Child Care

A look at some alternatives available then and now

Day Care Centres care for a group of children from various families, in a specially designed and licensed premises.

Historically, young children were cared for by their parents, or by a group of older members of their community. The community-care system worked well, because the children, parents and carers were closely associated in the community and a high level of caring was present. It also gave the carers a sense of continued value to the community. This system is still common today in some areas.
More recently though, for reasons of choice or of necessity, there are many more families than previously in which neither parent can care for the child without severe restrictions on their lifestyle, and several systems have been developed to cater for this:

Family Day Care provides care for up to four children in a home-situation.
  • A Nanny is an adult selected and paid by the parent to either live in the home or to attend at required times, to care for the child in their absence.
  • An Au-Pair is similar to a Nanny, though usually from another region, or even country and will usually live in the home and share other duties as well as child-care.
  • A Creche or Kindergarten is an area set up, often by the Government but sometimes by the employer of the parent, for the care of children. One or more carers supervise the children while the parents are working.
  • A Day-Care Centre may be a creche, but has specific hours of operation. Children from various families, usually in the local area, are cared for by trained and licensed staff for a fee.
  • A Family Day Care service provides care in private homes for usually up to four children. Carers are screened, trained and supported by the Service. Before they can be licensed, their premises, background and and lifestyle are checked for anything that may present a risk to the children's welfare.

All of these systems have advantages and disadvantages for the users, and some services may not be available to a particular area, so that an otherwise less-desirable service is chosen.

With both Nannies and Au-Pair, parents are pretty much on their own with background-checking, although there are listing services who will provide proof of Police clearance, child-care licensing etc.

Creches or kindergartens are more carefully controlled, although many business-provided creches use staff who have little or no formal training in child care.

Day Care Centres are regulated by the Government, and the owners and workers must meet certain standards, such as Police clearance and Working With Children certification. The often large number, and changing attendance of children in the centre as well as changes of the staff employed, can be drawbacks for parents who prefer a smaller and more long-term group of friends for their children.

Family Day Care has an environment that more closely compares with a family situation, with one or two trained and certified Carers and a small group of children who are frequently attached to the same Carer for several years. One big advantage of Family Day Care is that since the Carers initially need to make changes to their homes to meet the provisions, they tend to remain as Carers for several years, giving good stability for the children. The Carer is also required to provide a menu of healthy food when meals are provided, and prepare a programme of activities that are safe and appropriate for the children.

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