Sunday, February 6, 2011

On the subject of Childcare...

I just want to vent a little here now. This is something that I am really passionate about. And I believe that it is overlooked in society.

Before I had Georgie I worked in childcare for about 4 years. I enjoyed it. I love children. But I never want to put my children into care.

Now I don't want to go and attack anyone here- because I know (believe me I know!) how hard it is financially to get by these days. The financial and social pressure families have these days is enormous. And I understand that there are many people who feel that they have no other choice than to go back to work. I know and have spoken to many parents who would desperately love to stay at home with their children, but can't see a way how... However, the majority of children who I've seen in childcare (in my opinion) didn't really need to be there. I believe that their parents made a choice to put them in care so they could afford a nicer house, nicer clothes, a nice big plasma television, etc. And it just drives me crazy!

If people really knew what goes on in childcare centers, I think many of them would never put their children in care.

Now I don't know what the standards are for every different state and country. But I do know a bit about Australia's, Queensland in particular.

In Queensland any random person off the street can walk in and start work in a childcare center within a week. All they need to do to start working is to apply for a blue card- not even get a blue card, just apply for one. They can start work while the application is being processed. And it is not that hard to get a blue card. All you have to do is pass a police check. There are an awful lot of people who can pass police checks who should never be allowed near small children.

Also, childcare wages are so low. Your average Assistant in Queensland will only get paid eleven dollars an hour, but this also varies depending on their age and whether that person is a full time or casual employee. To be an Assistant you can work unqualified for up to three months before you have to start studying a Certificate III in Children's Services. And I strongly believe that most of that Certificate is common sense, and if you don't know if before you start working with small children, then you shouldn't be working. For a Group Leader of a room in a childcare centre, the wages are not that much better. I was getting paid just under twenty-two dollars an hour as a Group Leader when I was halfway through my Diploma in Children's services. Your average supermarket worker can get paid Twenty dollars an hour for a lot less qualification, pressure and responsibility.

Childcare workers are also expected to do a tremendous amount of work. They are expected to care for children, change nappies and assist children in going to the toilet, prepare food, feed children, put them to sleep, plan learning activities and manage and track children's development, supervise children and clean. What is expected of a childcare worker is far too much. The turnover of staff in a childcare centre is generally very high, because many young girls start work, and then realise that it's just not worth it. So it is incredibly difficult for Centres to provide high quality staff.

The ratios  of children to staff in childcare centres in Queensland are also ridiculous. In a babies room, you can have up to eight children aged between 6 weeks and 15 months with two adults. In a toddlers room, you can have twelve children aged between 2 and 3 years with two adults. Just before I had Georgie, I worked in a room with sixteen children aged between two and a half and three. And in a kindergarten room you can have twenty-four children aged between three and four with two adults. Now think about that. Think about any small children you know and imagine the practicalities of that. There is simply no way that adults can deal effectively with that many children.

There have been so many things that I personally have seen that have been so dangerous. I have worked at fantastic centres, and some not-so-great. I have worked at large corporately owned centers, and small private centres. The things I have seen have occurred at the good and the bad, the large and the small centres.

I have walked into another room to go and borrow a mop, and have asked another staff member for that mop. She told me that it was in the supply closet. I opened the supply closet to find a eighteen-month old boy in the closet with a mop and bucket full of dirty water. The staff member was not even aware that the child was not in the room with her. I have gone outside to help supervise and discovered two two-year old children covered in and playing with poo. And only one child had a dirty nappy... that was truly disgusting. I have taken children inside and then two minutes later, realised that I left a child outside because I just had too many children to deal with. I have heard staff members scream at children, I have seen children hurt one another and do things that are not safe, and simply not been able to do anything about it, because my hands were too full with other children.

I don't know whether or not I will ever go back to work in childcare. Part of me would love to because I really do love children, and I know that the industry needs good staff. But I did not love the stress, the lack of recognition, dealing with difficult children and parents, and how hard the job is in general.

I am very grateful that I am in a position where I do not have to put my child in care. But I also wish to make it clear that this is my choice and it is not an easy one by any means. Some days I would love to back to work. In a way, it would be so much easier to go back to work. But I am convinced that my choices are better for my child. There are many things that my family go without. And, yes, it is true that Shane does work in higher-paying industry. But that is also not an easy thing for him. He works up to fourteen hours a day sometimes, and he does not enjoy his job a lot of the time. But he does it for us, because like me, he is convinced that what we are doing is the best thing for our child.

I don't think that any parent wants to make a choice that is detrimental for their child. But I believe that in many instances, a choice to put you child in childcare can be one. I think this comes about because so many times, parents are uninformed. I also think that as a society, we are very selfish. And many times, we put our own needs (wants!) above those of our children.

If you are a parent who has to put you child into a childcare centre, please be aware of what is going on at that centre. Check up on your child constantly. Especially at times when the staff don't know you're coming. Communicate with the staff looking after your child, but remember that they are very overworked and your child is sadly, one of many. Also, communicate with management, and let them know when something is not acceptable, and let them know when things are good. Another great option if you have to go back to work is family day care. The child to adult ratios are much lower in family day care, and the children are a range of ages, which I think is good as it's more like a family. However it is important to make sure that the family day care you choose is quality care as well.

The childcare industry is in a mess. In my mind, this just goes to show the value that we place on children. But unfortunately, until the government steps in and better regulates and assists the industry, children are always going to be the ones who lose.


  1. Thanku so much Robyn, It was suggested to me by the lovely Julie Lawson when I expressed my concerns about going back to work & the option of mind is set- im truly grateful.

  2. Sorry - it was suggested by julie that i read ur blog- missed that part!


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