17 October 2017

Childcare centres in canberra - opinions and advice?

| astrojax
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ok, astress is diving back into the world of work soon and so astro-monkey has soon to go to daycare a couple days a week… we had a first look at the centre we got into [!] this week, taking him for a couple hours to see how it works, how he reacted. he didn’t sleep as we’d hoped, though was generally ok with the experience, of course, with astress to guide and reassure.

however, we are not super happy and wonder how other rioters have negotiated this phase – advice on how to deal with / work with the centre to achieve the outcomes we want for our precious l’il bundle and how to ensure we don’t have too many carers sitting about idly gazing into the middle distance ruminating on how brasil is this time of year, while several other peoples’ precious bundles hunger and wail for attention..?

any techniques that help allay (we think well-founded) fears of less-than-adequate care being administered? any tips on how to prepare ourselves?? any places you recommend – or not..? …and any leads on good home-run places that we’d get into (inner north, ideally) would be welcome.

for info, astro-monkey is still feeding naturally, though good on the fang like his old man so bulking up his diet with a variety of solids, and has generally been a poor-average day sleeper, but improving… can still like cuddles to help induce sleep. but interacts and engages with pretty well everyone.

note, we have a place – god, that was a trial! – so simply saying, ‘place x’ is great is probably not so helpful for us, but mebbe there are others rioting who need such recommendations as they approach this travail with trepidation in their hearts and wallets…

so, what does this hive-mind rekkun..?

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Don’t take your kids to Charnwood Cooinda Cottage. my misses works there and they are constantly under staffed and often have agency workers who won’t get off there backside to do anything or complain when asked any directions . things like why do I have to do it. I don’t want to do that.

My misses got in the car today after knocking off work and burst into tears because of understaffing and harrasment from other workers. I wanted to go inside and ask what what going on and she says no because she doesn’t want to loose her job. She even has to bring home washing because there is not enough staff to do there washing of aprons ,sheets and whatever else then gets harrased by other staff saying she won’t get brownie points for doing it.

If she gets in the car and breaks into tears again I will go in and do some yelling myself then see a lawyer about suing them.

p.s. my misses don’t know I’m writing this and would probably freak out at me for typing this.

You may also want to consider the ff:
1. Ask the centre if you will pay fees even during public holidays and long christmas break, because if you do- to me that is a rip-off.
2. Separation anxiety is pretty normal. The centre usually provides parents notes/readings on how the parent and child deal with the new set-up. The centre should at least give you a week of ‘settling in’ period for free.
3. Choose centres with coded doors, you know your child is more safe with them.
4. Be choosy, never settle for anything less than your standards but lower your standards as well.
5. Last but not the least, observe if all staff are approachable and friendly. Look for photodocumentation, check out their activities in the past. TV-time is a big NO. You will only waste your money to that centre.

I know about 4 families who use that DFAT childcare, and they all seem really really happy with it.

For me, I just want my kids to be happy in daycare, not to be educated.

My daycare tips are – look for happy kids and attentive staff, and don’t worry about anything else.
although high staff ratios, good outdoor areas, and separate sleeping rooms are a bonus, as is a proper cook on staff.

Also, put the child in before they turn one, this will beat the major separation anxiety. Put them in one day a week at the best centre you can find, then you will be a priority for more days as they come available.

And be aware that they will probably be fine the first couple of times, then it will hit them that this is that place where you drop them off and disappear, and they will get really upset about he 3rd and 4th time you leave them. Don’t panic – this is the low point and they get over it.

Have a routine of saying goodbye – give them to a staff member to cuddle, say ‘I’m going now, I’ll be back for you after you have a big play/sleep/lunch etc’. Then leave – don’t hang around forever – it does not help.

If they are upset, confirm with staff on the phone that they are fine 10 mins later, or even sneak a peak through the window 5 mins later.

And don’t try to get the staff to do everything you would do at home – pick one or two important things to focus on if you want them to do something special.

I appreciate your concerns, and (not sure if it helps, but I’ll try) I’ll come at this from another angle.

My wife is from overseas, and has an Education Degree, along with 12 years of experience teaching from pre-school through to high school.

