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Dodgy Childcare centers in Canberra.

By 26 January 2012 51

I have recently withdrawn my child from a certain childcare center in Canberra. I have since discovered that this childcare center has featured in a past article of the Canberra Times in relation to its negligent standards and abusive staff.

I have made a formal complaint with the relevant government bodies and today received a letter that basically said “There is nothing we can do, we are working together with management to improve the center.”)

This center was a very dirty, very badly managed place, where there was NO security (The front door to the center was a standard house screen door.)

Worst of all, there was only 2 childrens toilets in the whole place (with 50 odd kids) and NO development program to speak of. I often asked what my child had done/learnt each day and was answered with an uninterested grunt.

I have since met with several past childcare workers of the center, as well as other disgruntled parents. We all agree that this center is the worst we have ever seen.

So how exactly does the government compliance system work in the A.C.T? How can such places exist, even after many complaints have been made?

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51 Responses to Dodgy Childcare centers in Canberra.
#1
johnboy12:55 pm, 26 Jan 12

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, in 2012 childcare should be government provided just like primary school.

Allowing childcare operators to become a rentier class in the Australian economy was one of John Howard’s greatest failings but Labor doesn’t appear to be interested in fixing it either.

Private childcare offering a superior service for the extra money would of course be fine, just like private education.

#2
Jethro2:04 pm, 26 Jan 12

I agree to a certain extent JB, as I have serious issues with the standards in place at the moment. Poor quality was one of the reasons Mrs Jethro and I opted against putting our little ones in childcare.

But once they become government provided how are they funded, how do we assess who has priority entry, what motivates parents to stay at home with their kids?

I often think that employer provided day-care, in which parents can salary sacrifice to pay for the day-care and it can operate either on-site or in co-operation with other nearby businesses might be an extra option. This wouldn’t take away from the private childcare currently available.

#3
johnboy2:16 pm, 26 Jan 12

Same as primary school.

No priority, guaranteed places within catchment areas.

Not just government funded, government operated.

#4
Jethro2:29 pm, 26 Jan 12

johnboy said :

Same as primary school.

No priority, guaranteed places within catchment areas.

Not just government funded, government operated.

So why would anyone choose to stay at home? There’s a fair bit of research which shows that children kept at home until at least age 3 have better outcomes than those who are put into care. A fully government funded system of childcare puts a pretty big incentive in place for people to choose a model of childcare that may not be the best for kids.

#5
sepi2:58 pm, 26 Jan 12

I really want to know which centre this is.

We are lucky to have our kids at a fantastic centre, but this only happened because we got our eldest in there years ago when waiting lists were not quite as ridiculous.

Anyway – I totally agree that govt should organise and run childcare centres. They want parents in the workforce, they need to make it a bit easier. I also think that every new office block should have to be built with an onsite childcare as part of it. Co-location is so much better for everyone, and reduces travel time.

I really hate the current funding model where every single ‘working family’ that uses childcare has to register for several govt benefits in order to access childcare in order to work. This is really leading people to be constantly expecting the govt to hand out more and more money to families. It breeding a wierd entitlement mentality. It would be so much better if they just gave the money straight to the centres, and families on average-good wages had nothing to do with centrelink.

I really doubt that govt run childcare would encourage hordes of stay at home mums back to work. A lot of people choose to stay home cos they believe in the benefits, or want to. Anyway – they could still charge for childcare, but just a realistic amount, instead of charging 300 bucks a day (3 kids) and making us go to centrelink to get some back. This stupid income based system also means that there is a huge disincentive to get a better job or work more hours in the latter end of the tax year, as you suddenly owe money to centrelink due to childcare rebates.

There are other govt incentives to allow people to stay home anyway – such as two years of maternity leave (unpaid, but you get your job back at the end), so people can always choose to stay home if they wish.

The only concern I would have about govt run childcare with zones is the lack of choice in wanting to use a different centre, or a better one, or one closer to work or whatever.

But the system at the moment is a disaster. I would say the govt don’t want to close this bad centre as it will leave 50 families unable to go to work suddenly – then what? There is nowhere else to send these kids, all childcares are full to overflowing.

I am happy with our childcare, and there is research to show that good quality childcare is equally as good for childhood outcomes as staying at home. Each to their own – but the whole payment/rebate/waiting list nightmare needs to be sorted out.

#6
poetix3:08 pm, 26 Jan 12

Leaving any child in child-care is hard enough without the additional worry of it being sub-standard. We were lucky enough to find an excellent community run centre that accepted children on a very part-time basis, but the whole process of finding a centre is so difficult.

It seems to have become more difficult, if anything.

