If mentions in the media are anything to go by, then you’re definitely likely to have an opinion on the childcare situation many parents face all year round.

There’s the question of availability in centres, then there are the questions of affordability and of course, there is that question of what to do if finding a position in a childcare centre proves elusive.

So, what’s the best way to go about tackling this issue of childcare?  For me, it’s pretty straightforward: you must consider all options available to you.

And yes, with childcare you do actually have options!

Childcare centres:  First and foremost are childcare centres.  When considering a childcare centre for your child/children, look first at your local area.  Call the centres you are most interested in, and enquire about availability.  You may also work in a company where childcare is onsite, making the choice for care so much easier.   As soon as you know you will be requiring childcare services, contact the centres of interest.  Some areas are harder to find vacancies in than others, so if you’re in an area like this, you will need to act fast.

Family day care:  Family day care is an attractive option for parents who like the idea of their child being cared for in the home of another mother.  Family day care offers your child the chance to be cared for, without being in a large group which may be the case in a childcare centre.  For further information on family day care programs in your area, contact your local council.

Nannies and Au Pairs:  Generally this option is the most expensive childcare option, however the more children you have, the cheaper it may be, given the rates per child in childcare centres.  With a nanny or au pair, you do pay by the hour and although the number of children is taken into consideration, it can actually work out cheaper to hire a nanny or au pair to provide care in your home, when compared to a childcare centre.  Nanny agencies are the best way to go, because you can be sure that any candidates will be reference checked and police checked for your peace of mind.  Google is a great place to start the search for nanny agencies in your area.

Private arrangements:  If you have family who live near your home or place of work, it may be an option for you to call upon them to assist with childcare.  Often, parents can split childcare between childcare centres and friends or family, but it is entirely up to you and your family.  Remember, you must be able to trust who you choose to leave your child with.

Child swapping:  If you work casually or part-time, you may be able to come to an arrangement with a SAHM or another mum you know who works casually or part-time.  Child swapping involves you splitting child care responsibilities between you, so you may look after a friend’s child one day, and the friend may look after your child on another day – in line with your work schedules.  It’s a great way to juggle childcare, and it can actually be a cheaper option if you just help shoulder the responsibilities on a swap basis.

Affording childcare

The Australian Government helps families when it comes to the cost of childcare through the Child Care Benefit.  Through this scheme, you can enjoy great savings on childcare, thanks to the government subsidising your child care fees.

The Child Care Benefit is a means tested benefit, and will help with fees associated with child care centres, family day care, after school care, occasional care and registered care.

For more information, visit Centrelink