This is a departure from the usual type of posts I write but it's a topic I feel really strongly about and I feel it's time that there is a voice for the many, many professional home based early childhood educators not only in my country of Australia but world wide.
There has been a lot of bad press about family day care as a child care option here in Australia over the past year. We have all read about schemes and educators that have rorted the Government of money, been called “educators” disdainfully in press articles and tv reports as they refer to unqualified or inexperienced educators and been shown footage of appalling indoor and outdoor environments. They are exaggerated but there are elements of truth to every story shown. And it makes for sensationalist reading and a wider audience for the print and tv media reporting these ‘facts'.
What doesn't make sensational reading or attract bigger audiences are stories about the family day care educators who are experienced, highly qualified, offer exceptional learning environments and quality resources, following and in many cases exceeding regulations and requirements and have chosen home based care as a profession because they truly believe in it's benefits and many positives for children. they have chosen this form of childcare to work in over other options. Not just because they “want to stay at home with their own kids” as seems to still be the perception among many today.
So I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what a professional family day care service really does offer. To offer a different perspective on all the negative press lately. To offer the real story.
Quality Family Day Care services must offer…
- Low ratios of children to educators – children are never lost in a large group of children.
- Highly qualified educators often holding Bachelor and Diploma degrees but at a minimum, holding Certificate 3 qualifications in order to be registered as a provider. Most have years of experience and have often previously worked in long day care centres and other care services before deciding upon family day care as their preferred option.
- Educators in Australia must also have undertaken training in first aid, asthma and anaphalxis , CPR and Risk of harm/mandatory child abuse reporting before able to be registered to provide Family Day Care services. This training must be updated regularly and is monitored by their registered coordination unit.
- All family day care educators receive both announced and unannounced visits as well as support and training from their coordination unit or scheme office.
- All family day care educators must meet strict health and safety regulations and requirements..this is often at significant cost to an educator when starting up their business and impacts on their own home and family environment…but they do it because they are passionate about offering the service. Think safety locks, window safety glass installed for all windows, child safety gates, hot water tempering, pets not allowed in care areas, certain plants not allowed and much much more.
- All family day care educators must keep family files and records confidential and display emergency exit plans, fire safety equipment, CPR charts, hand washing and nappy changing ‘how to' posters throughout their care area which is often the majority of the family home. An imposition to family life yes but again one that passionate educators adhere to because they want to offer this service to families.
- All family day care educators must keep developmental records on children in their care and provide a developmentally appropriate and stimulating written learning program of activities and play to support and encourage a child on their individual learning journey. In Australia this documentation and planning must cover all outcome areas from the Early Years learning Framework (EYLF) and meet National Quality Standards (NQS).
- Family day care educators must offer a clean, safe and stimulating home environment. Offering a home environment does not equal ‘babysitting' it means offering spaces to children that make them feel secure, welcome, engaged and as if they ‘belong' while in care. The aim is for them to feel like they are in their home away from home while still playing and learning. This seems to be portrayed as a negative factor in the media recently when in fact it is so very important that a child is able to experience this in their first 5 years.
- All family day care educators must be aware of and adhere to current government regulations concerning early childhood education and care and these regulations must be made accessible to parents of the children in care at any time.
- Quality family day care educators must continue to extend upon their professional development and skills by attending regular training sessions throughout each year. This is monitored by the coordination scheme or registered body.
- Family day care educators must ensure that parents and carers are kept informed of their child's activities and learning journey and involve them in their service as much as possible. Parent communication must be a priority when providing quality care.
I could go on but honestly it would fill pages! The points above describe what the majority of home based educators in Australia and no doubt across the world provide on a daily basis.
Let me tell you a little more about a good quality professional home day care provider because we never seem to hear about those even though I know they are the majority.
A professional home based early childhood educator…
- Is qualified with early childhood degrees and usually many years of experience working with children
- Takes pride in their work and believes in their profession and the importance of family day care even when working days, nights and weekends to meet regulations and requirements
- Welcomes families and children into their home even though it can be intrusive at times and often frustrating when it disrupts their own family's needs and causes immeasurable wear and tear on their family home.