#7
dtc3:53 pm, 26 Jan 12

I dont understand why you can salary sacrifice only if your employer offers a child care centre on site. Why not just allow salary sacrifice and reduce CCB? And if that doesnt actually create any savings, at least it gets rid of the advantage that some people get while working for big companies (eg someone working at DFAT or Treasury or Finance gets to salary sacrifice for childcare and also gets CCB; someone working at DIAC or DEEWR gets CCB only)

#8
isaidno4:41 pm, 26 Jan 12

Why are waiting lists so long? It seems to indicate that there just aren’t enough centres. But why is this? Does the government just not issue enough licenses? Or are there not enough people/companies applying for licenses to run child care centres?

#9
Deref5:16 pm, 26 Jan 12

johnboy said :

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, in 2012 childcare should be government provided just like primary school.

Allowing childcare operators to become a rentier class in the Australian economy was one of John Howard’s greatest failings but Labor doesn’t appear to be interested in fixing it either.

Private childcare offering a superior service for the extra money would of course be fine, just like private education.

+1

Well said, Johnboy.

#10
Dilandach6:07 pm, 26 Jan 12

Mrs Dil has worked at a couple of child care centres in canberra (and in another city). While to some the centre might appear to be a place of harmony and friendship, nothing could be further from the truth. Typical in female dominated workplaces, they attack each other relentlessly mainly in forming little niches and bitching out those not included. Its not just limited to one centre, its happened in every single one that Mrs Dil has worked in.

I’ve seen and heard all sorts of things.

A kid walking out of the centre unaccompanied to go play in a nearby park by himself.
A staff member shoving a kid against a wall.
Feeding kids food that they can’t have, repeatedly.
Stealing amongst staff members.
A staff members loser ex-husband doing his alpha male thing in the centre when kids were around.
The very few male staff members I’ve seen treated like they’re kiddy fiddlers, both from staff and parents.

All female workplaces are vicious poisonous places.

#11
stirred4086:36 pm, 26 Jan 12

It would be great if someone could post the article from the Canberra Times that was referred to. I often wonder if appropriate police checks etc.. are being done. Has anyone had a really bad or worrying experience in a childcare centre in the ACT? If you don’t want to name them, then maybe the suburb???

#12
Jurls7:27 pm, 26 Jan 12

I too would like to know which childcare centre this is.

As I’m looking at returning to work this year and am about to embark on a hunt for a centre for my toddlers, reading this fills me with dismay and now I’m starting to worry about it :/

#13
Tarala7:30 pm, 26 Jan 12

stirred408 said :

It would be great if someone could post the article from the Canberra Times that was referred to. I often wonder if appropriate police checks etc.. are being done. Has anyone had a really bad or worrying experience in a childcare centre in the ACT? If you don’t want to name them, then maybe the suburb???

I resigned from my job that was situated in Red Hill. It was a privately run center and was a very bad and sad place to work. It was not professionally cleaned once in the 7 months that I worked there.

I once found a child out in the yard, by herself, playing around in the shed. Her room leader had not realised she was missing. There were inadequate toilet facilities for the kids who were learning or going to the toilet on their own. Children with allergies were given the foods they were allergic to. The police once turned up to question a staff member on assault charges…. It was a horrible place to work.

Just google the words “toxic” and “childcare” on the Canberra times website. The place is a whole lot worse than the article suggests.

#14
dtc7:33 pm, 26 Jan 12

isaidno said :

Why are waiting lists so long? It seems to indicate that there just aren’t enough centres. But why is this? Does the government just not issue enough licenses? Or are there not enough people/companies applying for licenses to run child care centres?

Its not that profitable (see ABC learning) and its very hard to find staff (partly because pay is so low, which is linked to profitablility)

Also, who wants to look after kids? Its fun for an hour or so

#15
sankee8:18 pm, 26 Jan 12

poetix said :

Leaving any child in child-care is hard enough without the additional worry of it being sub-standard. We were lucky enough to find an excellent community run centre that accepted children on a very part-time basis, but the whole process of finding a centre is so difficult.

.

I recently posted on the RiotACT looking for a part time centre … so this is quite relevant! Are you referring to childcare through Communities at Work? Would be great to hear your comments on the centre you use :)

I would also be interested to know about the centre that is mentioned in this post … perhaps a suburb so I know to avoid that particular one. I am not keen on childcare after reading all of the comments – eek!

#16
stirred4089:07 pm, 26 Jan 12

I’ve got to admit I’m scared stiff of what happens in childcare. i send my son to one of the centres in Scullin and I just hope that I haven’t damaged him for life.

