Family day care can be an excellent education and care experience for children and their families, just as centre-based services can. FDC is much more than an alternative for those children who don’t ‘fit’ centre-based services. When FDC and centres are good quality, they have many characteristics in common, just as they do when the quality is poor.
Good quality FDC has many strengths: small groups, siblings being together, one educator, the possibility for long-term relationships, ease of children going out into the community, mixed ages and authentic learning opportunities occurring in the daily life of a family at home.
Some important considerations as we reflect on and participate in the current debates about FDC are:
- Issues about the identity of FDC sit apart from debates about options for educators’ children. When FDC is offered in a dedicated space separate from a home and children have little or no contact with educators’ families, it’s a misnomer to call it FDC (or home-based care). However, there are many educators who don’t have children (at home or at all) and some who don’t have partners or spouses – in other words, who live alone – who provide an excellent service.
- It’s irrelevant that traditionally the reason for becoming a FDC educator was to stay at home to rear your own children and earn an income. The increasing professionalisation of FDC means that although this remains a motivating factor for many educators, it is not the only or the most important factor for many.
- There are very few legitimate reasons for a FDC educator to decide that her or his child would be better off in another educator’s service. Sure, many children struggle to share their parent’s attention and their belongings with other children when their parent starts FDC; however mostly they adjust and have a positive experience. There are many significant benefits for educators’ children in being with their parent and in their own home.
- It is difficult to identify clear benefits to children in family day care that apply generally and arise directly from educators caring for their own children alongside other people’s children. This situation often creates complexities (favouritisim or having different expectations of ones own children, for example). Because of these complexities, in the past many centre-based services had a policy that children of educators were not placed in the room where their parent worked. Children might benefits when the educator’s children are older and younger than they are. However, mixed age groups afford the same opportunities.
- Every worker in every industry and profession deserves a fair wage. However, the care and education profession is not characterised by high salaries. Anyone whose primary motivation is earning as much money as possible may be better off in another profession.
It is understandable that having a choice, a choice that some people feel is a right, taken away would cause anger. However, having a choice does not mean that making that choice is ethical. Educators who are parents, as well as those who aren’t, make many judgments and decisions every day that have ethical implications. How to treat your own children is one large and complex category of decisions.
The focus and main consideration in this raging emotional debate should be children’s wellbeing and learning – their best interests. Who is speaking up on behalf of children?