What’s in Children’s Best Interest in Family Day Care?

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?

Anne Stonehouse

Anne Stonehouse AM lives in Victoria and works as a consultant, writer and facilitator of professional learning in early childhood. She has published many books, articles and other resources for educators and parents. Her main professional interests are the nature of good quality curriculum for babies and toddlers and family-educator relationships in early learning settings. She was a member of the writing team in the Charles Sturt University-based consortium that developed the national Early Years Learning Framework. She is currently engaged in a number of projects related to the national and Victorian Frameworks.

6 thoughts on “What’s in Children’s Best Interest in Family Day Care?”

    Yarrow Andrew says:

    It is disappointing to hear you describe early childhood pay in such mild-mannered ways. You know better than most that early childhood wages – particularly in family day care (on an hourly rate basis)- are among the lowest in Australia. When considering the skills and responsibility needed, they are practically criminal.
    We are still waiting on the result from the Equal Remuneration case before Fairwork Australia, that has been oddly silent for six months. Do you have a comment on the likely outcome of this case, and the impact on the Australian early childhood field?

    despina says:

    You are kidding right? FDC educators are expected to have a min of a cert3, soon to be diploma I bet. We are in this line of work to educate the next generation. ..so for that we get low wages, tight regs and now our own kids have to go to a long day care centre because of a few doing the wrong thing. It’s not anyone’s business why a FDC educator would send their child to another FDC. It’s their choice for their kids. You try getting paid less than $20 an hour with 2 enrollments and two of your own kids for 10 hrs a day. It’s not sitting about having cups of tea.
    Because the ratios are 4 for under school age in qld, I have to send my child elsewhere just to earn a wage to support my family. It was FDC for the flexibility and home atmosphere but now she will be stuck in a centre for 10 hrs a day. Even doing that still only earns me about $55000 a yr.
    Maybe I should just go and pack shelves at Coles. Working women are worth so much to this country and this profession is especially crucial and needs to be earning more than the unqualified person stacking shelves (no offense to anyone, just making a point).
    Oh, I’m a fully qualified and experienced early childhood teacher and left state ed to work in this sector because I am passionate about giving children the best start possible.
    Yes, I’m a bit cranky.

    Urith Shield says:

    Wow, what a slap in the face to FDC educators. This is not representative of our voice. Thank you ECA and Anne for your support of educators and children.

    There are many studies to say children perform better at school if they have attended 1 or 2 years of education prior to full time schooling. (Boocock cited in Foley et al. 1999; Sylva et al. 2004). A full study of the earlier years has not been completed. I believe this states that there are many legitamite reasons for a FDC educator placing a child in care including their requests.

    It is imperative we hear the individual voices of our children and provide quality education and care. I believe as educators we are even more qualified to understand and respond to the many languages of children.

    I am disappointed in this article as would most FDC educators.

    Gae Maidment says:

    I am just shocked at reading your above comments. More than that I am just disgusted that your opinion is NOT a Family Day Care Educator’s voice. From you dot point above “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.” It is the right of EVERY PERSON IN AUSTRALIA,to have the option of choice. I am a proud FDC Educator and I object strenuously to the negative issues you have placed on FDC. Great to know that ECA and you have our voice isn’t it…Oh, wait a minute, you don’t have mine.

    Jenny Craft says:

    You mentioned facts here. Very good job you are doing, in this way parents can understand and can find a good child care centre according to their needs.

    Mary Joyce says:

    Hi Anne, I think day cares are a great place for kids. They give them a sense of security, belonging, peace & harmony. It’s also a good place to for them to socialize.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top