#17
dtc10:30 pm, 26 Jan 12

stirred408 said :

I’ve got to admit I’m scared stiff of what happens in childcare. i send my son to one of the centres in Scullin and I just hope that I haven’t damaged him for life.

when your kids start school you can almost always spot the ones that went to childcare. They are the ones who are more confident, fit in much easier and are more boisterous. (I’m generalising, but this is by far the most common result). They may or may not have learnt as much, depending on whether the non childcare child is hothoused, but their social skills are generally much more advanced.

Seriously, its good for the kids (usually!)

#18
Jethro10:47 pm, 26 Jan 12

dtc said :

stirred408 said :

I’ve got to admit I’m scared stiff of what happens in childcare. i send my son to one of the centres in Scullin and I just hope that I haven’t damaged him for life.

when your kids start school you can almost always spot the ones that went to childcare. They are the ones who are more confident, fit in much easier and are more boisterous. (I’m generalising, but this is by far the most common result). They may or may not have learnt as much, depending on whether the non childcare child is hothoused, but their social skills are generally much more advanced.

Seriously, its good for the kids (usually!)

Yeah, not true. Most teachers in the primary years can spot them for the very other reasons.

Child care after 3 helps build social skills, before that age it does the opposite. You can build social skills through other means, such as playgroups, play-dates, etc.

#19
sepi10:56 pm, 26 Jan 12

Whether you personally believe in daycare for your kids is not really relevant though. Earlier you were concerned that if childcare were free everyone would be using it and noone would stay at home, so you can’t think it is that bad.

We need parents in the workforce. We need childcare.

We need to make sure it is actually good childcare, and getting it shouldn’t be seen as a form of welfare benefit.

I do think some nervy kids might not flourish in daycare. And some little emperor type kids might have improved by learning to wait their turn once in a while.

But daycare has been around a long time and is here to stay. What we need now is decent affordable daycare.

#20
Jethro11:03 pm, 26 Jan 12

Jethro said :

dtc said :

stirred408 said :

I’ve got to admit I’m scared stiff of what happens in childcare. i send my son to one of the centres in Scullin and I just hope that I haven’t damaged him for life.

when your kids start school you can almost always spot the ones that went to childcare. They are the ones who are more confident, fit in much easier and are more boisterous. (I’m generalising, but this is by far the most common result). They may or may not have learnt as much, depending on whether the non childcare child is hothoused, but their social skills are generally much more advanced.

Seriously, its good for the kids (usually!)

Yeah, not true. Most teachers in the primary years can spot them for the very other reasons.

Child care after 3 helps build social skills, before that age it does the opposite. You can build social skills through other means, such as playgroups, play-dates, etc.

I should add that whatever model of childcare we choose, we will find the evidence to justify it. The evidence I have found justifies keeping my kids at home.

This doesn’t make me right or wrong, but does help me feel comfortable about my position. This is probably the same for any childcare model parents choose.

#21
matt3122111:13 pm, 26 Jan 12

Jethro said :

johnboy said :

Same as primary school.

No priority, guaranteed places within catchment areas.

Not just government funded, government operated.

So why would anyone choose to stay at home? There’s a fair bit of research which shows that children kept at home until at least age 3 have better outcomes than those who are put into care. A fully government funded system of childcare puts a pretty big incentive in place for people to choose a model of childcare that may not be the best for kids.

Yeah but isn’t it just a matter of you as a parent needing space from the little tykes?

#22
stirred40811:20 pm, 26 Jan 12

I’d genuinely like to see some evidence on what childcare does. Jethro – if you have any you could refer me to, I’d appreciate it.

#23
Jethro6:30 am, 27 Jan 12

stirred408 said :

I’d genuinely like to see some evidence on what childcare does.

Jethro – if you have any you could refer me to, I’d appreciate it.

Steve Biddulp has written a bit on the matter.

Also, you can look up attachment theory, which is remarkably well supported by a number of longitudinal studies.

The reverse argument is that day-care provides socialisation skills, which it does, but is really only beneficial after a certain age (a 6 month old baby doesn’t really socialise and can’t benefit from the socialisation that day care offers). Also, the socialisation skills that could have been learnt at daycare can be equally well learnt through playgroups, siblings (if they have some) and outings.

Anecdotaly , almost every parent I know who has worked in childcare refuses to send their children into care until they are at least 2 or 3 because they know what goes on. Having shared primary parenting responsibilities with my wife for all of our kids, I really struggle to see how an infant who is being cared for by someone with responsibility for 3 other kids the same age is able to give them the attention they need.

I’m goig to try and not be too forecful with my statements here. I strongly believe in the stay-at-home model of childcare for a variety of reasons, but don’t want to appear overly critical about other models- parents will choose what is right for them and their family.

The thing we need to remember when discussing how to raise our kids is that we all have very strong ideas about what is good and bad for them. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of judging others (I know I often have to struggle not to turn my opinions on the matter into judgement)

But, As long as you love your kids, feed, clothe and shelter them, and make some effort to endow morals in them, you are most likely doing a good job.

