Childcare can be important for single mothers, allowing you to work, study, get to appointments or give you some much needed respite. Some mothers want childcare for just a few hours here and there while others need access to regular care on a part time or full time basis. Some women have the benefit of family and friends to help out, but a range of formal childcare options are available in most areas for those who need it. It’s up to you to decide what best suits the needs of you and your children.
Types of childcare:
- Long day care or centre based care is generally located at a purpose-built childcare centre commonly run either through your local council, community organisation or a private operator. Most centres operate between 7am – 6pm Monday to Friday for children aged 6 weeks – 6 years. Many long day care centres have an early learning component and most are approved for government allowances or rebates. Your child’s place will need to be secured beforehand and childcare centres in high demand can have long waiting lists.
- Family day care or home-based care is in the professional carer’s home. It can be more flexible in hours of operation and ages of children, for instance care for primary school aged children or overnight and weekend care may be available. Most are approved childcare services for government allowances and rebates and operate under supervision.
- In home care is a professional carer in the child’s own home. This is a limited service and special circumstances must apply to be eligible
- Outside school hours care (OSHC) for primary school aged children usually takes place at the child’s school, before and after school hours, 7.30am – 9am and 3pm – 6pm, school holidays and pupil free days. Most are approved childcare services for government allowances and rebates.
- Occasional care: is professional care on a casual basis and is usually flexible for parents with irregular or unpredictable work hours or occasional appointments.
Be aware most services will require you to pay for the days your child is booked regardless of whether or not they actually attend.
Many childcare centres, particularly those with a good reputation or in areas of high demand, will have a waiting list for places. It pays to plan ahead.
If it’s financially viable to do so, it can also be a good idea to establish your child in care before you return to work or education.
No matter how strict a sick child policy the centre has your child will be mixing with other kids. This means they are likely to be exposed to a number of common illnesses such as colds and the flu. Because your child’s immune system is still developing you can expect the first year of care will be disrupted by illness.
Unless you have family support or can make alternative care arrangements this can mean time away from work or school. If you’ve just started a job or your position is casual you may not have sick leave or holiday pay available to you. This can make sustaining employment quite hard.
Things to look for in a childcare service
Knowing you have chosen a good childcare provider can make the transition easier for both you and your child, but how do you know what to look for?
We recommend you visit the facility before you book your child in to get a feel for the service. Ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to talk to the other parents if the opportunity arises.
Things to consider when choosing a childcare:
- Is the facility clean, safe and in good repair?
- How do the staff interact with the children – are they engaged and responsive?
- What activities will the children be participating in – is there variety, do the activities stimulate learning and are they engaging for children? What physical activities will the children participate in?
- For younger children, how often are the children left in swings or rockers? Do the children get picked up often? Is there enough stimulating activity to engage your young child’s brain?
- For older children, does the centre have an early learning program and a qualified early learning facilitator?
- Do the children have access to safe, secure outdoor activities and facilities?
- If the centre provides meals are they nutritious and do they offer variety? Do they cater for special dietary requirements? Who prepares the meals? Have a look at the kitchen. Is it clean and organised?
- Is the arts and crafts section well stocked – look around the facility to see if there is an indication the children are actively engaged in activities.
- Can you drop by unannounced either to pick up your child early, or look in on how your child is going?
- If the centre has televisions or computers, how much time do children spend in front of the TV and electronics?
- Check the facility is approved for government allowances and rebates – for a list of accredited childcare providers in your area go to www.mychild.gov.au.
Depending on your circumstances and requirements, government financial assistance is available to help with the costs of childcare. Single mothers returning to work or study who are in receipt of an income support payment may also be eligible for the JET Childcare Fee assistance.
The online portal www.mychild.gov.au provides links to information on how to get assistance with the cost of childcare. You can search the portal for registered childcare providers in your area and the site has links to other websites with useful information and advice on parenting, child health and wellbeing and family support services.
Alternatively you can contact Centrelink on 136 150 or go to: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/subjects/assistance-with-child-care-fees