- Keeps observations and developmental records on all children in their care and provides a weekly or monthly program.
- Is passionate about the resources they provide and always experimenting with ways to make their indoor and outdoor environments stimulating and welcoming for the children and families visiting their service.
- Is often isolated as they work from home and there are limited opportunities to network with other professionals in their field.
- Is in actual fact someone who is running a business and working from home and as such they sometimes need other childcare for their own children…just the same as any working parent.
- Not all educators are parents but for those that are it is sometimes a necessity to send your own child out to another childcare provider as let me tell you it is damn hard to do your job well sometimes when you have your own children demanding your undivided attention (which is of course their right as you are their parent!) It is often about balance, some time with you, some time with another educator. I simply will not accept the argument that because you work from home providing a professional child care service you must automatically also educate your own children. Doesn't mean you don't love them, doesn't mean you are trying to ‘rort' the system with so called ‘child swapping' it simply means that you are a working parent…no further explanation required thankyou. I don't ask anyone else in the workforce (including those working in long day care or primary schools) why they require childcare or don't look after their own children while working so let's extend that courtesy to early childhood educators working from home shall we?
You can read more about why I send my own girls to another educator in this post.
- Educators often feel like they are still only seen as a ‘babysitter' when in fact they do everything long day care centre staff do and often more…yet they are doing it all on their own. No cleaners, no assistants, no relief workers to cover lunch, no weekly programming time away from the children, no breaks, no official ‘clock off' time.
- Is a small business owner as well as an educator. When the children go home it is time to put on the business owner hat and do the accounting, advertising, paperwork and all the other fun stuff that small business owners do.
- Loves what they do and families can recognise this as soon as they walk in the gate. A professional educator has a passion for working with children and this cannot be faked on a daily basis.
- Is dismayed and appalled by those educators they see in the media doing the wrong thing with awful environments and giving professional hard working educators a bad name through their actions. It also does not escape their notice that these people somehow manage to be operate without meeting the same strict guidelines and regulations that professional educators are meeting on a daily basis to stay registered and operating. They are either registered with dodgy incompetent schemes or have been missed by the regulatory bodies that are supposedly there to follow up on concerns and complaints.
- Feel disheartened when they try to report those they see doing the wrong thing to government fraud lines only to be told that they don't have the time to follow up complaints at this time. So the cycle continues.
I guess what i'm trying so hard to express is that professional family day care is a flexible, quality child care option for most parents and carers. It is not just the few bad stories you read in the media. There are so many hard working, passionate, qualified educators with wonderful environments who are well supported by professionally run coordination units and schemes ensuring educators registered with them are meeting the required regulations and offering children the very best experiences in this important time in their life.
You might say it is a little like any professional sector . Every sector has those workers that don't pull their weight, push professional boundaries and yes do the wrong thing, sometimes resulting in legal action. But every sector also has the hard workers, the people that take pride in their achievements and what they have to offer and who chose to follow rules and regulations for the sake of the business or customers involved.
It's a shame we don't hear more about that second group of people isn't it? Let's not be a society that always falls into the trap of listening to every word a sensationalist media article would like us to believe.
Let's not only notice the terrible stories, the sad stories and shake our heads at the workers who consistently do the wrong thing and in the process give everyone in the field a bad name.
Let's work together as a community to support and celebrate the achievements and dedication of those who do work hard and try to do the right thing no matter what field or profession they are in. Let's say ‘thanks' for a job well done and realise that not every bad story relates to a bad profession. Let's just get on with it I say.
Am I a professional home based child care provider? You bet I am and I am proud of my profession and my fellow educators who strive to do a fantastic job and make a difference in children's lives every single day. We are the majority I can assure you if you are considering family day care as a care option.
I hope you might consider some of the real facts listed above and feel able to question the next sensationalist media report you might hear about home based child care. In the meantime, let's go play!
If you are a home based educator you might find these previous posts of interest…
If you are a parent you might find these previous posts of interest…