When I think of child care in Australia and the possibility of putting my son into a child care facility I immediately have a number of images running through my head.
My son will come home crawling with germs caught from the other children at his child care centre, you know the ones running around with gooey snot clogging up their nostrils and dried through their hair touching everything your child wants to play with whilst simultaneously coughing all over the place and you are cringing knowing your little sprout will be coming home looking much the same by the end of the week spreading the same ’love’ to everybody else in your household?
Like a scene straight out of a horror movie they will go to child care and become ‘infected’ turning into a flesh eating zombie, except they will be sleep depriving not flesh eating and they won’t be a zombie (although you will be from the lack of sleep no thanks to said infected sprout) they will be a horrible whiney growth extending from your lower leg where they will firmly attach their grip and never let it go. Dear god this will be the ONLY time you will love to say and hear the words ‘let it go’.
Then there is the scenario you hear through whispers of over-zealous desperate gossip in your mothers group, except they weren’t whispering they were loudly pronouncing for all to hear that your apparently poor choice of child care centre had an employee that may or may not have hit/smacked/disciplined (fed/taught/engaged?) a friend’s, uncle’s, cousin’s, workmate’s mum’s child in a manner that was “oh I can’t think of the word for it now but it seemed wrong”. Perhaps it was the other child care centre of the six in your local area they’re not sure but you should definitely most probably perhaps be careful because you never know. You never know what, exactly? That my child may or may not be looked after in a way you can not describe in factual detail at a centre that you have no idea of who, what, where or when? Yeah thanks Mrs Mangel.
Then there are the usual thoughts of damage it could will do to the family budget, and what about *gasp* the possibility of a male child care worker, won’t someone please think of the children?!
I have spoken with many different people from family and friends, local mothers groups, parents on their way into or out of child care centres and staff at my local supermarket to that old guy sitting at the bus stop 10.05am every Tuesday morning. I even consulted Mr Google to pick his brain on reliable information sources for opinion, the usually knowledgeable fellow came up shorter than my temper when my husband hides the chocolate or takes photos of me then refuses to show them to me, jerk (he is actually an amazing husband don’t let my affectionate name calling fool you). It was always a *cough* gentle *cough* debate with two very clear sides of the fence regarding views of child care in Australia. You love it or you hate it.
I thought I would hate using a child care centre because of the Mrs Mangel opinions I was being fed. But based on my own unscientific personal research, which you can easily conduct yourself by hitting the pavement talking to your community, the direct sources at your local child care centres and simple Google searches, I now have quite a belief in our child care system in Australia. I would be very comfortable sending my son so I want to help clear the air of any misconceptions people may have about child care centres in Australia and with any luck, change a few opinions, if not then at least challenge them.
Perception – My child will be mistreated if I send them to childcare.
Reality – Based on the most recent data from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, in the September quarter 2012 over 1 million children were using approved childcare affecting more than 726,000 families(1). With the rollout of the National Quality Framework there are new laws and procedures in place to minimise the incidence of child abuse and neglect in childcare with more stringent testing and screening of staff now than ever before.
If you are not fortunate enough to have friends or grandparents look after your children so you can go to work to pay the endless bills, where else can you send your children knowing they will get the same love and care as you would give them, in an environment that is likely to be far safer than your own home, with people who are qualified in early childhood development and have relevant first aid skills under their belt?
Perception – Childcare is a cesspool for germs
Reality – If you are imagining scores of children running around with bubbles of green snot popping from their noses, incessant coughing and a shortage of medical grade face masks for you to immediately protect yourself and your sprout upon entry then you would be absolutely correct but trust me this is a good thing. As disgusting as this may sound your child will be ok, though your sick leave balance from work may not be. Whilst you should not be sending your children to child care when they are struck down with an infectious disease or clearly they are generally unwell and just as you would if unwell they need to stay home, please know that some exposure to common illnesses will assist with building your child’s immune system. Unless of course your child suffers from a low immune function then keep your sprout at home the poor love, but you already knew that.
Perception – Childcare is expensive
Reality – Right on. A report from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra looking at childcare affordability in Australia showed the national average childcare fee is $75 a day for “long day” care in 2013, the costs had increased by almost 10% per annum in the past decade (3). $75 A DAY, ouch. However the Australian Government is providing assistance towards the costs of childcare by investing more than $25 billion over four years, which should already be felt by the many Australian families using childcare with the increase of the child care rebate from 30% to 50%. When looking at childcare affordability and I am trying to reason the costs I try to think of it like this “when it comes to the care, love, education and protection of my child, what level of quality can I expect when paying for the cheapest centre? Is that Foxtel subscription really worth it? No. Is that gym membership worth it? No. Is going to the hairdresser for my hair colour worth it? No. Cancel Foxtel, gym membership and hair dresser appointments, there is always free-to-air tv, home gym and a packet hair colour, enrol my sprout at my first preference child care centre costing half my wage and feel comfortable knowing I am doing the right thing. In my case I am lucky to afford child care after making adjustments to our household costs, there are some who are not so lucky and my heart has so much feels for you it truly does. It will get better I promise.
Perception – We should be wary of men working in childcare
Reality – In a female dominated industry, in fact 95% of people working in child care are women (4), it is understandable that seeing a male child care worker would be like seeing anchovy flavoured ice-cream, weird! (anchovy ice-cream, am I onto something Network Ten? #recipetoriches #gross). However what is wrong with a good male role model in those important early years of a child’s development? Liam McNicholas, an area manager for nine child care centres in the ACT said in an interview given to news.com.au “Men who have worked in the industry said they had been placed under ‘additional scrutiny’ compared with female colleagues, and felt they had to be ‘more careful’.
It is also known that some male child care workers were not permitted to do some tasks such as changing nappies for the simple reason that they were male and were told it was for their own protection”. Whilst this is understandable, what confidence does this give to the men working in child care for the work they are qualified for, screened and tested to do? I personally know one male child care worker who I have partnered with at my local bootcamp session, affectionately known as ‘young fella’ who is a fantastic bloke. I would be more than comfortable having him look after my own child and we need more of him. Kudos Young Fella.
Have you busted any other childcare myths?
- Childcare In Australia 2013 Handbook – http://www.mychild.gov.au/sites/mychild/search-information/pages/search-results?q=state%20of%20childcare%20in%20australia
- Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics – https://www3.aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/child-abuse-and-neglect-statistics
- Australian Bureau of Statistics, men in childcare – http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features50Jun+2010