#24
sepi8:08 am, 27 Jan 12

These days is is rare for a kid under 6 months to be at daycare – the waiting lists are over a year so it is hard to get them in even if you had to – and most people don’t at that age. Ratio for babies is one carer to 3 babies. My littlest probably gets more attention there than at home with 3 kids where I am trying to vacuum etc as well instead of just play and sing songs.

On the other hand it is now fairly unusual for kids to turn up at school without having ever done any daycare either.

There is stacks of research, but the summary seems to be that Good daycare is fine:

http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/early_childhood_news/feb_2006_growing_up_in_australia_the_effects_of_child_care_on_young_childrens_development.html

#25
poetix8:26 am, 27 Jan 12

sankee said :

poetix said :

Leaving any child in child-care is hard enough without the additional worry of it being sub-standard. We were lucky enough to find an excellent community run centre that accepted children on a very part-time basis, but the whole process of finding a centre is so difficult.

.

I recently posted on the RiotACT looking for a part time centre … so this is quite relevant! Are you referring to childcare through Communities at Work? Would be great to hear your comments on the centre you use :)

The centre I was referring to is Heritage, which is based at the edge of the ANU campus, near the National Museum. I think they gave priority to ANU students and staff when we used it, from memory. My child went from half a day a week to two days a week later on. I did not want full-time care for her, so this was ideal. I am going back a long time here, and I am not able to fill you in on how it is now, so give them a ring to check policies/have a tour. It was (and presumably still is) a non-for-profit centre. Good luck.

(Just as an addition, when I made a time for a tour I deliberately turned up at a slightly different time, to check out how things really were!)

#26
sepi9:39 am, 27 Jan 12

poetix I believe that centre has a two year wait for staff of anu only, and anyone else can forget it.

tiimes is tough in daycare these days….

#27
stirred40810:34 am, 27 Jan 12

Thank you for the reading material on whether childcare is good or bad.
I worry that my son doesn’t get enough socialisation as we do not have many friends with kids and my family live interstate.
I worry what goes on in those places.
To be honest – I am tired of worrying.

#28
MightyJoe11:08 am, 27 Jan 12

Um no. i work at Finance and Finance employees are not allowed to SS and claim the CCB. Double dipping.

The few that have done it have had to pay a hefty sum back to DHS.

dtc said :

I dont understand why you can salary sacrifice only if your employer offers a child care centre on site. Why not just allow salary sacrifice and reduce CCB? And if that doesnt actually create any savings, at least it gets rid of the advantage that some people get while working for big companies (eg someone working at DFAT or Treasury or Finance gets to salary sacrifice for childcare and also gets CCB; someone working at DIAC or DEEWR gets CCB only)

#29
crackerpants11:33 am, 27 Jan 12

sepi said :

These days is is rare for a kid under 6 months to be at daycare – the waiting lists are over a year so it is hard to get them in even if you had to – and most people don’t at that age.

Our experience is that because vancancies are so low, there is very little movement outside of the oldest kids leaving to start school, which trickles down to each age group, resulting in new places usually only becoming available in January. For families whose babies are born around that time of year and who take 12 months mat leave, this is perfect. For others, it means extending leave to take a spot in the next available January (or hoping like hell that a current family at the daycare centre move interstate!), or taking the January spot when it’s offered…so a baby born in August might be 5 months old, or 17 months. It might sounds nuts, but this timing will have some bearing on planning our family. Yes, waiting lists are an issue, but siblings who have been on the waiting list since soon after conception usually get a January spot.

As for daycare itself, our centre is wonderful. We can turn up at any time of day (and have frequently done so to deliver forgotten sleeping bags etc) knowing that everything is just as it should be, and our children are happy. We had concerns about our youngest, given his quieter nature, but he has formed real attachments and absolutely flourished.

It’s alarming that not all centres are like this, and that not all children receive the same level of care, but I’m enjoying reading the suggestions put forward here.

#30
sankee2:33 pm, 27 Jan 12

The centre I was referring to is Heritage, which is based at the edge of the ANU campus, near the National Museum. I think they gave priority to ANU students and staff when we used it, from memory. My child went from half a day a week to two days a week later on. I did not want full-time care for her, so this was ideal. I am going back a long time here, and I am not able to fill you in on how it is now, so give them a ring to check policies/have a tour. It was (and presumably still is) a non-for-profit centre. Good luck.

(Just as an addition, when I made a time for a tour I deliberately turned up at a slightly different time, to check out how things really were!)

Thank you for that information (sounds like my chances might be slim of getting a place). Thanks also for the tip on touring times!

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