While many parents look forward to returning to work after having a baby (hello, adult conversation), placing the care of your child into someone else’s hands can be nerve-wracking.
Whether you are opting for out of home care in the form of a long day care centre, family day care or preschool or for in home options such as a nanny or au pair, you will need to ask a range of questions to determine the right fit for you and your family. These 20 considerations will get you started in your search.
1. Type of care that suits your family
What are your priorities for your child? Know what your priorities are for your child to know which option will suit best. Long day care centres provide structure group care with children of a similar age. Family day care offers a more intimate home-based care with children of varying ages while a nanny or Au Pair will provide 1:1 care in your own home.
2. Opening hours
What are the opening hours? Is there a late fee if you are running late for pickup?
3. Staff qualifications
Are educators/carers qualified? What are their qualifications? Is there regular professional development? Especially if your focus is on learning outcomes for your child, you will want to ensure that the people teaching your child have qualifications to do so.
4. Menu (or do you need to pack your own food)
If food is provided, what is on the menu? Is it food you would be happy for your child to eat every day? Ask to see the current menu and how the menu is set to determine if you are comfortable with what your little one will be eating each day.
How are allergies handled in regards to food or other allergies your child may have? What restrictions are in place to cater for allergies that other children may have? Allergies are serious business and if your child has any you will want to know that they are safe! It is also good to know if there are any no-no’s for packing in your child’s lunch box.
6. Screen time
How much screen time do the kids have each day? And more importantly what type of screen time? Watching a rocket launch on the iPad while leaning about rockets and space is one thing but watching a whole movie is another!
What are the values of the centre or carer? Do they align with your personal and family values? It may be that the values on paper don’t translate to reality – do a sense check of the culture and vibe to see what the values really are.
How do educators/carers communicate with parents? Email? Phone? Communication books? At what point will they contact you if an issue escalates? Communication is so important, especially as your child gets older and starts heading into toilet training, preschool etc.
9. First aid
What first aid training have staff undertaken? What are the first aid policies that will guide how your child is treated in an incident? This is a serious non-negotiable, more than just bumps and bruises, do the people who are looking after your child know what to do in an emergency?
What are the safety policies? How often are toys cleaned/rotated? What steps are in place to prevent incidents? You won’t want to take any risks when it comes to your kids so make sure the safety standards are up to scratch.
How do the educators/carers discipline the children? Does this differ according to age group (i.e. age appropriate discipline?) The rules between home and care may differ but if you at least know what the differences are you can manage them.
What are the policies around immunisation? And unwell children attending? Once your child is in care and exposed to other children they will probably start getting sick all the time. Knowing how illness is handled will ensure you know when to keep your kids home but also put you at ease a little that other kids won’t be spreading the germ love around.
What steps are in place to ensure the facility/home is secure? You will want to know that someone can’t just wander in off the street. And in the reverse, that the children can’t escape!
What are the fees? Are there any late fees? What rebates are you eligible for? Prices will vary across suburbs or areas and depending on the type of care. To check your eligibility for rebates head to www.mychild.gov.au.
What supplies do you need to provide? Nappies? Food? These are all extra costs that you need to factor in. As long as you know from the outset.
Is the centre registered? If you are hiring a nanny or au pair, do they have the relevant working with children checks? There are a large number of regulations around caring for children and you definitely want to ensure that the provider you choose is 100% across these.
17.Word of mouth
Do you know anyone else who has used the centre/carer you are considering? If not, can you ask in a local mums group on Facebook? Use your networks to determine if there are any issues you need to be aware of.
What toys are available for the children to play with? Are they developmentally appropriate? Are they clean and safe? Whether you like it or not, your child will probably be sticking those toys in their mouth more often than not!
Would you like a care option close to home? Or close to work? Keep in mind that CBD locations will often be more expensive. If you don’t work close to home, consider what you will do if you are away from work and still want your kids to attend care.
What does your gut tell you? Instinct is a powerful thing and can play a big part in your decision. If your gut is telling you to ask more questions or to walk away then do that!
Do you have any considerations to add to the list?
This post originally appeared as an article in issue 33 of the Kid Magazine digital magazine. Sign up to our newsletter below and you will receive one of our issues (issue 37) absolutely free! That’s 88 pages of amazing content to help you nail mum life.
Header image: Elise Garner, www.lecoco.com.au