Deciding where to place your little one into care is a big decision and can often be an anxious time for parents. For first-time parents especially, it can be difficult to know where to start.
We understand the challenges involved in finding the right childcare service in the Sutherland Shire. That’s why we have collaborated with Sutherland Shire Council Children’s Services to provide you with this comprehensive guide.
From understanding different childcare options to choosing the right service for your family and essential questions to ask during a service tour, we’ve got you covered.
We can’t stress enough that you should apply early, as childcare, especially for babies under two, can be difficult to secure in the Sutherland Shire.
- Apply at multiple services and apply early. Sutherland Shire Council accepts applications after a child’s birth and some private centres accept prior to birth.
- Sometimes parents are offered some of their requested days, and not all. It can be hard to decide what to do. If you can, take the days offered as the quickest way to pick up extra days is when you’re already in a service. As soon as your child starts care, you can request extra days.
- Keep a list of where you have applied for care and advise the services of any changes to your personal circumstances e.g. changes to the days of care you require.
Understanding childcare options in the Sutherland Shire
When it comes to childcare options in the Sutherland Shire, there are four different types of government-subsidised childcare available:
- Early Education Centres: Sutherland Shire Council operates 11 centres locally, offering quality care and learning. These centres are considered smaller in terms of enrolment numbers, providing more individual attention to each child. Additionally, they boast expansive playgrounds for children to explore and thrive.
- Family Day Care: Family Day Care Educators are early childhood professionals who provide care and education to a maximum of four children under school age each day. The environment is small and nurturing, and programs are tailored to the needs and milestones of the children in care each day.
- Preschools: Preschools cater to children aged 3-5 years and offer care and education aligned with school hours. These services are funded by State Governments.
- In Home Care: This service offers care and education in the family’s home by a qualified early childhood Educator. It is a service for families who are unable to access mainstream childcare options. Families must meet eligibility criteria.
Each of these service types must follow the Early Years Learning Framework, which is the only Australian Government-approved framework for children under school age. So whilst the fees, hours and inclusions differ, the learning outcomes for children are matched among the different types of services.
Comparing Costs and Inclusions
Understanding the costs and inclusions of different childcare services is crucial. Here’s what you need to consider:
- Cost comparison: To compare costs, visit the Australian Government’s Starting Blocks You can find childcare services in your preferred locations and compare fees.
- Inclusions: In addition to costs, look at the inclusions offered by each service. Council’s Early Education Centre fees include a free modern cloth nappy service and daily freshly prepared meals. Ask the centre if they provide other services such as meals, wipes, formula and sunscreen.
Personal Considerations for Choosing Childcare
Every family has unique requirements when it comes to childcare. Consider the following factors to help make the right choice:
- Hours of operation: Determine the hours you need for childcare and ensure they align with the services you’re considering. Sutherland Shire Council’s Early Education Centres open from 7am to 6:15pm, providing flexibility for working parents.
- Drop-off and Pick-up Arrangements: Identify who will be responsible for drop-offs and pick-ups in your family. Many services have fixed closing times, so it’s essential to choose one that suits your schedule.
- Alternative Routes: Explore alternative routes to work that may pass by other childcare services. By considering different options, you might discover services that you hadn’t previously considered.
Taking a Tour and Asking Questions
When selecting a childcare service, it’s crucial to visit the centres and ask the right questions. Here’s a checklist of questions to help you during your tour:
Environment and Interactions:
- Is the environment clean and are there lots of interesting resources available to the children?
- Do educators engage with children in a warm and positive manner?
- What is the staff-to-child ratio? How many babies, toddlers or preschoolers are there in the room each day?
Safety and Security:
- What safety measures are in place to ensure the well-being of the children?
- Are there secure entry and exit procedures?
- How are emergencies handled?
Learning and Development:
- What is the curriculum or approach to early childhood education?
- How are the children’s individual needs and interests incorporated into the program?
- Are there opportunities for outdoor play and exploration?
Communication and Parent Involvement:
- How does the centre communicate with parents about their child’s day?
- Can the centre share an example of a Daily Reflection or similar learning summary?
- Is there an open-door policy for parents to visit and participate in activities?
- Are there regular opportunities for parent-teacher meetings or progress reports?
Policies and Procedures:
- What are the policies regarding illness, medication, and allergies?
- How does the service support children’s behaviour?
- What are the procedures for handling disputes or concerns?
National Quality Rating:
- Ask about the service’s ‘National Quality Rating’. Childcare falls under the jurisdiction of the NSW Department of Education which undertakes assessments of every service on a rotation basis.
Applying for Childcare and Waitlists
Once you have narrowed down your choices, it’s time to apply for childcare and be prepared for waitlists. Here are a few tips:
- Apply early: Start the application process as soon as possible.
- Visit centres: Schedule visits to the centres you are interested in to get a feel for the environment and meet the Educators.
- Communicate preferences: Let the childcare providers know your preferred start date and days of the week required.
Settling into Childcare
Transitioning into childcare can be challenging for both parents and children. Here are some tips to help ease the process:
- Familiarise Your Child: Visit the centre together before the official start date to help your child become familiar with the environment.
- Gradual Introduction: Consider starting with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration to allow your child to adjust.
- Open Communication: Maintain open communication with your child’s Educators and share any concerns or information that may assist them in caring for your child.
Choosing the right childcare service is a significant decision for parents. By understanding the available options, comparing costs and inclusions, considering personal factors, and asking the right questions during tours, parents can make an informed choice. Be sure to also check out the handy links below!
It’s important to remember that each child and family is unique, so finding a service that aligns with your values and meets your child’s needs is key. With careful research and consideration, you can find a childcare service that provides a nurturing and enriching environment for your little one.
- Starting Blocks government website: search for childcare services near you.
- Apply for childcare: to apply for care with Sutherland Shire Council.
- Child Care Subsidy (CCS): Submit a claim to be assessed for Child Care Subsidy prior to your child starting care.
- Immunisation: In accordance with legislation, a childcare service cannot enrol a child unless they have been fully immunised, are on a catch-up immunisation schedule or have an approved medical exemption. You will be required to provide your service with a copy of your child’s up to date Medicare Immunisation History Statement. Information on accessing your child’s Statement is available online.