Her first job here in Canberra was with the Currawong Centre (within DFAT), run by Southside Community Services. During her interview, I told her to ask if it was OK to not be present for 6 weeks roughly 7 months later (which was when we’d booked our honeymoon for). They advised her it was fine at that point in time.

However, Mrs. Ryoma was in for a big shock at this centre. She was horrified that the only “learning/teaching” that was given allegedly consisted of putting DVD’s on, and that most of the meals were microwaved snacks – if the kids were hungry, there was no more.
All of it was a far cry from the childcare she was used to in her birth country.

More so, she said that many of the staff were young and fairly disinterested in the kids – one of them even said she was only there because she didn’t have any other skills and wanted to “get Centrelink off my back”. My wife was fairly frustrated at this, and felt she had to do a lot of the work that these local workers couldn’t be bothered with.

All of this is merely hearsay, and I realise it’s only part of the picture. What was NOT hearsay was what came next. 2 weeks before we were due to go on honeymoon, a letter arrived in the mail advising that her contract had been terminated, ostensibly because her visa conditions did not allow her to work permanent full-time hours.

Mrs. Ryoma was very upset and angry at this – I was ice cold, though no less angry. I checked carefully with both Immigration and Fair Work Australia as to whether this was true, and both advised that we had a case for unlawful dismissal. We both thought long and hard about it – and decided against it. Our thinking was that Canberra is a small city and that she needs to get local experience and references, rather than being seen as “trouble”.


On the plus side, she has since been working at the CIT Reid Child care centre. Mrs. Ryoma is much happier with the way things are run there (both food and activities-wise), and says that the staff are mostly older and really love kids. She has recently been made permanent part-time, and there are only a few casual staff.

One thing she has noticed is that her supervisor seems to be worried about costs, which I think might relate to the paper-thin margins I imagine may exist throughout the industry.

By the end of 2010, all staff working in Childcare centres and beyond will need to hold Certificate 3 in Child care. See: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/tighter-childcare-rules-to-improve-standards/story-e6frg6nf-1225855702289

While I have a fair idea of just how expensive child care can be, to meet these standards, maybe things can be very tight financially for these centres. So that might explain why my wife’s boss seems calmer when there are large numbers of kids under her care, but gets stressed out when not many customers show up?

Let’s hope that the government starts putting significant resources into this area, and that the wages lift enough to attract people into child care as a career, not as a “fallback” job.

Good luck with Astro-Monkey and his child care 🙂

trix said :

You’re going through all this angst on the basis of one 2-hour visit where the kid didn’t manage to have a sleep? But was “generally ok” otherwise?

I think you’ll be better off giving the place a real go.

well, no – we are pretty well committed to giving this place a real go, as at this stage we have little alternative, so will happily take your advice here…

…but was just generally planning anyway to canvass the hive mind’s thoughts on childcare centres, as a riotous search found little had been discussed here; then of course added my experience to date for context, and of course at some level to seek your (general) advice on how to ‘manage upwards’ at these places…

btw, the ‘generally ok’ was in context of astress’s presence, as stated, so the ‘angst’ emenates from the gut feelings we had, pursuant to emd’s and other comments above – thanks for all these, of course!

You’re going through all this angst on the basis of one 2-hour visit where the kid didn’t manage to have a sleep? But was “generally ok” otherwise?

I think you’ll be better off giving the place a real go.

It’s been a while since I used childcare, but I can’t go past Wiradjuri at UC. It’s in the Faculty of Education and run by the Dept of Early Childhood. Staffed by final year Bachelor of Education (Early childhood) students, overseen by the Head of School. We traveled from Tuggers to UC to send our kids. If you can get a place HIGHLY recommended.

Things that helped my kids settle in at childcare – the first two started at five months, third one started as a toddler…

* Took the sling to childcare and showed them how to use it. So if Miss Bottle Refuser was cranky about having to wait for my arrival to feed her, her carer chucked her in the sling and she chilled out. Even when she was past that stage, they asked me to keep bringing it to care as she liked having it in her cot at naptime – nice familiar mummy-smell.

* Spend time there. I used to feed baby at drop-off and again at pick-up, so I had a half hour at each end of the day just quietly sitting in a corner listening to how the carers talk to each other and the children. These are the two busiest times of day – if you drop in for a lunchtime visit you might find it’s much calmer and everyone’s needs are being met faster.

