities for the children, and are often more flexible with their hours - some can even include weekends and overnight stays for shift workers.
Family Day Care is generally aimed at non-school-aged children, but depending on the carer can be available to primary school children before and after school. Parents whose children attend Family Day Care are eligible for the child care benefit.
Pre-school or kindergarten is usually for children between the ages of 3 - 5 and is designed to educate children before they begin school. Hours and setup are similar to that of a school - start at 9, finish at 3 and children are required to bring their own lunch and snacks. Centres tend to be closed during the school holidays.
Pre-schools and kindergartens can be privately or council run, or can be an initiative of a community or a part of another service such as long day care or occasional care.
Occasional Care is designed for parents who require care for short periods of time for children from about six weeks to school age. Care can be provided for an hour or more per day on an irregular (or occasional) basis. Centres often provide developmental activities as the opportunity to socialise with other children for children who are not in regular care or pre-school. Occasional care can be run privately, by local councils or be a community centre, and is often attached to a pre-school or long day care centre.
Before and After School Care
Often referred to as OOSH (Outside of School Hours) is run mainly for primary-school-aged children and opens for care before and after school hours, as well as pupil-free days during school terms. This kind of care is ideal for parents who work typical nine to five days and are unable to drop off and pick up their children at the standard times.
Centres typically provide recreational activities and are usually associated with schools, occasional care centres and preschools.
Vacation care is designed for school-aged children during school holidays. With hours comparable to that of a long day care centre, children are provided with a variety of indoor and outdoor recreational activities, including outings such as the beach or movies. Vacation care is usually offered by before and after school care services.
A nanny is a single carer that cares for the children inside the home and may or may not live with the family. Nannies are typically employed by the parents directly, with hours and duties negotiable. Typically, a nanny's duties revolve solely around the care of the children, however some nanny's also undertake domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Parents looking to hire a nanny also have options such as an Au Pair, which is typically a young person from another country who provides child care in return for board and a small allowance, as well as nanny sharing with another family.