* Talk to the room leader or centre director about phone calls or visits later in the day if you think it will help astress or baby feel happier. I swear I have dropped off a kid who is screaming the house down, and I walk really slowly from their room to the front door, and by that time I can hear they’ve joined in whatever activity the group are doing.

Jamie Wheeler9:13 pm 08 Aug 10

I think there are a load of questions you can ask of a childcare centre to determine what is right for your child, but the main things I looked for when finding childcare for my 2yr old was how do they talk and relate to the children and what are their behavior management strategies. I prefer my child to be treated with respect and behavior management strategy to be gentle guidance (essentially treating considerate behavior as a new skill to acquire such as learning to read or write and allowing them to make mistakes while they learn the skill). The child care centre I selected wasn’t perfect (nothing will be), but little things like cuddles for upset children, not shouting at the children and patting/comforting them to sleep are all ticks in my book. Both me and my child instantly had a good feeling about the room leader there – gut feeling when you meet staff is also a good guide.

Also I think that community based childcare centres are generally better than ones that are run for profit. Profit based childcare centres may look swanky, but they are more likely to cut corners to make profit for owners/shareholders (although I did find a privately run childcare centre in Canberra where all the profits were re-invested in the centre). Community based centres often have lower staff turnover than those run for profit.

One other thing to check out is how many temp staff they use. High temp usage means that they have high staff turnover, poor management of permanent staff – and more importantly temp staff are generally a lot less effective (ie they are there to provide the legal supervision limit).

Jim Jones said :

Give it a month or two and I guarantee that you’re attitude will have changed.

Just wait until your second or later child – your standards will be pretty low by then.

I don’t think anyone is super happy about childcare when you start up. Give it a month or two and I guarantee that you’re attitude will have changed. Getting the little one into new routines and new relationships is a major hurdle – once you’ve done this, everything will look very different and you’ll no doubt be a lot happier.

That said, it’s always good to get involved with the centre: most places have regular(ish) meetings regarding policies, changes, etc. and I’ve never understood why more people don’t attend these. It’s your chance to have a say on the direction and culture of the centre.

I would suggest getting on the waiting list for other places. If you aren’t happy with the care, there isn’t much you can do, except to move centres (unless it is one easily fixed problem). But disinterested carers is not going to change.

Unfortunately places in the good centres are very hard to come by. Places open up in December/Jan/Feb, so I’d be getting on lists, and ringing them regularly and really pushing them for a spot towards the end of the year.

Kids will tend to sleep less well at daycare, no matter how great the centre, so you need to be prepared for that.

You need to ask yourself these questions:

How much are you prepared to pay each day?
Are they aware of the CCB rates, and billing and centrelink rebates etc – they should be.
Do you want a centre that provides all meals all day, or only some meals?
Do you want a centre that does the occasional care as well as your permanent days?
Do you want trained staff? (not all staff are fully trained although things are slowly changing).
How far are you prepared to drive?
What opening hours suit you? Some open at 7am, some at 7.30 and others not until 7.45am! Most close at 6pm.
Not all places employ a competent chef, or any chef for that matter. Sometimes staff prepare the meals as was my experience for 2 years.
Easy access to the room is essential with a young one. Not too many gates or stairs or bells. Most of the time you just want to get in and out to scoot off to work.
Is their paperwork good? Check out their sign-in/out books and see if they are kept neat and tidy.
What does their program entail? Is it stimulating?
What is their staff turnover?
Does their playground have sand? Try to go for the ones without sandpits. When it comes to shoes, it’s a mess you can do without.
Sunscreen policy. Do they expect you to slip, slop, slap your child each morning when you bring them in or do they do it for you?
And, if they have males working for them, jump at the chance. My child loved her two male childcare workers more than anyone else!
Do they expect a deposit upfront? Is it refundable?
Do they expect an in advance payment of two weeks?
Check for up-to-date daily activity books. Ie, today we did this, this, and that!
make sure the staff REPORT back to you about your child’s day every time.

Naming centres is difficult because they all have their good and bad points and they all range from about $65 a day up to about $86, less any CCB etc.

Good luck!

…while several other peoples’ precious bundles hunger and wail for attention.

…can still like cuddles to help induce sleep.

I think you’re looking for a nanny, not a childcare centre.

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